Thoughts of Christmas 2014


Jessica's Birthday and Christmas 2014 209A child asked her mother: “Mommy is God magic?” How close to St John, I thought, not magic but mystery.
In the beginning was the Word – the word is Love. God is Love- St John; Three things that will last for every, Faith, Hope, and Love. But the greatest of these is Love. Then we shall be known. Only Love can really know us.

Christmas is about Identity- God has become human for us. God has been born in every one of us. God is being born in us all the time. A Medieval theologian once said:

God is giving birth constantly. Not only physical in nature surrounding us, but also spiritual, in the inner soul of everything alive. God does not stop being the creator after physical birth. It goes on and on in giving birth. So the soul that has its roots in the God, is being born constantly, is like a new born baby constantly, as innocent and fresh as the One in the cradle of Bethlehem. Meister Echardt

Christmas is about connection- relationships. Not so much about presents, but about giving each other Presence of time and attention. At Christmas we seem to gather around us the most significant people in our lives. People we love, those who care about us. We may of course be asleep to this truth, too exhausted, too busy to appreciate this, or on the cell phone, or an asleep teenager. 15 of us sat down to dinner. Sounds lovely – if there is presence. And an awareness of a greater Presence, a presence that lovingly undergirds us all.

Christmas is about Wonder, awe – we see it in children-how we need to become a child again.

What children say about Christmas! I came across these a few years ago:
A Sunday school teacher asked the children to draw a picture of the Holy family. Many had drawn in the conventional way – the holy family in the manger, the hoy family riding on a mule. All rather straight.
Then she saw something interesting and asked a boy to explain his drawing. Which showed an airplane with four heads sticking out of the windows.
I can understand you drew three of the heads to show Joseph, Mary and Jesus, but who is the other person?
“Oh,” answered the boy, “That is Pontius Pilot!”
MY three-year-old son was learning the Christmas story at nursery school ready for the nativity play. He came home and told me very proudly that: “Jesus was born in a stabiliser.”

A FRIEND’S two little girls were looking at a picture of the Virgin Mary holding Baby Jesus.
“That’s Mary,” said the older girl, “and that’s her baby Jesus in her arms.” “Where’s Jesus’s dad then?” asked her little sister.
“Oh he is the one taking the picture,” replied her sister.

Give young people your presence this Christmas, find a genuine way to connect with them.
Christmas is about the other, the stranger, the refugee, the stranger, the other.

The world is a torn place. We hear and see so much of the abuse women and children, terror haunts the market places of so many countries, greed and corruption eats away at our hard won democracy and way of life. Millions of people are refugee’s in flight from their own people and countries.

But for us the message of Christmas is realistic, good inspiring news. God has entered into us, to encourage and raise us up. First to break through our own hardened hearts and habits, so that we can change from the inside. We first, we can be the change and presence that we want to see in the world.
Christmas seems to be saying that there is a river under the river of life. A spring of fresh creative energy within us, that we can tap. That will flow in and through us, and open us up to new and creative responses to ourselves and each other. So clear the muck, open up the well points.
This is happening to us now. And we must take it forward into our lives!
For our good, our family’s Good, our country’s good and the world’s good.

“The true source of joy is love – love of God, love of beauty, love of wisdom, love of another human being, it does not matter which. It is all one love, a joyful awareness of dissolving boundaries of our ordinary narrow self, of being with the reality beyond, of being made whole.
So while you are enjoying the company of your loved ones this Christmas, take a moment or two to glimpse anew into the stable of your being. Look again with the eyes of a child, with the eyes of wonder. Reconnect with the profound simplicity of it all. God is Love. ” Billy Kennedy

For me the poet e e cummings comes closest to the meaning of Christmas and incarnation when he says in a poem about love:

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

This is what God is saying to us in the Child of Bethlehem: You matter to me, I I carry your heart, I carry in in my heart. This is what we can say to others.

