Monday, March 28, 2016

Easter Monday

Easter Monday and there are some pieces of work that need to be cleared today - not the least being the Dean's Report for the Cathedral AGM (10 April), as I write I am listening to the broadcast of the Cathedral Easter Service, pre-recorded on Palm Sunday afternoon, the broadcast can be heard if one uses the information below:

It feels a little odd, after this hectic week, to feel the impact of technology subverting space and time and at the end of Holy Week to be remembering our anticipation of it over a week ago.  Also to hear the broadcast will, I expect, throw up insights about our liturgical workings - we always learn ...

It has been a good Easter with good attendance at all services.  Easter Day Choral Service was crowded with visitors and a startling range of ethnicities.  Cathedral people organised an Easter Egg hunt for the children present - one section for pre-schoolers and another for the older children (I would never have thought of that astute niche management!).

Easter Day Choral Evensong - I enjoyed the Samuel Wesley anthem but felt the phrase 'the word of the Lord endureth forever' to grate slightly against that extraordinary second lesson from 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 where Paul cites the tradition of the resurrection witnesses and then introduces his own place in the tradition 'the least of the apostles' only to justify himself with the argument that he worked harder than them all.  It's an awkward passage and I at least feel a dissonance within it.  Is that only me?  Accordingly I went quite off the cuff and commented on how the word of the Lord that endureth for ever is filtered through human sources and the Paul passage seemed to me to be a good example of that (another of my occasional squabbles with Paul)!

The rest of the brief homily was really a domestic Cathedral reflection on the journey we have shared this past week ...

At Choral Evensong on Easter Day in the Cathedral it is probably fair to say that (at least) Choir and clergy may feel a certain tiredness – and while I don’t wish any of you to be tired, I admit I really hope that I am not just speaking for myself!

The fact is that if we have followed the Great Three Days (from Maundy Thursday through to Easter Day) we have traced a very intense and demanding course.  Even those singers who may think themselves tolerably immured from the challenges of faith may respond to the elements of these days.  

The Three Days are less a conventional call on the mind than a complex if familiar story that is enacted mainly through images and symbols – be it the stripping of a church or the darkness of Tenebrae, or the powerful images of the Easter Vigil.  To have come to Choral Evensong through and after all this is to acknowledge a journey that has likely been physically as well as spiritually and emotionally demanding.  It is necessary and wise that after such intensity the choir breaks for a brief recess.

For a Cathedral the music is the voice that reaches past the mind and that lifts bare text and images to take us beyond ourselves.  There are points where the life of the Spirit breaks through. You likely remember Vanstone’s poem ‘Morning Glory’ and how he layers fragments of human awareness and experience to signal the moments of gift, what he calls God’s ‘gifts of love to mind and sense’.

Morning glory, starlit sky, Leaves in springtime, swallows' flight, Autumn gales, tremendous seas, Sounds and scents of summer night;
Soaring music, tow'ring words, Art's perfection, scholar's truth, Joy supreme of human love, Memory's treasure, grace of youth;
Open, Lord, are these, Thy gifts, Gifts of love to mind and sense; Hidden is love's agony, Love's endeavour, love's expense.

At the end of a demanding Easter, it is right for our awareness of the gifts of mind and sense to be heightened; and to be more deeply grounded in the divine mystery that reaches us  so powerfully in such diverse ways.  Here is love …

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