Love’s austere and lonely offices

Think of a time and a relationship where you have taken someone for granted, when you were unaware of practical love poured out for you.

SV400001In the poem “Those winter Sundays” the narrator recalls how his father after a 6 day working week  rose early on the Sunday, his day off, in the perishing cold. He got out of bed to re-ignite the “banked”up coal fires so that his family could get up more slowly to a warm house. As a child and teenager the narrator remained indifferent to his father’s diligence towards his family. Now a mature adult, he is reflecting back on that time in his childhood:

Sundays too my father got up early

and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,

then with cracked hands that ached

from labor in the weekday weather made

banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.


I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.

When the rooms were warm, he’d call,

and slowly I would rise and dress,

fearing the chronic angers of that house,


Speaking indifferently to him,

who had driven out the cold

and polished my good shoes as well.

What did I know, what did I know

of love’s austere and lonely offices?

Robert Hayden


When you think of a time when you took someone’s loving care for granted, how does it feel; discomfort, a niggling sense of guilt, irritation towards the person? Perhaps you blame them for allowing you to take advantage of them. Or perhaps in retrospect you feel a sense of shame for how you were then and gratitude now for their gracious act.

Suggested Music: Always on my mind sung by Willie NelsonSV400003

Think of a time and a relationship when a close friend or trusted colleague let you down; deserted you in a time of real need; rejected or betrayed you thinking that they knew best.

When you think of that time, how did it feel? A slap in the face, a punch in the gut? Did it leave you with a nasty taste in your mouth and feeling sick in the stomach. Was the rug pulled from under your feet? Were you left heart-broken?

I am using bodily clichés deliberately. When someone close to you deserts, rejects or betrays you it is like a body blow. It hurts though out your entire body. The feelings are shocking and strong and sometimes sudden.

And what happens to the relationship? Does it survive? Is it irretrievably broken? Perhaps you are not able to break from the relationship completely and need to remain civil to the person for reasons outside your control. On a superficial level all may appear fine. Yet you are more guarded, more self-conscious around them, no longer willing to confide.The trust has gone. Perhaps you feel a little less joy, a little less innocent and a little more alone. SV400006

“ If love should count you worthy,and should deign

One day to seek your door and be your guest,

Pause! ere you draw the bolt and bid him rest,

if in your old content you would remain,

For not alone he enters; in his train

Are angels of the mist, the lonely guest

Dreams of the unfulfilled and unpossessed,

And sorrow, and Life’s immemorial pain.”

(Extract from: The Penalty of Love by Sidney Royse Lysaght)


“ Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the Law, and the elders.

Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard. Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Rabbi! and kissed him. The men seized Jesus and arrested him…

Then everyone deserted him and fled.

(Mark 14: 43-46;50)

Is it possible that even in the act of letting him down, in the act of desertion; in the act of betrayal, instead of destroying our relationship, Jesus was in the process of reconciling a deep intimate and loving relationship with our three in one God?

Stoodley Pike

Suggested Music: Amazing Grace sung by Il Divo



For someone who did you wrong:  John O’ Donohue

Though its way is to strike

In a dumb rhythm,

Stroke upon stroke,

As though the heart

Were an anvil,

The hurt you sent

Had a mind of its own.


Something in you knew

Exactly how to shape it

To hit the target

Slipping in to the heart

Through some wound-window

Left open since childhood.


While it struck outside

It burrowed inside

Made tunnels through

Every ground of confidence

For days, it would lie still

Until a thought would start it.


Meanwhile, you forgot

Went on with things

And never even knew

How that perfect

Shape of hurt

Still continued to work.


Now a new kindness

Seems to have entered time

And I can see how that hurt

Has schooled my heart

In a compassion I would

Otherwise have never learned.


Somehow now

I have begun to glimpse

The unexpected fruit

Your dark gift had planted

And I thank you

For your unknown work.


About Gentle Breeze

Julia is married to Kevin. They live together in Todmorden with their black and white cat Willow. Todmorden is a small rural town nestling among the Pennine hills in the Upper Calder Valley, on the border of West Yorkshire and Lancashire. Julia is a mixture of contradictions. She happily shares her email address with her husband; yet when she married she kept her own surname.
This entry was posted in Lent, Reflections, Spirituality, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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