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Peterborough Crucifix

The Still Point in a Turning World

Carthusians in Choir

A friend put the image of the Peterborough crucifix on his facebook page with the words, “Peterborough Cathedral: The Cross stands as the world turns.”

CrucifixionThose words translate what is on the bottom of this crucifix by Frank Roper (1974). What intrigued me was that Peterborough was a Benedictine monastery – this is the motto of the Carthusians.

Stat Crux Dum Volvitur Orbis

Some may find it odd to be thinking about the cross as we approach Christmas. But I am not in the pretend camp of liturgical practice – let’s pretend that Jesus is not born yet; let’s pretend that when we celebrate his birth we don’t know about his crucifixion… I’m at the end of the spectrum which awaits Christ’s birth in the presence of the Risen Christ, and that celebrates Christ’s birth with a Eucharist – eating bread and drinking the cup to proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

We desperately need a still point in our turning world.

At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.
I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where.
And I cannot say, how long, for that is to place it in time.
The inner freedom from the practical desire,
The release from action and suffering, release from the inner
And the outer compulsion, yet surrounded
By a grace of sense, a white light still and moving… (T. S. Eliot – The Four Quartets

Some time back, I produced an Advent collect:

Let us pray

[that we may seek God even in the midst of busyness]


Intimate God,
we yearn for the light of your coming
and the warmth of your embrace;
focus our hearts on the truly important
and keep us centered on that still point, Jesus our Emmanuel,
who is alive with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God now and for ever. Amen.

There is a collect that dates back at least to the Gelasian Sacramentary:

Let us pray (in silence) [that God will make us one in mind and heart]


O God,
you inspire the hearts of the faithful with a single longing,
grant your people to love what you command
and to desire what you promise,
so that in all the changes and chances
of this uncertain world,
our hearts may surely there be fixed
where true joys are to be found;
through Jesus Christ
who is alive with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

And my friend found this explanation of the words at the base of the Peterborough Crucifixion.

May, for us, and for the world, we become more fixed on the Still Point.


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Crucifix image source

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5 thoughts on “The Still Point in a Turning World”

  1. David John Goode

    You’re right, Bosco. The incarnation is part of the focus of Advent, but no more so than the passion, cross, death, resurrection, and ascension, second coming, and judgement,

    It’s interesting that in the modern Benedictine Daily Office (BDP2), the collect at Lauds and Vespers for the weekdays of the Great O Antiphons can be either the collect from the proper of seasons, or the prayer also used in the Angelus, “Pour forth your grace, O Lord, into our hearts…”, which prayer was, in the Sarum Missal, the post-communion for masses in Advent, correctly linking incarnation with passion, crucifixion, and resurrection.

  2. For the record, Carthusians are awesome.

    The unity of the mystery is poignantly expressed in the “Basque Carol,” which chokes me up every time I try to sing it:

    Sing lullaby!
    Lullaby baby, now reclining,
    sing lullaby!
    Hush, do not wake the infant King.
    Angels are watching, stars are shining
    over the place where He is lying:
    sing lullaby!

    Sing lullaby!
    Lullaby baby, now a-sleeping,
    sing lullaby!
    Hush, do not wake the infant King.
    Soon will come sorrow with the morning,
    soon will come bitter grief and weeping:
    sing lullaby!

    Sing lullaby!
    Lullaby baby, now a-dozing,
    sing lullaby!
    Hush, do not wake the infant King.
    Soon comes the cross, the nails, the piercing,
    then in the grave at last reposing;
    sing lullaby!

    Sing lullaby!
    Lullaby! is the babe awaking?
    Sing lullaby!
    Hush, do not stir the infant King.
    Dreaming of Easter, gladsome morning.
    conquering death, its bondage breaking:
    sing lullaby!

  3. “If you are interested in reflecting more on the principals and foundations…”
    Could nit be that you mean principles?

    1. Yes, Mark, it “could nit be” so – but I cannot see “If you are interested in reflecting more on the principals and foundations…” in this particular post – do tell us where that is so that it “could nit be” fixed please. Christmas Eve blessings.

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