Bob Commin





Advent is the Coming

a waiting in expectation

of a coming

that senses that a surprise is unfolding

that good news is on my doorstep

it is the preparation of the harbour

for the arrival

the opening up of the heart

for the overwhelming

feeling of love,

of love herding in the heart

the coming idea

that will issue in a new consciousness

and a new holistic understanding of who we are

a coming realization that the world

is once again pregnant with new meaning

advent calls forth

an ancient realization

that this is my kairos

to surrender the hard defences of my heart

the tough skin of my attitude

to new ways that will make us human

I ask what is there to receive

in this hope-forlorn world?

There are broken symbols to receive

of who you were last year

lifeless images of leaders who lost direction

of loves that died

of hatred that led to horror

of parcels that shattered lives

Old symbols are being torn down

Symbols of hope are rising up

from hidden springs of God’s grace

There are old areas of my life

that God is coming into

filling them with new energies and directions

my marriage, my friendships, my work

the church community which I know so well

my attitude to women

my feelings about sexuality

the way I treat my children,

the hardness with which I approach

the questions of race

Suddenly my life is examining me

And I am learning all over again

I have become a child in an adult world

filled with the excitement of a new way of


Something is coming to birth in me.

Bob Commin

McGregor Poetry Festival 2014


The McGregor Poetry Festival 2014

So much has happened in the last two weeks and notable amongst them all was my visit to the McGregor poetry festival. The festival was organised by Billy Kennedy at Temenos, an interfaith retreat centre in the town.

Temenos is an oasis in this little Karoo town. It is itself a festival of landscape, plants, flowers, water, trees, birds and a celebration of the human spirit. I love so many of its nooks, where one may sit and rest, ponder and doze, and especially the Well and the Little Way Chapel.

Hundreds of people converge on the town during the festival, to listen to poetry, converse with poets, attend workshop presentations, go on meditative walks, listen to music, read poetry in pubs and attend readings.

This year I was so busy presenting, that I missed out on so many other presentations.

My poetry workshop was held in the Little Way Chapel. Some 22 attended the event which was from 10.00 -12.30 and was billed as Conversations with the Soul through Poetry. I began by reciting The Snake by D H Lawrence, and enjoyed the rich discussion that ensued. We then allowed the poetry of T S Eliot, and Rumi to seduce us into further conversations. I love the Lady of Shalott by Tennyson and had hoped that the participant would be equally mesmerised by it, and the world of shadows, but I doubt if I convinced them. Then we rehearsed poems to read and completed a ritual of reading the poems as we stood in a circle. We finished at 1.00 pm just in time for lunch.

Here is an Eliot quote from East Coker that I seem to be using a lot lately:

Old men ought to be explorers Here or there does not matter We must be still and still moving Into another intensity For a further union, a deeper communion Through the dark cold and the empty desolation, The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning.

I was delighted with the turnout to the Eucharist in the Little Way Chapel. People were solidly packed in for a Eucharist that I had mostly written for the occasion. I invited people to read before we began.

Amongst the readings were The Destruction of Sennacharib by Lord Byron, Start Close In by David Whyte, St John of the Cross ( translated Roy Campbell ), and Mary Oliver. Also amongst them was my poem of praise: Benedicte South Africana

Here is the poem by John of the Cross:

St John of the Cross ( translated Roy Campbell )

Verses written after an ecstasy of high exhaltation.

I entered in, I know not where,

And I remained, though knowing naught,

Transcending knowledge with my thought.

Of when I entered I know naught,

But when I saw that I was there

(Though where I was I did not care)

Strange things I learned, with greatness fraught.

Yet what I heard I’ll not declare.

But there I stayed, though knowing naught,

Transcending knowledge with my thought.

Of peace and piety interwound

This perfect science had been wrought,

Within the solitude profound

A straight and narrow path it taught,

Such secret wisdom there I found

That there I stammered, saying naught,

But topped all knowledge with my thought.

So borne aloft, so drunken-reeling,

So rapt was I, so swept away,

Within the scope of sense or feeling

My sense of feeling could not stay.

