Dear brothers and sisters,
It has been very good to be able to rest, pray and read in Glastonbury, spending much of yesterday in the abbey and the gardens at Chalice Well with its iron-rich spring waters flowing through the beautiful gardens at the foot of Chalice Hill.
Glastonbury Abbey, a short distance away, claimed the presence, long-stays, pilgimage-visits and relics of many saints, but whether the great monastic house was ever visited by all the saints that the annals claimed, we shall never know, just as we shall never know the voracity of the many relics the monks claimed to possess – some in direct opposition to other claimant-establishments.
Around the margins of the Glastonbury Icon of the Mother of God, we see many Celtic saints that link Ireland, Wales, Brittany and Somerset – y Gwlad yr Haf – together with the Archangel Michael, St Aristobulus and St Joseph of Arimathea.
The monastic preeminence of Glastonbury Abbey, and its centrality in the growth of Christianity in this part of the British Isles is undeniable, and given the great importance of Glastonbury, it should not surprise us that such eminent saints as David, Patrick and Brigid should be linked with what came to be called Glastonbury with the coming of the English, but was still Ynys Witrin in the age of our great Celtic saints.
As sanctuaries of holiness, culture and learning, the great religious houses of their time were not islands and isolated, but closely interlinked and connected by the much-sailed sea-roads on which monastics – saints among them – visited one another’s communities. Glastonbury was of course an island at that time, making it particularly accessible for those coming from South Wales, with its great religious centres at Llancarfan, Llanilltud-Fawr.
Even though there is now so little to see of the greatest English Abbey that claimed precedence over every other monastic establishment in Britain, and whose abbot sat in the House of Lords, people are still drawn to the ruins, though many through a concocted belief system of their own making.
Yet, whatever people may believe, their coming and going (and I’ve encountered people that repeatedly and regularly come from the far corners of the world) means that the site is loved and cared for, even though it sometimes feels like the Anglican custodians of the ruined abbey have consciously tried to quash any manifestation of spirituality and piety since the millennium: quite ironic considering what the millennium marked.
But, praise God, the site is preserved, even if one can only wonder at the glory of the once great abbey that stood here, and equally wonder at the wanton violence and demonic acts of those who desecrated the great sanctuary on England’s holiest earth. Whilst, in Walsingham England has its Nazareth, in Glastonbury the whole of Britain had its Jerusalem.
Gone are the dazzling colours of gold, paint, jewels and enamel which once adorned the shrines and their treasured relics, but now the colours of nature shine here, especially in autumn.
The abbey has a great many species of trees, soon to be resplendent in their autumn colours, and the flower and herb beds still manage a few flowers after the passing of summer.
I always say to those put off Glastonbury by the New-Age, occult, and and do-it-yourself-pseudo-religious commercially lucrative rubbish, to not be robbed of our holiest site by these works of darkness.
I recall seeing a documentary on the growth of occultism in Glastonbury when I was a teenager, with the camera looking down on the town form the tower of St John’s Church, and its vicar saying what no Anglican incumbent in the town would dare to say now – that the cosmic battle between good and evil is going on right here in this little Somerset town.
This is why must come!
We must come to worship, pray and venerate the holy sites, as I have been doing since I was a teenager – back then, sometimes with the most wonderfully devout friends on the West of England Pilgrimage – a very English, but also very Anglo-Catholic and in-your-face (with all of the senses) demonstration of Christianity.
Much has changed since then. The obvious Christian presence is much diminished, despite the imposing Catholic Parish Church, served by Benedictine monks.
Christianity seems very much in the shadows… which is why we MUST come, honouring the Mother of God in the place of her first British shrine, with David, Patrick, Brigid, Collen, Rumon, Fili, Kea, Indract, Dominica, Beon, Gildas the Wise, Dunstan, and all of the saints who shone forth in Glastonbury.
May they pray for us and for this confused and suffering holy-place.