Stations of the Resurrection: 8. Mary Magdalene meets the risen Lord

8 Samuel Palmer Garden in Shoreham

Garden in Shoreham, Samuel Palmer, c1830

A contemporary of Blake, Samuel Palmer’s works sing with transcendence. Later artists such as Stanley Spencer and Carel Weight hint at a similar lineage – each depicts the divine breaking into the everyday, Christ spotted on the street corner (much as in Mark Cazelet’s recent London based Stations of the Cross). Spring comes to a Shoreham garden, trees frothing over with the vitality of fresh blossom. A woman, Mary, glimpsed at the end of a sunlight path, is looking up, searching, willing herself to catch sight of, something, someone who will tell her where the body of her beloved Master has been hidden. There is longing in her pose – but perhaps there are also the faintest stirrings of hope that lead her to be the first witness of the new life, new relationships, new love that are about to flood the earth.

Read: John 20:14b-18

Pray:
Living Word,
you called us by name and we are yours.
When you spoke Mary’s name
you gave her back her identity, her strength, her vision.
Forgive us for all the times we have not treated
other people as individuals,
when we have been disrespectful,
when we have allowed anonymity to colour our behaviour.
By your grace may we turn again
to strive to be your community
where everyone matters.
Amen.

Further reading: Stations of the Resurrection: from Easter to Pentecost, Richard Q. Greatrex, Redemptorist Publications, 9780852315453, from which this illustration and prayer was taken and which contains fuller reflections and much more.

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Stations of the Resurrection: 7. Angels at the empty tomb

7 James Tissot Mary Magdalene

Mary Magdalene Questions the Angels in the Tomb, James Tissot, 1886, 1894

A traditional image with big winged, white robed angels. They are rather stiff, formal and translucent – neither in nor of this world. They dominate, Mary is cramped in the doorway, angular, uncomfortable, disconcerted. The angels emit an icy harmony, Mary disrupts it with her grief, her shock, her dis-ease. She is in the liminal place, not inside yet not outside the tomb. She can back out or plunge in, take the risk to lose any lingering control she feels she has over the situation and be at the mercy of the angels and their message. The square doorway recalls the square of the Ben Nicholson in the first station. There it seemed to be expanding with our fears, now Mary can feel them closing in, the frame contracting to squeeze the breath out of her, to limit the potential of the resurrection. She has to make a decision – to grasp a radical new knowledge or to retreat into safety and ignorance.

Read: John 20:11-13

Pray:
Saviour God,
there are periods when we feel so weighed down
that all and any help seems to be no help at all.
During these times may we discern your voice
and remember that you never let us go.
We pray for all who mourn,
that out of their sadness may come
a new understanding:
that each and every one of us
is bound together eternally
by your love.
Amen.

Further reading: Stations of the Resurrection: from Easter to Pentecost, Richard Q. Greatrex, Redemptorist Publications, 9780852315453, from which this illustration and prayer was taken and which contains fuller reflections and much more.

Stations of the Resurrection: 6. Peter and John Run to the Tomb

6 Elisabeth Frink Riace Figures low res

Riace Figures, Elisabeth Frink, 1987-1989

The original figures – bronzes cast around 450BC – were discovered in the sea near Riace in 1972. Elisabeth Frink’s reimagined warriors are also encased in masks, but hers give them more of an Everyman quality and while they are still muscly and taut there is vulnerability in their nakedness. John and Peter running to the tomb are both raw with grief, all certainty stripped from them, energy coiled up inside them awaiting release. The concrete bases of the sculptures are clearly visible – they are running while weighed down by their own fears, insecurities, failures, doubts. Perhaps these are less for John than Peter, which is why he reaches the tomb first.

Read: John 20:3-10

Pray:
Heavenly Father,
In your wisdom you create every person
as individuals with a unique relationship to the world.
We thank you that, just like Peter and John,
each one of us has our own way
of examining, evaluating, trusting and believing.
May opportunities to meet with you open up to everyone,
whether in times of emptiness or fulness,
that the breath of resurrection might bring
fresh vitality to our lives.
Amen.

Further reading: Stations of the Resurrection: from Easter to Pentecost, Richard Q. Greatrex, Redemptorist Publications, 9780852315453, from which this illustration and prayer was taken and which contains fuller reflections and much more.

Stations of the Resurrection: 5. The Women Meet the Risen Lord

5 Paul Gauguin Arlésiennes low res

Arlésiennes (Mistral), Paul Gauguin, 1888

The moment before the meeting – the women, dressed for a visit to church, are anticipatory. They are walking through public gardens that were opposite the house in Arles that Gauguin was at the time sharing with Van Gogh.

