Durham is one of the few places in the world I know of where it is impossible to be hyperbolic about its beauty and grandeur. It’s a place that needs no hype. And it is also a spectacular place to get an education. But I digress. I first arrived in Durham, or to use it’s old name Dunelm, 35 long years ago, a youngish student of 26. I’ve returned numerous times, this time for two months, and while various things have changed, the essential things have remained the same, indeed one could almost use the old French adage plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose. This especially applies to the cathedral, the castle, the Bailey, and my college Johns on the Bailey behind the cathedral. One then comes to expect old world problems…… for example, no hot water. As I told my friend Walter Moberley this morning, there’s no danger of me getting in hot water in John’s, as they don’t have any. Well….. almost. It turns out it takes five to ten minutes of running the water before the water that is hot reaches my accomodations at the upper part of the far end of the building. A lot of wasted water, to say the least. Then there is the sort of bathroom facilities one has— in this case a giant porcelain bathtub and no shower. Now, I happen to like bathtubs. Indeed one of my favorite children’s stories we used to read to our kids was ‘King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub’. So finally, after two days of waiting I’ve now come clean.
About the blessing of the oils (anointing oil for healing, oil for ordinations and so chrism, and oil for special services, particularly baptism or remembering one’s baptism). The text was of course read from James about anointing the sick. Notice it also says call the elders and have it done. We had the elders, and we had the oil, and they were both blessed, but alas, no one got anointed in the service itself. Instead we had a sermon on Lk. 4, Jesus reading Isaiah (which was also the OT lesson), in which Jesus speaks of the anointing by the Spirit. What, you may ask, has this to do with Maundy Thursday? Well, remember what Jesus said on or about that occasion— he would send us another Advocate, the Holy Spirit. Hence, the connection.
It’s time to have some dinner— fresh Belgian pears, some wonderful cheeses and McVities Digestive biscuits, and perhaps a sausage roll or two. Yep… it’s back to British cuisine. I expect to lose some weight……. Hope springs eternal, but spring has not yet sprung here— more winter tomorrow for God’s Friday.