“Psalm 119 is a love song.
Not a passionate love song; certainly not.
It is not the song of love at first sight,
nor of the bitter sweet of emotion and desire.
It is the song of happy married life.
That is not to say that it is, literally, the song of a poet happily wedded; but it breathes all the way through
the charmed monotony of a life vowed to another;
it repeats with endless variety and sweet restraint
the simple inexpressible truth that can never grow weary or stale
– I love thee. Thou, thee, thine;
every verse of the poem, except the three which introduce it,
contains thou, thee or thine.
And a very large number of them echo: I, me, mine.
Well might its author find the sum total of his song in the high priestly prayer of Jesus:
All mine are thine and thine are mine.”
Father Jonathan Graham C.R.
With My Whole Heart: A Devotional Commentary on Psalm 119 , DLT, 1962
I think that “charmed monotony of a life vowed to another” is a stunning line.
In the book – available occasionally on Abebooks – Fr Jonathan separates the sections of Psalm 119 into groups matched to the clauses of the Lord’s Prayer.
Fr Jonathan died tragically young in the 1960’s but his book is a great aid in praying the Psalm and would be a wonderful reprint.
Jonathan Graham was for a time Prior and Principal of Codrington College in Barbados. The Lady Day 2012 issue of the CR Review has an article on CR’s fourteen year involvement with the college (probably the oldest theological college in the Communion) which may be found here. It includes a photograph of Fr Jonathan with the three other pioneer brethren at the beginning of their journey to Barbados.
Jonathan Graham also wrote Office of A Wall and contributed to Mirfield Essays In Christian Belief which is available in a new print.
Brian Goldsmith wrote this appreciation of the life of Jonathan Graham which appeared in the CR Review:
Photographs of the Hostel in Leeds may be found here.
Memories Of Jonathan Graham CR – 45 Years On
In the October of 1961 a small group of us who had been accepted by the Community for training arrived at the Hostel in Leeds to begin our University degree courses. We had all been interviewed by Fr Hilary Beasley, the Hostel Warden, earlier in the year. However, when we arrived, Fr Hilary had been taken into hospital for treatment, and the Superior, Fr.Jonathan Graham had seized the opportunity to come over from Mirfield and stand in for him. It was the custom for the Warden to interview ‘freshers’ before they signed up at the University for their courses. When it was my turn I well remember Jonathan fixing me with a steely gaze and saying “Why are you this great age?.” I was only twenty five – but in those days most candidates were more or less straight from school. It is easy to forget how difficult it was in those days for an older person to be accepted for training and even less so to start education all over again at University. Having explained the reasons for my late vocation, Jonathan then said, with a twinkle in his eye,” then I shall call you Uncle Brian” -a name which stuck for a long time.
Two or three of us were keen on signing up for Sociology courses. Jonathan would have none of this “ not a proper subject” he declared. However, we got our way and he never held it against us. Jonathan stayed for a few weeks until Hilary returned, but it was long enough for a sense of mutual affection to be established between him and our particular year, which lasted right the way through to our time at Mirfield and that fateful day in August 1965. The news that Jonathan Graham had passed away overnight came as a profound shock to Community, Students, and the Church at large. His brother Nicolas had died in 1963 – and now Jonathan. It would take the Community a long time to recover from this double blow.
When we came to the College in 1964 Jonathan elected to take our class for Old Testament studies. He had written a little book published posthumously in 1966 called the Office of a Wall. I looked out my copy again recently and found it to be very prophetic in view of the current situation in the Holy Land with Israel building a wall. I found a paper in the back. Another student and I had developed a rather wicked habit of making a few notes of some of the more memorable sayings of the Brethren. The notes I found were some of the quotations from Jonathan’s OT lectures. I conclude by quoting these as a tribute to a truly great and influential priest and religious whom I shall never forget.
On Job: “and there was Job sitting uncomfortably upon his ash heap not feeling at all comforted.”
“Ezra’s not the sort of person you’d invite to supper…now Nehemiah is a different sort of character – low and racy but interesting to talk to.”
“Infinitely boring people these OT prophets, always going around with long faces saying ‘Thus saith the Lord this and thus saith the Lord that.’”
“Isaiah was an infinitely bigger man than these lesser ones”
“Poor Mrs Amos must have had a terrible time at home.” “Deuteronomy never uses one word when eight will do.” “Solomon must have been a very boring conversationalist.” “Sneezing is a very good example of complete self-giving.”
“Don’t go and show this diagram to any of our intellectual friends;
they might despise me and I don’t like being despised.”
And finally, after explaining some sort of confrontation he had recently had with someone in the House:
“With that perfect recollection that distinguishes us Religious I walked into Church as pompously as possible.”
For me my best memories are of Jonathan coming into Church to begin Compline. We might have had a difficult day struggling with NT Greek or a Doctrine Tutorial, but everything came into calm and ordered focus with Jonathan ringing the bell, walking majestically to his stall, and commencing those words: “The Lord Almighty grant us a quiet night and perfect end.”
And that was probably the last thing he did before he died. What a wonderful way to go.
Jonathan Graham CR died on August 23rd, 1965.
His book The Office of a Wall was an Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent Book, published by The Faith Press in 1966.