The Hazelnut - Reflection by Canon Maggie


Read Canon Maggie's reflection for Tuesday, 26 January 2021.

One of the features of the pandemic has been the heightened awareness of its negative effects on mental wellbeing. The effects are felt by almost everyone, from those working on the NHS and numerous other front lines across our community, to Environment Agency staff and volunteers called into action last week, and those working, or struggling, at home.  It affects young and old, those living alone and those living with others.

I am not on that front line, but I work for an organisation delivering frontline healthcare across Liverpool. I still have work, I am not alone, but have recognised in myself heightened anxiety particularly as I get thrice weekly a full run down of numbers in hospitals, capacity in our city’s ICU beds, sickness rates in the various NHS organisations, and outbreaks in care homes.

It is easy to become focussed on the apparently continual tide of bad news and to neglect to make time to search for, and to sit and rest with, our sources of hope, support and encouragement. Last week, two particular things prompted me to do just that, to set aside time to think particularly about my source of strength and hope as a Christian.

The first was preparing the reflective part of a course we are running in the parish on loss and grief. The suggested reflection was based on well-known words from Chapter 5 of the Revelations of Divine Love by Julian of Norwich.

‘And in this he showed me a little thing, the quantity of a hazelnut, lying in the palm of my hand, it seemed, and it was as round as any ball. I looked thereupon with the eye of my understanding, and I thought, 'What may this be?' And it was answered generally thus: 'It is all that is made.' I wondered how it could last, for I thought it might suddenly fall to nothing for little cause. And I was answered in my understanding: 'It lasts and ever shall, for God loves it; and so everything has its beginning by the love of God.' In this little thing I saw three properties; the first is that God made it; the second is that God loves it; and the third is that God keeps it.’

I was given a hazelnut in Worcester Cathedral when I was in my early teens as I left after a morning service in which the preacher, I have no recollection of who it was, spoke about these words. I have kept that hazelnut to this day. The image and act of holding the nut spoke to me not just of my littleness, but also of the all-encompassing love and security of being in the hands of God.

The second was the inauguration of Joe Biden and the poem ‘The Hill we Climb’ written and performed by the Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman. It is a call to action, a call to a vision of unity, justice, equality and inclusivity, a call to rebuild, reconcile and recover which is every bit as relevant to us as we see the beginning of the end of the pandemic as it is to the United States as it looks to move on from the turbulence of recent weeks. It is food for the journey and I will be reading and re-reading it over the coming weeks.

‘For there is always light if only we’re brave enough to see it,

If only we’re brave enough to be it.’

Canon Maggie

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