Thursday, 11 October 2007

Water, Water, Everywhere!

Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink! Well, you can drink it but it may leave you ill! That was the case two years ago, anyway, when a recent magistrate's court case fined Dwr Cymru £60,000 after admitting supplying unfit water that left hundreds ill in North Wales. We take it all for granted, water. That is, until the next drought or health scare and then there's a panicked worry and we all realise how important it really is! I've just returned from Walsingham where I spent a few days with the Federation of Catholic Priests - one of four speakers (though the others were far more erudite than me!) It was a good time together and I enjoyed being part of a new group of priests on pilgrimage. At the heart of the Shrine is the Holy House, a replica of the house at Nazareth where Mary was greeted by the angel Gabriel and told that she had been chosen to be the mother of Jesus. The positioning of the original Holy House of Walsingham was marked by the miraculous flow of a spring of water. Don't worry, there's no contaminated water there: the water is clean and fresh and lovely.

Last year the water in the holy well become a rarity due to dry weather and droughts and people weren't allowed to draw freely from there. In another shrine, further away but closer to home, at Penrhys, the water has often dried up altogether or, even worse, been polluted by the passing vandal or idle layabout! Shrines and water seem to go together, more often than not accompanied with miraculous healings, a symbol of the overflowing Spirit who fills us and flows through our lives, a fountain of life, flowing up and within. Sometimes, though, life may feel as if it has dried up, or that our faith has failed to flow, or that our discipleship has experienced a drought. A case of water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink, maybe!

In the gospel of John, we read that 'On the last and greatest day of the festival Jesus stood and declared: 'If anyone is thirsty let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture says, "Streams of living water shall flow from within him." He was speaking of the Spirit...' (John 7: 37-39). Mary's house in Nazareth didn't have water on tap, of course! But the Spirit of whom Jesus spoke is the same Spirit who overshadowed her and flowed within her, bringing to birth the things that had been promised, like water, fresh and clean and lovely. Visiting a place like Walsingham (and even Penrhys with it's more discreet divine presence, tucked behind a bus stop!) is always a good place to get drenched in the divine. As it happened, it poured down in Walsingham for most of the time. There was water everywhere! But that was nothing to do with the weather!

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