Tag Archives: dark

16 April: Stations for Peter X: Jesus is crucified.

winchester crucifix

Peter stood a long way off, but he probably had little choice.

Scripture references: Peter’s boat: Matthew 13:1-3; Let the children come: Luke 18: 15-17; the Crucifixion: Luke 23:33-34.

Everyone always wanted to be near Jesus. We used to try to protect him, to keep the crowds away.

I remember when he sat in my boat, just to have room to breathe! 

I remember when we sent the children away. He used to get tired just like anybody else, but No, he said, let them come to me. And climb all over him, arms and legs hanging on everywhere.

Now, no-one can get near, soldiers with swords and spears hold us back while they hammer nails through him and hang him up on high.

No last minute rescue.

The whole world seemed dark.

Let us pray for everyone in prison, especially those held for no real crime at all; and for those separated from their families and loved ones, kept apart by bullying governments and authorities.

Jesus remember me, when you come into your Kingdom.

 

Image from Winchester Cathedral by MMB.
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18 March. Before the Cross V: An Absent Presence.

'Still', a major work by Scottish artist Alison Watt, is installed in the Memorial Chapel

Psalm 46:10 ‘Be still and know that I am God.’

A mysterious and endearing quality of art and music is that they can open a door within us to a stillness in which we can inwardly sense the knowing of God. For ultimately this knowing is not a theory in our heads, but the kind of knowing that ripples through our being in a way in which we most probably don’t understand and yet we can say of it ‘I just know’.

‘Still’ is by the Scottish painter Alison Watt OBE (b. 1965), and is hung behind the altar in the Memorial chapel of Old St. Paul’s Episcopal church in Edinburgh. If ever you have a few moments free in the centre of Edinburgh, or arrive by train to the central Waverley Station it is conveniently just across the road from the back entrance to the station. The church is usually open for visitors, offering a respite from the vibrancy and noise of the city centre by the contrastingly silent and poignantly serene space which is this chapel – dedicated in memory of those fallen in World War 1. It is a dark space which holds both the sadness of the memory of those who gave their lives, and the light of hope through the risen Christ.

This unique work somehow expresses the sense of beauty and light and continuing movement of the spirit, through its enigmatic focus on folds of fabric. The work is a quadriptych (a work in four parts) 12 ft by 12 ft, and so naturally echoes the cross in its layout, a reminder of the ultimate sacrifice taken by Christ. The theme of the painting is hanging drapery. The implication is that the cloth is that of the shrouds of Jesus, though what hangs behind it is only alluded to. Certainly the subtle implication is of a body beneath, causing the shaping and the folds. Watt says of the work: ‘‘Although the body is not explicitly represented, it’s still echoed in the landscape of the cloth. The paintings are about an absent presence.’

An absent presence – something we can’t see or physically perceive and yet we know and sense is there. And so it was for those who experienced that first Easter morning – the confusion of a mysterious absent presence. It is that very quality which, without words or analysis, settles within me as I sit with this work of art.

When I first saw this painting I felt mesmerised by the beauty and the impact of the white simplicity of the hangings amidst the stark silence of the chapel. It stills me, and yet the stillness is not rigid but full of gentle movement and flow. The meaning is not obvious and yet in my unknowing it offers me opportunity to sit and just to absorb. It offers that doorway to ‘Be still and know that I am God.’

I often like to pop in when I am back in my home town; By stepping aside from all that energises the centre of town into the entrancing beauty and stillness of being in that place, I experience a way into the serenity of prayer which settles and recharges my inner resources through this beautiful work of art.

Janet McDonald

Alison Watt is the youngest artist to have had a solo exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (2000) and to serve as an Associate Artist at the National Gallery, London (2006-8). For Still, she won the ACE (Art and Christianity Enquiry) award for a Commissioned Artwork in Ecclesiastical Space in 2005. See:

 

Janet McDonald is a member of the L’Arche Kent Community.

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March 15, Feast of Saint Longinus. Before the Cross II: The Centurion, 1.

 

Christ Crucified between the Two Thieves: The Three Crosses

Rembrandt  1653 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)

Orthodox and Roman Catholic tradition names the centurion Longinus, supposing that it was he who drove the lance into Jesus’s side. A number of traditions grew up around him in the early church, among them that he was martyred. As a saint, he is now remembered by Roman Catholics on the 16th. October, though his original feast day was the 15th. March (still kept in the Extraordinary form). He appears in Luke and Mark’s gospels confessing by himself, and in Matthew, confessing together with the other guards. The spearman in John’s gospel is only identified as “one of the soldiers”; we cannot know if this was the centurion himself or one of the soldiers under his command. Nevertheless, responsibility for ensuring that all three crucifixion victims had died would have rested with him.

