It is Easter Saturday. The sun is shining on this quiet day of waiting between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. In Northern Ireland, this is the second season of spring that we have spent in lockdown. We look back on a year that has brought both blessing and loss. Easter calls us to lift our eyes from all of these things, and turn towards Christ, whose death, burial and resurrection are at the very heart of our Christian faith.
This Holy Week, New Irish Arts, directed by Jonathan Rea, invited us to travel together as we remembered the final days of the life of Christ, His death, and ultimately His victory over death, in bodily resurrection. Sanctuary, a series of artistic meditations provided space for this.
I am very grateful to Jonathan for including my new poem, ‘Evensong’ in the Sanctuary series, together with a new painting by Pauline Gribben. The poem takes the form of a prayer, and responds to the memory of a moment of beauty that I experienced when I attended a historic Evensong service conducted by the late Sir Stephen Cleobury in July 2019, in King’s College Chapel, Cambridge. Sir Stephen died later that year. The service took place on a glorious summer’s evening: the sun illuminated the jewel colours in the windows, and light streamed into the chapel through the great West Door.
I had been talking about the memory of this moment recently, with Pauline and our mutual friend, Rebekah Durston. It seemed to me like a glimpse of Heaven. There was something about its beauty that pointed, ultimately, to the hope and healing found in Christ. In the days following our conversation, Pauline’s painting and the poem were born. It was a joy to be joined in the Sanctuary meditations by Rebekah, who is a fine violinist. The expressions in music, paint and words, curated so thoughtfully by Jonathan in the Sanctuary series, grow from our shared faith in Christ. It has been a privilege to walk in community with friends this Holy Week, as we look ahead to Easter and all the rejoicing that Christ’s Resurrection brings.
Evensong Holy Lord, in Your mercy, lift the scales of blindness from our eyes. Let us marvel at the beauty of holiness in your House. Gentle Lord, in your longsuffering, consume us not. Illuminate our spirits, souls and minds; our inmost part. Gracious Lord, in your kindness, heal our wounds with aloes; cleanse us with hyssop; anoint us with oil. Lord of light, shine through us. Make us as windows: bestow glimpses of the land of milk and honey and spices, bright courts of emerald and the glories of sapphire, the river of turquoise and jasper and amethyst; a foretaste of pomegranates. Lord of life, give ears to hear the rich Psalms. Grant us a vision of crimson. Transpose the music of sorrow into gladness. Lord of Hope, renew the promises of Spring and eternal days of Summer after suffering. Dispel the darkness as we come to You as King. Break the alabaster of our hearts. Open wide the doors. May the fragrance of worship fill this place, mingled with our tears.