Outlook Issue 18 Winter 2014
News and Views from St. Mary's Woodbridge
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Signs, symbols and service
A walk in the countryside will offer us, in various seasons and habitats, symbols and reminders of our faith and our service to humankind. Numerous birds and animals can be reminders of our gifts and abilities, to use in our service to others. Tenacity, shown by the Woodpecker, in the way in which it clings to the tree, exploring, seeking food; the Heron, standing in icy water, waiting with patience for a passing fish. Watch the resourceful Gull, dropping crustaceans on to rocks, enabling the bird to eat its prey. Small birds display cheerfulness and good humour – Robins and House Sparrows make us smile. Deer, living in a herd, will teach us about community living, about caring and nurturing members of varying ages. Tenacity and thrift is evident as we watch the Squirrel foraging and storing for lean days. The Badger displays cleanliness and domesticity as she (and he) change soiled bedding from their underground set. And a Vixen will hunt all night, sometimes with scant reward, in order to feed her cubs. Like Robert the Bruce, we too can learn valuable lessons from Spiders! Some of our native flora, with names bestowed on them by the ancients, are reminders of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of her gentleness. So many, perhaps forty, flowers bear the name ‘Lady’ – and refer to Our Lady: Lady’s Smock, Lady’s Tresses, Lady’s Slipper, Lady’s Mantle are a few. And Lady’s Bedstraw, to be found on local heaths, according to tradition served as bedding for her infant Son. We can find symbols and examples, links to our faith, in every habitat. Rosemary is for remembrance. The very name Forget-Me-Not speaks a warning, whilst the floral language applied to the Daisy – the Day’s Eye – suggests gentleness and innocence. And my favourite example, a tree – and not simply because of my sylvan career! It is the True Service Tree, Sorbus domestica (pictured), rare indeed in England, even in Parks and Gardens. The timber is ideal for the joiner or wheelwright, and medicine made from the mature fruit was considered a cure for colic. The fruit can also be made into a cider-like beverage, which the Romans called Cerevisia, from which our word ‘Service’ is derived. Michael Stagg