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iii. Signs and Wonders - Ruins


Late 14c. ‘act of giving way and falling down,’ from Old French ruine, from Latin ruina ‘a collapse, Spanish ruina, Italian rovina.

Ruined Chapel

Here beneath the wind’s contrition

and above the ephemeral splendour of the grass

it has both carefully managed and maintained

the stations of eternal things.

Now it has become a sky scoured shell

where falling stones refill a vault of empty praise

the closed gospel of a winter’s morning decades past

when the last of two centuries of prayer

drifted like the vagaries of wood smoke

into airy nothingness as the congregation went home.

And is there nothing left of hymn or homily;

colour, cup - the dull wafer of piety and faith?

No - only in the bell-pull of old pine tree branches,

the dark and brooding lamentation of the birds.


There is a very famous photograph of a library in London that was bombed by the Germans in an air raid in 1940. Holland House where the library was housed is devastated but the walls are still standing, the shelves intact and the books still in place. Three men in bowler hats are browsing amongst the morning chaos of the bombed ruins. They appear quite calm and comfortable as they read and select books from the shelves. The Blitz killed over 41,000 Londoners, injured over 49,000, and destroyed 46,000 dwellings. And yet amongst all that terror this is a photograph of simple and lovely order amongst the monstrous disorder of the war.


Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

Therefore, be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labours and aspirations in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.

selected from the Desiderata by Max Ehrmann, 1927

Reading: Jeremiah 30: 18

Thus says the LORD, 'Behold, I will restore the fortunes of the tents of Jacob and have compassion on his dwelling places; and the city will be rebuilt on its ruin, and the palace will stand on its rightful place. NASB

©Jeff Guess 2017

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