It’s been a long, long time since our last biscuit. Five weeks to be exact but the good news is that the fast is soon to be followed by a feast of new entries from the continent. First, these wonderful Franska Vafflor from Olivia, a Danish-made biscuit whose name translates as French Waffles. As I haven’t been able to find an equivalent biscuit in France I’m wondering whether these waffles stand to France as English muffins to England. These ones are sandwiched with vanilla cream and are the closest thing to a doughnut I’ve ever had in biscuit form. The outer layers have the texture of crisp fried pastry and while they taste very nice indeed I recommend you stop after three to avoid a sugar rush.
The abundant richness and sweetness of the Vafflor feels especially appropriate for this day in the Anglican Church’s Calendar, in which we celebrate a man who is perhaps the sweetest of all seventeenth-century writers, Thomas Traherne. I first met him through his Centuries of Meditations, which are full of passages like this one:
“You never enjoy the world aright, till the Sea itself floweth in your veins, till you are clothed with the heavens, and crowned with the stars: and perceive yourself to be the sole heir of the whole world, and more than so, because men are in it who are every one sole heirs as well as you. Till you can sing and rejoice and delight in God, as misers do in gold, and Kings in sceptres, you never enjoy the world. Till your spirit filleth the whole world, and the stars are your jewels; till you are as familiar with the ways of God in all Ages as with your walk and table: till you are intimately acquainted with that shady nothing out of which the world was made: till you love men so as to desire their happiness, with a thirst equal to the zeal of your own: till you delight in God for being good to all: you never enjoy the world…”
Reading the meditations feels like escaping from the smog of the big city into the open country on a clear autumn night. Almost at once you’re breathing easier and seeing further, instead of crowded trains or cramped ceilings the roof above you is a net of stars. And you feel again what a strange and wonderful thing it is to be alive and to have a little seat as a sentient spectator in the theatre of this vast, sprawling, mind-dazzling universe (you see, it’s catching…) Traherne’s writings are suffused with his awareness of a ‘joy unspeakable and full of glory’, to quote the apostle Peter. Centuries on, his attempts to speak of that glory can still move us now.
While the Centuries itself was never published in his lifetime, its theme of revelling in the joy of existence is the more remarkable when you consider its author’s upbringing amid all the dread, anxiety and upheaval of a Civil War. ‘A Christian is an oak flourishing in winter,’ Traherne writes, echoing the opening of the Psalter with its declaration that those who delight in God’s law are like trees planted by a river. You may have to dig deep for it, but the joy is still there waiting to be found.
I can’t think of much more delectable than the Centuries themselves. You can read them for free here.
And not forgetting the middle ages, here’s a little image of Bartholomew Anglicus contemplating the beauty of the world in BL MS Royal 17 E III:
That’s all for this week, folks… Stay tuned for more biscuits in future.
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