March 2024

I have never liked the story of Procrustes. Perhaps I read it whilst too young, but the thought of it is not a comfortable one. I do appreciate the moral application though as it illustrates so many facets of life. Depending on my mood and the subject in hand I sometimes find myself thinking that if the Church of England is anything in terms of its origins it is a sort of Procrustean bed in which all are required to conform to a particular pattern. Very 16th Century. But it is now exactly the opposite, so broad and ‘anything goes’ that in the 21st Century it is the opposite of the Procrustean bed – just dive in and make yourself at home!

As I said, I have never liked that particular story, but one I do enjoy (even if it is just a fragment of a longer prophecy) is from Isaiah,

For the bed is too short to stretch oneself on it, and the covering too narrow to wrap oneself in it. (Isaiah 28: 20)

This proverbial saying seems to reflect the perversity of so much of human existence. Things are rarely right for us and we are never satisfied.

In the passage from which the quotation is taken, the prophet warns the leaders of Israel about the danger of making a treaty with Egypt in order to throw off the yoke of the Assyrians. At one level Isaiah is offering his own political comment albeit through the inspiration he received as a prophet. He sees the foolishness of grasping at salvation at the hands of a people who had once enslaved them and who were still hungry for power. Israel will regret this because ultimately their false hopes will end in death. At another level Isaiah is speaking the prophetic word of warning to a people who have put their trust, not in the God who brought them out of the land of Egypt to a land flowing with milk and honey, but in the political machinations and expediencies of the day. Either way there will be no rest: the blanket is too narrow on a bed that is too short.

Two thoughts come from this. The first is that it is all too easy to trust in solutions that are the work of man and not the work of God. Time and time again in the Scriptures God’s people stumble because they have forgotten the fundamental fact that they are God’s people who do not only owe him thanks and loyalty, but a duty of obedience. This duty of obedience was exemplified for Israel by King David who, although far from perfect, sought the guidance of the Lord in his dealings, particularly the political ones. He was able to do this because he was a man whose heart was rooted in prayer and worship. This made it natural for him to seek God’s will even if it meant taking risks or doing what others thought unwise.

The second thought which I wish to connect to this proverb is more personal and may be applied to our Lenten reflections. It may even lead to penitence. Human beings can be too easily dissatisfied with their lot, thinking that they don’t have what they deserve and that life has been unfair to them. ‘If only I could have a more wealth, more possessions, more opportunities, I would be happy and fulfilled’. This, despite the many advances which have improved the quality of life and brought luxuries undreamt of by previous generations, despite the enviable security and freedom won over many centuries, too many are not satisfied. The blanket seems to be too narrow and the bed too small. Different factors contribute to this not least a materialistic culture and its agents the advertisers, but ultimately it is about where we stand before God and whether we see good things as a gift. In other words it is about recognising that life is a matter of grace – supernatural gift which transcends all human circumstances. When this happens it is possible to see that the blanket is not narrow at all; it is simply our failed human perspective that makes us think so.

So is it the Age of the Narrow Blanket? Well, people being what they are, probably no more than at any other time. It was ever thus, just in different degrees through different dissatisfactions. So where do we go from here? Like David it is to the Lord who offers salvation that we should return and rely on him for understanding and guidance. Avoid Procrustes…and his many friends.

Image by cottonbro studio on Pexels

Sunday 25th February, Lent 2

Wednesday 28th February, 10.00am Mass
Thursday 29th February, 8.00pm Stations of the Cross
Friday 1st March, 7.00pm Mass

Sunday 3rd March, Lent 3

Wednesday 6th March, 10.00am Mass
Thursday 7th March, 8.00pm Stations of the Cross
Friday 8th March, 7.00pm Mass

Sunday 10th March, Lent 4 / Mothering Sunday
In addition to services at 8am and 9.30am: Family Service at 11.15am

Wednesday 13th March, 10.00am Mass
Thursday 14th March, 8.00pm Stations of the Cross
Friday 15th March, 7.00pm Mass

Sunday 17th March, Lent 5
11.00am Annual Parish Meetings

Wednesday 20th March, 10.00am Mass (St. Joseph)
Thursday 21st March, 8.00pm Stations of the Cross
Friday 22nd March, 7.00pm Mass

Sunday 24th March, Palm Sunday

Monday 25th March, 12 noon Chrism Mass at Chelmsford Cathedral
Tuesday 26th March, 8.00pm Stations of the Cross
Wednesday 27th March, 10.00am Mass

Maundy Thursday:

8.00pm, Maundy Mass and Vigil

Good Friday:

8.30am Morning Prayer
12 noon Devotions
2.00pm Liturgy of the Passion

Holy Saturday

8.30am Morning Prayer and Litany
7.00pm Easter Liturgy

Easter Day

8.00am Mass
9.30am Parish Mass

Wednesday 3rd April, 10.00am Mass
Friday 5th April, 7.00pm Mass

Sunday 7th April Second Sunday of Easter

Pray for peace in the world and especially for the leaders of the nations in difficult and uncertain times that they may hear and understand God’s word and seek his will for the good of all people.

Bishop Norman is retiring this Easter after many years of faithful and fruitful service, not least to St. Peter’s. If you would like to contribute to a farewell gift from the people of the Richborough area please pass your donation to Alan Hudson or Father Andrew by Sunday 3rd March at the latest.

This year the popular Darts Evening has been booked for Saturday 13th April in the Three Crowns beginning at 7.00pm. Further details will appear on the pew sheet in due course.