And in my soul I felt, revealing,

A sense that, though its sense was naught,

Transcended knowledge with my thought.

The man who truly there has come

Of his own self must shed the guise;

Of all he knew before the sum.

If anyone is interested in the Eucharistic prayer which I wrote, please ask and I’ll let you have a copy.

My poetry reading was on Sunday afternoon from 1.00 -2.00 pm and was entitled Sommer a cupful of life. This is a poem about growing up in Woodstock, Cape Town in the 1960’s. It celebrates childhood and life, and has many innocent, humourous and poignant moments which engage the audience. I’m planning to publish the poem in the next few months.

I also took the opportunity to celebrate two friends of mine who died recently, both clergy in the Anglican church. The first John Oliver who died quite suddenly a year ago, and who attended the poetry festival last year. John had been a great champion of the Interfaith movement in Cape Town. He is richly remembered at Temenos: one of the meditative walks is in his honour.

The other person is Henry Frieslaar, who died quite suddenly a few month’s ago in Simon’s Town, when he grew up in the Simon’s Town dockyard and where he served the final years of his ministry. Both men were a wonderful inspiration to me and to many other people.

Here are two extracts from the poems I wrote in their honour:

Wandering Minstrel

For John Oliver

Wandering minstrel in the streets of District Six

guitar-guiding your Anglican followers

through Palm Sunday and the Passion of the Seven Steps

to place our cross above the University and the Bay

the cross of all our displacements and longings.

Our history of forgotten homes and vacant streets.

You have fathered us through the winters and summers

of our future,

your gentle voice of reason

like the Christ on the Emmaus road

interpreting our doubts

Henry Frieslaar

The blacksmith’s forge

Where Hephaestus mixed

fire and metal to run like water

through incense spitting chambers

weaving his magic into

a sword of life and death

this wonder worker

whose craft fashioned the future

of horse and sea and track

storyteller in dockyard and village



This blacksmith saw the church as his forge

who struck the anvil for his lord

the wonder-worker who weaved his magic

in town and country

the creative craftsman of Christian community

who fanned into flame

the fire of forgiveness and love


so that many of us

found faith, matured like wine

were laughed into a wholeness of being


Bob Commin



Dear Parishioners, Please read the following notice. There will be a Requiem Mass tomorrow Wednesday 12 November at 9.00 am. Please come ready to share thoughts, insights and thanksgiving for the life of Nolan Tobias. Kind regards Bob Commin




Rest in Peace

Dear Clergy & People of God

Grace and peace to you all at this very sad time in the life of the Diocese of False Bay. It is with shock and deep sadness that we announce the sudden passing of Fr. Nolan Tobias aged 58. The cause of his death is pulmonary oedema. We met with Fr. Nolan’s family last night, who are deeply grieving his passing, to arrange the funeral.

Herewith the arrangements as follows:

1) A Prayer Service will take place on THURSDAY, 13 NOVEMBER at 19h30 at St. George the Martyr, Sarepta Road, Kuils River. All are warmly invited to attend. Clergy attending this Prayer Service need not vest, but are invited to wear clerical collar.

2) A Requiem Mass takes place on SATURDAY, 15 NOVEMBER at 09h30 at St George the Martyr, Kuils River. Viewing will be from 08h30. Clergy of the Diocese of False Bay are invited to vest in cassock, surplice and white stole.

Clergy from other Dioceses are also invited to vest in cassock, surplice and white stole. Those vesting are kindly asked to be ready for the first procession at 0910. Kindly vest in the Multi-purpose Centre. Please leave all valuables locked in the boot of your vehicle as the Multi-purpose centre will also be used to seat the over-flow Congregation.

3) Parking will be available in St George’s Church grounds on a first-come, first-serve basis. Ample parking is available in Sarepta Road as well as Owen Road (immediately parallel to Sarepta Road) and surrounding streets. The Church Men’s Society has been asked to patrol the area.

