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Language: English / Gàidhlig


Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Meeting of the Parliament 23 April 2019

Agenda: Time for Reflection, Topical Question Time, Social Security and In-work Poverty, Committee Announcement, Business Motion, Parliamentary Bureau Motions, Decision Time, Open University at 50


Time for Reflection

Good afternoon and welcome back, everyone. Our first item of business today is time for reflection. Our time for reflection leader is the Rev Neil Gardner MA BD, minister of Canongate Kirk, in Edinburgh.

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a concert of Lenten music for reflection, and before it began the conductor respectfully asked the audience to refrain from applauding at the end, so that the sense of contemplation might be allowed to prevail a little longer. I wonder whether I might, just as respectfully, ask you to do the same at the end of this time for reflection.

I want to reflect for a moment on the symbol of our parish—yours and mine—here in the Canongate: a cross set among the antlers of a stag. It can be seen most vividly on the gable end of the roof high above the front door of Canongate Kirk; it can be seen elsewhere, too, from the war memorial against the Tolbooth to the gates of the palace.

The symbol traces our story back through the mists of time to the days of King David I, the son of the saintly Queen Margaret. One day in 1128, the king went hunting in the forest around Arthur’s Seat but something went wrong: he came off his horse and was left defenceless on the ground as an angry stag approached, its sharp antlers pointing straight at him. The king prayed that he might survive this deadly encounter and legend has it that, as he prayed, he had a vision of the cross of Jesus between the antlers of the stag, which suddenly stopped in its tracks and withdrew quietly to the forest. The king regained his horse and rode back up the hill to the castle, where, in his thankfulness for deliverance, he vowed to build an abbey close to the place where his life had been spared.

And so the story of the abbey of the holy rood, which means “holy cross” in old language, began to take shape, all those centuries ago. The abbey would give its name to the palace that evolved out of its guesthouse and eventually to this part of town.

This side of Easter, Christians, too, see the cross as a sign of our thankfulness for deliverance—from the darkness of sin and death to the brightness of new life and hope. The cross among the antlers still proclaims to us all the power of the faith that endures through the centuries, through all the challenging encounters of our day, and through the horns of every dilemma.