Lesson 52: Place in the Sun

The other day I had a birthday. Between you and me and the gatepost it was my ninety-first (more or less), and it wasn’t - as you might suppose - April 1st or November 5th. Somebody gave me for a present a pot of chrysanthemums. I put it on my writing-desk. The flowers looked up at my ceiling. When the sun shines on Haggerston (which it does sometimes), it is in the afternoon that its rays come through the window into my room. This particular birthday of mine was a sunny day. During the afternoon I went, as I generally do in the afternoons (for this is part of a priest’s job), to see friends of mine in their Haggerston homes, and one who was ill in the London Hospital (sometimes, too, I go to see them in prison). When I got back to the clergy-house for my birthday-tea (though there wasn’t an iced cake with ninety-one candles on it), I went into my room to see how the chrysanthemums were getting on. They were fine; but were not looking at the ceiling: they had turned their heads to the sun. That is a picture of religion.

If you keep the first commandment, “love God and therefore put him first on all days and in all ways,” you have religion. This does not only mean going to church, though that is part of it. It does not only mean saying your morning prayers every day, putting God first as each day begins. It does not only mean going to confession when you feel you ought to. It also means, for example, not cheating in school, not lying even if you’ve “got the breeze up” that you will be punished, not playing rotten secret games, not pinching things.

It also means being kind, loving, unselfish, pure, obedient (unless you are told to sin). In fact religion means living the whole of your life - on weekdays as well as Sundays, out of church as well as inside it, in your school frock or suit as well as when you are “all poshed up” in your Sunday best, and when nobody is looking at you - towards God; like a flower turned towards the sun.

You may say that this is very difficult. It certainly is not easy. But it isn’t too difficult, as I think you know already.