Let us give grateful thanks for Fr Nolan’s incredible ministry, firstly as an Educator in our public schools, then a Tertiary within the Franciscan Order and latterly as a priest in the Church of Jesus Christ. He served his curacy at Good Shepherd Church, Kensington, thereafter he became Rector of All Saints Church, Bredasdorp, then Rector of St Francis Church in Simons Town and finally Rector of St George the Martyr, Kuils River.

Of your goodness, pray for the Repose of his soul. Remember him with thanksgiving at your Altars in these days leading up to the Funeral Mass. Kindly also remember his siblings: Wendy, Mark, Salome & Shaun, their respective spouses and the wider Tobias Family.

Rest Eternal grant unto him, O Christ      

And let Light Perpetual shine on him

Prayers and Blessings


Give God Your Best


On Sunday 26 October, The Rev. Rachel Mash stood in for me at St Francis and St Andrew’s Simon’s Town and preached the first of four sermons on the theme of Christian Stewardship. A number of parishioners asked for a copy of the address, so I have included it here.


STEWARDSHIP – Give God our best

St Francis Simonstown 26th Oct 2014

Ruth 2:13-18; Psalm 28; Acts 4:32-37; Matthew 3:1-6

Stewardship is about giving – giving of our best to God and our neighbour..

Uganda chicken story

There are two stories of giving in our readings today – Boaz and Barnabas – “a tale of two givers”

The one is a story of giving to charity and the other is a story of giving to the church. Both form part of our giving as Christians.

Suze Ormond a secular financial planner wrote a book called 9 steps to financial freedom, best seller, millions of copies. Step 7 Give a portion of your money to others. By releasing an anxious grasp on your money, you will open yourself to receive all that is meant to be yours.

God calls us to give not because he is poor but because giving releases the hold of money over it, it releases compassion in our hearts and joy in our souls.

  1. Barnabas – giving to church

Acts 4:32-37Common English Bible (CEB)

Sharing among the believers

The community of believers was one in heart and mind. None of them would say, “This is mine!” about any of their possessions, but held everything in common. 33 The apostles continued to bear powerful witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and an abundance of grace was at work among them all. 34 There were no needy persons among them. Those who owned properties or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds from the sales, 35 and place them in the care and under the authority of the apostles. Then it was distributed to anyone who was in need.

Joseph, whom the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (that is, “one who encourages”), was a Levite from Cyprus. 37 He owned a field, sold it, brought the money, and placed it in the care and under the authority of the apostles.

Church is a community – we need to give so that all we offer to the community can continue – a beautiful place of prayer and hope – it needs to painted to keep it beautiful, we need money for the upkeep of the building. We need money for the ministry of the church – to pay the priest so that he or she can give hope at times of bereavement, sickness or joy at baptisms and weddings. These are the basics and this is our tithe, our regular giving, it is always helpful to give by debit order, as we often pledge and then forget by the middle of the year!.

The Bible talks of tithes and offerings – the giving in joy – the thank offerings. Barnabas was known as the encourager – he sold a field and brought the money. What ministry can we encourage with a thank offering? What touches your heart? To grow the Sunday school? What about paying for an outing for the little ones. Or you want to see the youth ministry develop, sponsor young people to go on a scripture union camp at rocklands.. Or bake cakes for the parish council meeting to say we appreciate you! Or perhaps there is an old age home close by and you could sponsor a kombi to bring them once a month and buy some nice eats – be the encourager – build the ministry of this church into the community.. Experience the joy of giving, the joy of Barnabas the encourager.

2.Boaz – giving to charity

This is a wonderful story because it starts with the poor person, the homeless person, the needy. It is the story of Ruth – Recap of the story – there is a famine, Naomi and her husband ELimelech go to Moab to seek food. Her two sons marry Orpah (Oprah) and Ruth. Sadly he dies and then the two sons die so Naomi decides to go home. Orpah stays at home but Ruth goes with her mother in law and says those wonderful words – “where you go I will go, your people will become my people”

The two widows arrive, penniless, ragged, destitute and Ruth goes out to beg.

