Matthew Arnold’s poem explores loss of faith –  maybe a particular kind of faith with emphasis on supernatural authority and certainty. Advent is the season to listen to the tides of doubt and loss, and take us into the deep waters of human experience, which also include a longing for faithful living and loving, and for hope.

..The sea of faith

was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore

lay like the folds of a bright girdle furl’d;

but now I only hear

its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar ..

and we are here as on a darkling plain

swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,

where ignorant armies clash by night.

You can't see it here - but on my first day on Iona, I was thrilled to bits to catch a glimpse of a seal in the blustery sea.

You can’t see it here – but on my first day on Iona (in September 2011) I was thrilled to bits to catch a glimpse of a seal in the blustery sea.

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