In this print, Rembrandt depicts the moment of Jesus’s death, after three hours of unnatural darkness. The eye is drawn towards Christ on the cross, but the crowded scene is one of contrasting human responses to revelation. Some run away, others stand in awe. Mary has fainted, overwhelmed by grief. Mounted Roman soldiers continue, unmoved, in their menace, but the centurion kneels at the foot of the cross to declare “Surely this was a righteous man”.

Though Luke doesn’t record that the centurion heard the exchange between Jesus and the two thieves, it seems likely that he would have made it his business to listen. We cannot know at what point during that day he recognised the uniqueness of Jesus among all the men he had executed, from the trial where Pilate declares him to be innocent, up to the time of his death. But I imagine that Jesus’s extraordinary compassion towards an anguished soul (while in the midst of his own suffering) compounds with all the other questions that Jesus had raised in the centurion’s mind that morning – and with this strange darkness – to persuade him, not only of the injustice in which he has played such an active role, but also of its massive cosmic significance.

The penitent thief (a Jew) and the confessing centurion (a gentile) both recognised the truth, and indeed the understatement, of the words on Pilate’s sign intended to mock Jesus: “King of the Jews”. The true King welcomed them, one at the point of physical death, and the other in a radically restored life, purpose and hope. The one, cursed and shamed by the world for crimes he acknowledged, yet received by Jesus; the other, an enforcer of Roman law and follower of the imperial cult, moved and shaken by his involvement in an act of barbaric injustice, now knowing that he was in the presence of the true “Son of God”. And so he also welcomes us, whatever our past, and whatever our blindness has been towards him. He welcomes us to participate in a kingdom on earth that has not grown out of human competition or military might. He welcomes us to the very presence of the living God.

Rupert Greville.

Rupert Greville is a member of the L’Arche Kent Community.

 

 

 

 

 

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14 February, Mass in the City of Light, February 1946

candle

A reminder that Christ is among us at the Eucharist, whether celebrated in splendour or in dirt and poverty – and in the case of Archbishop Spellman’s visit to Notre Dame de Paris, in dirty, poverty stricken splendour. Spellman was en route to Rome, to become a Cardinal,

The post-war visit to the French capital by and large was anything but gay. For Mass in the great Cathedral of Notre Dame, each priest was still assigned one little piece of candle stuck in a bottle, which was carried from the sacristy by the server and carefully returned. Even when His Eminence gave Solemn Benediction at the main altar, there were only two candles burning. The streets were dark too, the streets of the City of Light, dark and dirty. The hotels were cold. The shops were shabby. Only the famous Flea Market, which seemed to be very much bigger than ever, was doing a thriving business.

So, Let your light shine! One candle in a neglected, dirty cathedral was a sign of hope, a sign of the Lord’s presence among his people. And even that one candle was an act of defiance to the darkness, the darkness will never overcome!

From ‘The Cardinal Spellman Story’ by Robert L Gannon, London, Robert Hale, 19963, p288. 

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December 21: come and shed your light upon those dwelling in darkness.

sunrise.sjc

In a traditionally ordered church the people symbolically face to the East, to the rising sun, symbol of Jesus the risen Lord. Today Sister Johanna leads our Advent reflection on Jesus the rising sun.

Follow the link.  Dec 21 – O Oriens

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14 December: On fire with all love’s longing.

crosscave2

For the Feast of Saint John of the Cross, here is one of his spiritual songs. This is taken from ‘San Juan de la Cruz Seven Spiritual Poems’, translated by A.S. Kline, available through Project Gutenberg. 

Song of the Soul that Delights in Reaching the Supreme State of perfection, that is, the union with God, by the path of spiritual negation.

Upon a darkened night
on fire with all love’s longing
– O joyful flight! –
I left, none noticing,
my house, in silence, resting.

Secure, devoid of light,
by secret stairway, stealing
– O joyful flight! –
in darkness self-concealing,
my house, in silence, resting.

In the joy of night,
in secret so none saw me,
no object in my sight
no other light to guide me,
but what burned here inside me.

Which solely was my guide,
more surely than noon-glow,
to where he does abide,
one whom I deeply know,
a place where none did show.

O night, my guide!
O night, far kinder than the dawn!
O night that tied
the lover to the loved,
the loved in the lover there transformed!

On my flowering breast,
that breast I kept for him alone,
there he took his rest
while I regaled my own,
in lulling breezes from the cedars blown.

The breeze, from off the tower,
as I sieved through its windings,
with calm hands, that hour,
my neck, in wounding,
left all my senses hanging.

Self abandoned, self forgot,
my face inclined to the beloved one:
all ceased, and I was not,
my cares now left behind, and gone:
there among the lilies all forgotten.

