Thoughts for Sunday 21st June 2020 - Text

Stonehenge

Last night was the shortest of the year. The sun set yesterday evening at six minutes past ten and it rose this morning at twenty eight minutes to five. And then at nineteen minutes to seven there was a new moon. That doesn’t happen very often.

         I want to take us south of here today, and I want to take us to Wiltshire, and you may think to Salisbury and its famous cathedral, the spire of which for well over half a millennium at over 400’ (123m) has been the tallest of any church building the length and breadth of the United Kingdom. But no, I want to take us to within ten miles of there, and to Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain.

         Which ordinarily would have been hoaching with people last night. But not this year, English Heritage thankfully though live streaming the Summer Solstice – and probably they were able to get a much better view of the event, as from the middle of that circle of standing stones the sun rose this morning above the so-called Heel Stone.

         I remember visiting Stonehenge as a boy, and being fascinated by its age. It’s reckoned to be about five thousand years old. And I remember my Dad had a record of a funny Michael Flanders monologue titled ‘Built-up Area’ in which he imagines a prehistoric conversation about Stonehenge. One of the characters wonders about those picture windows – a bit draughty maybe, and not much privacy; and then when he learns that it’s actually a calendar: ‘A calendar,’ he says. Bit big for a desk.’

         But calendar is what it seems to be. Although it is far more, of course, than that. It’s a mystery, but we can certain too that as well as being able to let people know when the Summer has officially begun (and it can detect the Winter Solstice too), you just need to appreciate the great effort involved in its construction – for some of these stones are over 4m high, weigh 25 tons, and came from 225 kilometres away . . . as well as a calendar, it’s clearly got some sort of religious significance as well – like Salisbury Cathedral.

Many of those who attend each year, as you know, are modern-day pagans. I’m a member here in Glasgow of something called an Interfaith Matters Committee, and through this I’ve got to meet some pagans. It’s been interesting to me just how much I’ve discovered we’ve actually got in common.

For where Druids are concerned, they also have a deep reverence for nature, and the cycle and circle of life, and its sanctity. Just as our ancient traditions here in these islands are ones we might learn from, others, I believe though, being able to learn from ours. As, for example, if we turn to the last and first pages of the Old and New Testaments respectively, I think it’s very interesting indeed that at the end of Malachi we read,

‘But for you who revere my name the sun (spelt s u n) of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings.’

While at the beginning of Matthew we have,

‘Soon afterward, some men who studied the stars came from the East to Jerusalem,’

Amen.     


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