This story reminds us that when we see that person begging by the side of the road, or that homeless person comes to our door, we do not know their story – are they a victim of violence in Zimbabwe or the DRC? Have they travelled far from home because of their loved ones? Have they lost husband, father, all other support. Are they victims of child abuse and have run away from home? Their story may be one of loss, and perhaps mistakes made along the way, but it also includes love and loyalty and faithfulness.

Many people would have dismissed Ruth, almost penniless, ragged clothes begging for scraps in the field.

Look how Boaz gives to her –

Ruth 2:13-18Common English Bible (CEB)

13 She said, “May I continue to find favor in your eyes, sir, because you’ve comforted me and because you’ve spoken kindly to your female servant—even though I’m not one of your female servants.”

14 At mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come over here, eat some of the bread, and dip your piece in the vinegar.” She sat alongside the harvesters, and he served roasted grain to her. She ate, was satisfied, and had leftovers. 15 Then she got up to glean.

Boaz ordered his young men, “Let her glean between the bundles, and don’t humiliate her. 16 Also, pull out some from the bales for her and leave them behind for her to glean. And don’t scold her.”

17 So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she threshed what she had gleaned; it was about an 10 kilos of corn. 18 She picked it up and went into town. Her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. She brought out what she had left over after eating her fill and gave it to her.

The first thing is that he spoke kindly to her – A few years ago the Cape talk team sold Big issue for a day and they said what was the hardest was not that many people didn’t buy. They only expected a few to buy. What was hard was that people were not kind. They refused to look, they did not treat you like a human being. Kindness costs us nothing – to say ‘not today’ ‘maybe another day’ and to smile.

Secondly he empowered her (she picked her own food). he could have easily given her a bag of corn, but he enabled her to pick her own and to feel that pride in bringing it home. A good principle is to say: “never do what disempowers” to the people at door, to the homeless. for example when you see a young child begging ask your self if I give him R5 am I empowering him, or keeping him on the street and away from school? Rather take that sorrow you feel and make a donation to an organization dealing with street children. We need to equip ourselves with information, which organisations do what in this area so that we can direct people to the help they need.

One of our churches opened their doors during the xenophobic violence and took in refugees, they brought food and cooked for them. After a few weeks some of them came to see the ladies and said – please we are really grateful for the roof over our heads, but allow us please to buy our own food and cook our own meals in our way – many of us are working and can contribute food and we can all contribute by cooking.. it is not good for us to just sit, we feel more hopeless and sad..

Mary Glovers prayer.

Jim Wallis tells the story of Mary Glover

Mary Glover was a regular volunteer in our weekly soup kitchen so poor that she too needed the bag of groceries passed out every week, Mary often said a prayer before we opened the door each Saturday morning simply because she was the best pray-er. You got the sense that she had been carrying on a conversation with her Lord for a long time. She would start by saying something like this – thankyou lord for waking me up this morning, and then she would always pray the same words.

Lord we know you will be coming through this line today so Lord, help us to treat you well’.

What a lovely story – this church saw in Mary that she had a powerful faith and in fact she could best minister to those in the line because she knew their pain. And she brought them the wake up call to see Jesus in each person standing in that line.

So how do we give to charity? What to do ? Life is so busy and you feel so stretched.. People are always asking us to give to this cause or that one and making us feel guilty if we don’t.

What is the best way to know what God wants you to do? It is quite simple – follow your heartbreak.

What breaks your heart? When you read the paper do you cry for the kids with no books to read, or do you cry for the woman who has been beaten by her husband? Or are you touched by the unemployed 17 boy who is dancing on the container throwing stones at the N2 because he has no hope in his life. Do you cry for the rhino or the illtreatment of animals? Or does your heart break for orphans?

Follow that call – That is your heartbreak. Other people will follow other issues, they will follow their own heartbreak. Pray about the issue, educate yourself, give of your money, give of your time. Connect your network of resource people to an organization working in that area. Follow your heartbreak and you will bring great blessing, and be blessed yourself.

