When beauty breaks through
On the power of The Pietà and pilgrimage.
I so hope that this one finds you and your loved ones OK, safe and well.
I hadn’t intended to, but I’m opening with a pic I took a week ago that I was going to save until closer to Easter.
This is The Pietà, in the beautiful Durham Cathedral.
Extraordinary, isn’t it?
I’d seen it before, and the second time was no less affecting.
Here is what the notice has to say about the viscerally moving piece, by Fenwick Lawson ARCA.
There is a short pew positioned just in front of The Pietà, where you can sit and bear witness, with mother and son.
Speaking of the power of art, I’ve now finished This Beautiful Truth: How God's Goodness Breaks into Our Darkness (which I first mentioned in this newsletter).
Reflecting on how, through her own experiences, art can save us, Sarah writes:
The longer I walked the road of my illness, the more aware I became of the powerful way that great art could grip my hand and lead me forward. There’s a kindling power in the light of something created out of a broken human heart, a tenacious creativity that splotches the darkness with gaudy stars and fills the shadows with a siren music of hope and kindles a story like a campfire in our hearts, where we may find refuge and warm our hands.
During Lent last year, Charity Singleton-Craig posted this beautiful series of paintings by Tissot based on The Stations Of The Cross, and, a couple of days ago, I ordered a book I keep hearing about from different sources: The Art Of Lent, by Sister Wendy Beckett.
With Sarah’s words, in mind, I’m excited to explore a little the practice of Visio Divina, an alternative to the traditional Lectio Divina, which focus on meditating on an image.
Have you found a saving grace in this way, gazing on specific works of art?
Beauty in the ashes
If you celebrate Ash Wednesday, were you able to make it to a service last week?
Walking slowly up the nave of our church alongisde others, to receive the ashes, felt like a pilgrimage of sorts.
Back home, I’m embarrassed to say I agonised over whether or not to post a photo of my black, smudgy cross to Instagram. I deliberated over whether I’d be doing it for the right reasons, personally—even though I felt a huge sense of comfort and connection seeing all those that appeared in my feed.
The fact that I overthought it so much is almost certainly a sign that perhaps I should give up social media for Lent.
I was painfully aware, also, of how I’d fallen short of my best intentions for the day.
Instead of fasting, I ended up comfort snacking on crisps and soya chocolate pudding, in the midst of what was a pillow-screamingly hard week seeing my parents who I love so much, go through so much.
We were late to the service, also, because I’d spent too long in the shower, trying to wash away the stressful and the sad. To loosen up hunched shoulders.
But can we, actually, fall short on Ash Wednesday?
The title alone of Good Enough: 40ish Devotionals For A Life Of Imperfection, by Kate Bowler and Jessica Ritchie, feels like balm.
If you’re reading along, too, let’s compare notes (I *might* already be behind).
Along the way
I’ve thought a lot about pilgrimage, in different ways, lately.
The other week, Will and I sat down to watch the 2010 movie The Way. Starring Martin Sheen and directed by his son, Emilio Estevez, it tells the story of a grieving father’s pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.
Will gave me the DVD years ago, but I hadn’t got around to watching it. This year, our church is following a Lent course based on it.
There are personal reasons, too, why The Camino is of interest to me, which I touched on in a newsletter before Christmas, Angels On Regent Street. It ties in with another book I’m looking forward to reading alongside the course: The Field of the Star: A Pilgrim's Journey to Santiago de Compostela, written by my friend Fran’s father, Nicholas Luard. It’s years out of print, but still track-down-able.
Last weekend, something happened which made me think about how we get to walk alongside fellow pilgrims as part of our everyday lives, too.
Travelling to visit our eldest at university and anxious about having left Will to hold the fort at home, I jumped into a black London taxi to get from Waterloo Station to King’s Cross.
As we moved slowly through the Friday morning traffic, heading north through Russell Square, I became aware of the song that the driver was playing.
Out of context (and season), it took me a moment to place it.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
—O Come, O Come Emmanuel
God with us.
I volunteered that I appreciated the choice of music, which, it turns out, was anything but random: the driver shared that he had lost his mother only the month before.
For the rest of the ride, we shared stories about loss, love, faith and hope.
London cabbies are notoriously chatty. But this was different.
Arriving at King’s Cross, I made a pit stop at the Boots pharmacy on the station concourse. Standing in line at the counter, I overheard the pharmacist call out to a customer whose prescription was ready to pick up.
‘Emmanuel? Is there an Emmanuel here?’
With much love for the road,
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