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29 November: Unexpected Autumn gifts.

apricot.leaves.broom

The leaves are not all down, despite the winds’ best efforts, so I can still share an autumnal story. LAudato si!

It was a little damp for sweeping leaves, but the apricot was shedding its gold over the public footpath and we didn’t want passers-by slithering at the corner, so out came the broom.

Perhaps it was the dampness that brought it out: a distinct scent of apricot rising from the leaves! I never noticed that before. Let’s hope it’s a promise of harvests to come.

aprcot.leaves.night.nov

A few days later, as I went to lock up for the night, I noticed the remaining leaves glowing and dancing in the lamplight. (I wish I could say moonlight, but she was obscured by low cloud.)

A silent disco; people pay good money for such entertainment!

I am always grateful when my sense of smell surprises me in this way. I lived largely without it for years. Laudato Si! for the apricot tree, for the leaves – and yes, for the lamplight – on this occasion. It is not necessary and pollutes the night sky, but just this once, Laudato Si! And Laudato si! for the surgery that, as an unexpected side effect, allowed me to smell again.

WT

(A version of this post has appeared on the Will Turnstone blog)

 

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11 April: An Eve in Winter

 

 

bluemoon

Firstly, a poem from Christina. Although she has given it the Title ‘An Eve in Winter’, its theme of light, of gentle light not consumed by the darkness, resonates with our heroes RS Thomas and Dylan Thomas, poets from opposite ends of Wales. A response tomorrow.

 

 

When you enter a darkened room

and see a pool of moonlight on the floor,

do you wait to turn the lights on

so you can step into the glow?

 

I do.

 

For brightness can scare away the paler shades.

Though it is good for seeing definitions clearly and

avoiding stray furniture, it is poor for

hearing and keeping the secret

that’s whispered through tender starlight

 to waiting earth of snow.

 

When I say, “let there be light,”

smugly snapping on devices,

I cannot see beyond my own reflection

blinded to that of the Divine.

 

© 2018 Christina Chase

 

Christina can be found at: https://divineincarnate.com

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11 April: Easter Guests

paschal.candles

Ignatius and Christina are good friends of this blog, they’ve followed us from our first few fumbling footsteps and are still alongside us. We’ve recently won their consent to adopt posts from their blogs for Agnellus Mirror where they look at darkness and light. That seemed appropriate for Eastertide, so that is when they are appearing. In excellent company with our resident poets Sheila and Sister Johanna – not to mention W.H. Davies.

So many thanks to both our friends for these blogs. In each case, there is a response from Will.

Ignatius can be found at: asalittlechild.wordpress.com

And Christina at: divineincarnate.com

Do drop in on them!

Paschal candles preserved at Canterbury Cathedral.

 

MMB.

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4 April: The Passover Sequence, I. Yesterday.

 

barredwindow strasbg (800x496)

Yesterday we walked with him,

talked with him.

Tho’ he was quiet,

Wanting us there.

So much to tell us,

So much we could not understand.

Yesterday ….

He spoke often of his Father.

How could we know?

fishermen –

Caught within the rapture of their presence.

Unable to comprehend,

Held by the comfort of their closeness.

For it was, it was, … closeness.

More than himself,

A Son,

Submissive, obedient.

But what love, what love!

It touched us all,

Caught up,

Tax-collectors –

He told us that he would die,

Leave us

When all within was caught in that love.

What could we do?

Yesterday

We ate with him.

Oh! He wanted that!

We wanted that!

“… with desire…”

He spoke of his Father

Intimate …

With us, wondering men,

Not knowing how we should respond.

Embraced in such love.

I mean, people do not love like that,

Do they?

Such foreboding

As if this was the last time.

And it was.

He told us

But we didn’t understand.

So we walked in the quietness of the evening,

Walked with him …

what words can tell you?

If there were tears they did not flow,

Instead we, all of us,

Bore the weight of his leaving.

We came to the garden, deserted,

Full of dark shadows,

The lingering scent of thesun-filled day.

He went on alone to speak with his Father.

We were left,

Working men,

Fishermen,

Chosen by the Son of God,

His brothers,

Each weighed down by his own self’s grief.

We slept.

He came back to us and found us sleeping,

Such gentle reproach …

Could you not …

Even one hour … ?’

And once again

Our hearts’ heaviness

Forbade his comfort.

His friends!

One of the others said later,

An angel had come to him.

I did not see.

I was asleep.

Ashamed.

But when he stood

Facing the mob in their torchlight

His features were beaded with blood.

We could have fallen back into the shadows,

And we did,

We could have run,

And we did.

We could leave him

And we did.

But that Love!

Who are you?

Who are we?

So we fell back into the shadows.

And he went on, alone,

With the mob.

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