Rachel Mash

Theresa of Avila



Exodus 33:12-23New International Version (NIV)

Moses and the Glory of the Lord

21 Then the Lord said to Moses, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. 22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”

Matthew 22:15-22New International Version (NIV)

19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”

21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.

Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

Wednesday of this week was the feast of St Theresa of Avila. Her story is the story of her friendship with God

A Carmelite nun and a mystic, who lived in the 16 th century in Spain.

You may have seen the famous Benini statue of her … the angel about to pierce her with the arrow of God’s love…she is in ecstasy, every inch of her.

She stands in the Moses tradition of one who has experienced union with God. That’s what mystic do, experience union with the divine.

She was a totally committed woman of faith, and a very practical woman

She was part of the Counter Reformation, and her work was to reform the religious houses of her time, which she did very successful. Calling them back to the simple worship and service of Jesus.

Listen to some of her wisdom:

Theresa: “Let nothing perturb you, nothing frighten you. All things pass. God does not change. Patience achieves everything.”

“It is love alone that gives worth to all things.”

To God when one of her friends was suffering: “If this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you have so many enemies.”

“You pay God a compliment by asking great things of Him.”

“God save us from gloomy saints!”

“Love turns work into rest.”

And one of her famous prayers:

“Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours, Yours are the eyes through which to look out Christ’s compassion to the world Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good; Yours are the hands with which he is to bless men now.”

“For prayer is nothing else than being on terms of friendship with God.”

“It is foolish to think that we will enter heaven without entering into ourselves.”

She wrote a book on the subject of this inner journey, called The Interior Castle – our journey into God

“There is a secret place. A radiant sanctuary. As real as your own kitchen. More real than that. Constructed of the purest elements. Overflowing with the ten thousand beautiful things. Worlds within worlds. Forests, rivers. Velvet coverlets thrown over featherbeds, fountains bubbling beneath a canopy of stars. Bountiful forests, universal libraries. A wine cellar offering an intoxi cation so sweet you will never be sober again. A clarity so complete you will never again forget. This magnificent refuge is inside you. Enter. Shatter the darkness that shrouds the doorway… Believe the incredible truth that the Beloved has chosen for his dwelling place the core of your own being because that is the single most beautiful place in all of creation.” ― Mirabai Starr, Interior Castle
Francis of Assisi, and Theresa were great mystical reformers of their time.

Mystics have found common ground with people of all faiths

Thomas Merton and Fr Bede Griffiths are perhaps two of the most influential mystics of our time:

Thomas Merton was one of the most influential Catholic authors of the 20th century. A Trappist monk of the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani, in the American state of Kentucky, Merton was an acclaimed Catholic spiritual writer, poet, author and social activist. Merton wrote over 60 books, scores of essays and reviews, and is the ongoing subject of many biographies. Merton was also a proponent of inter-religious dialogue, engaging in spiritual dialogues with the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh and D. T. Suzuki. His life and career were suddenly cut short at age 53, when he was electrocuted stepping out of his bath.

Fr Bede Griffiths, was a Benedictine monk from England who went to live in India for many years . He started an Ashram and wanted to express his Christianity within a Hindu culture – he would say that ritual and doctrines are important for us, but we must go beyond them to experience God, to experience the Reality.

These two many more than any other opened the way for people of different faiths to see that they shared a common experience of the mystery of God.

“I liked the solitude and the silence of the woods and the hills. I felt there the sense of a presence, something undefined and mysterious, which was reflected in the faces of the flowers and the movements of birds and animals, in the sunlight falling through the leaves and in the sound of running water, in the wind blowing on the hills and the wide expanse of earth and sky.”

“It is no longer a question of a Christian going about to convert others to the faith, but of each one being ready to listen to the other and so to grow together in mutual understanding.” ― Bede Griffiths

What has all this have to do with the Gospel? Image on the coin? Caesars!

but whose image do you carry?


Our challenge is to see the image of God in yourself, but also in those around you.

Prayer of St Theresa

May today there be peace within May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith. May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you… May you be content knowing you are a child of God… Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us.