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The liquid tones of one of our local blackbirds has been echoing round my house, not simply at dawn but throughout the day, for the past three days. He seems to have taken up residence on my silver birch trees, alternating between there and the ridge of the house. Previously his preferred site was across the road at the Cambridge Regional College. He even predominates above the roar of the traffic that forges both ways along the Kings Hedges road that runs by the side of the house, from west to east across the City boundary. Perhaps it is a way of signifying the foreclosing of the singing season and the greater silence of the rest of the year? Whatever the reason, it is a splendid tuneful interlude, masking the inevitable shortening of the days after the summer solstice ten days ago.

When the earth was considered to be the centre of the universe was there perhaps a view of the seasons and nature which was more instinctively 'poetic', 'spiritual'? - humanity less in charge of the future of daily life and more attuned to the Divine? That view is mirrored in Dante's sublime poetry -

       Contemplating his Son with the Love
       Which One and Other endlessly breathe out,
       The primal and ineffable Power
       Made everything that spins through mind or space
       With such design that he who considers it
       Cannot exist without some taste of God.
       Lift up your eyes then, reader, here with me
       To the high spheres, straight to that region where
       One motion of the sun strikes on the other.
       And begin there to gaze gladly on the art
       Of that Master who in himself so loves it
       That his eye never wanders from his work.

Dante, (1261-1325); Paradiso, Canto X, translated by J.F.Cotter.

Nevertheless, the 17th century's replacement of reason and experimental research for theories of the imagination and folk lore continues to be a leap of courage and determination which challenges us still today. While we may, and do, rejoice in the poetic and artistic splendours of humanity's genius, the actuality of the world as it is being continuously revealed by science is surely, essentially, part of the hope of any Christian view of God and worship. Our thinking cannot afford to remain untouched by what has happened in the past four centuries which began with the Enlightenment of the 17th century. Else any reasonable understanding of Christian faith and worship will become less and less possible for this and succeeding generations.

Perhaps the blackbird is saying something to us!

© Aelred Arnesen

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