In that other garden, as the women approach the tomb, they are equally nervous and expectant. Wrapped up tight in their best clothes they steel themselves for the rituals of grief but drawing close, the stone is rolled away. The order of bereavement is disintegrating before their eyes, confronting them with the impossible – it would be easier to blame the authorities for desecration rather than admit to the possibility of resurrection. Yet, no matter how enclosed, protected they feel inside their cloaks, barriers have been sundered – heaven and earth are melding together. Look closely at the bush on the bottom left, in front of the women: just discernible are intimations of an eye, a nose, a face – angel or Christ? Whichever, the women are on the cusp of encountering divinity and nothing will be the same again.

Read: Matthew 28:8-10

Pray:
Living Son of the loving God,
your first words to the women
who had the courage to visit your tomb,
were ‘Do not be afraid’.
We pray for women all around the world
who are hard-pressed, ill-treated, disenfranchised;
that through your resurrection
their fears may turn to hope
and that they may find the strength, skills and tools
to live life in all its fullness.
Amen.

Further reading: Stations of the Resurrection: from Easter to Pentecost, Richard Q. Greatrex, Redemptorist Publications, 9780852315453, from which this illustration and prayer was taken and which contains fuller reflections and much more.

Stations of the Resurrection: 4. The Women at the Tomb

4 Lorenzo Monaco Three Marys at the Tomb low res

The Three Marys at the Tomb, Lorenzo Monaco, 1396

The symbolic language of an icon is recognisable in the use of perspective and colour as well as elements such as the tree (of life?) and the blessing gesture of the angel, but the stylised botanical elements are spilling out over the page, like new shoots bursting through the soil – the lines of text dark and straight as furrowed earth – or vines curling around a trellis. The grave is rising heavenward at the angel’s end, like a seesaw, as the women find themselves at the fulcrum of the moment when creation is restored into God’s open, loving embrace.

Read: Luke 24: 4b-5

Pray:
Risen Lord Jesus,
when you broke free of the tomb
you overturned rules and systems
that chain us to false expectations.
Just as your friends and followers
needed the presence of angels to prompt them
to grasp the possibilities of your resurrection,
we ask you to equip us to be your messengers,
overcoming fear and allowing others
to see your love working
throughout the twists and turns of life.
Amen.

Further reading: Stations of the Resurrection: from Easter to Pentecost, Richard Q. Greatrex, Redemptorist Publications, 9780852315453, from which this illustration and prayer was taken and which contains fuller reflections and much more.

Stations of the Resurrection: 3. They Found the Stone Rolled Away

Created with GIMP

Scorpio Series 3, No. 9, Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, 1997

Wilhelmina Barns-Graham is one of the least known of the St Ives group with Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth, Peter Lanyon and co. But her career was long and varied, carrying on into the twenty-first century. She was always trying something new while at the same time increasing in her mastery of line, form, colour and the geometry of abstraction. Every element of her pictures is thought through very carefully in relation to the whole.

What appears, at first glance, to be a chaotic, swiftly daubed painting is actually a satisfyingly harmonious whole. The orange circle, which reminds me of the stone of the tomb looks to be being pushed away disconcerting the upright stripes of colour, which, like the women in the garden, are disconcerted, falling like dominoes – the impact of the Resurrection already rippling outwards, changing the whole created order.

Read: Luke 24:2-3

Pray:
Almighty God,
your strong arm delivers,
you sweep the powerful from their thrones
and raise up the weak.
May your strength prevail when we feel too drained
to roll away the stones that block our pathway.
And may we use what strength you give us,
to give heart to those whose voices go unheeded:
whenever there seems to be nothing left,
may the resurrection of your beloved Son
sustain and unite us in love.
Amen.

Further reading: Stations of the Resurrection: from Easter to Pentecost, Richard Q. Greatrex, Redemptorist Publications, 9780852315453, from which this illustration and prayer was taken and which contains fuller reflections and much more.

Stations of the Resurrection: 2. The Resurrection

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Sunrise, Georgia O’Keeffe, 1916

The stone – a full stop or a seed in limbo, aestivating? O’Keeffe’s sunrise joyously bursts out of the landscape, thrusting upwards through the sky like a fresh shoot exploding out of dark earth. The ending is a beginning, and what a beginning, happening when most of the land is still sleeping, yet refracting the whole of lived experience through the prism of something radical, unique – resurrection – so that in the light of day new colours illuminate the earth. And what colours they are! Hot and shimmering, endlessly shifting and enchanting. Where else might we find them? Perhaps in Craigie Aitchison’s Crucifixion paintings – the pinks and reds of his desolate landscapes. But now they have shifted from disruptive, disconcerting, unearthly emptiness into the glory of a new, eternal story spilling out and infiltrating, energising, inspiring the whole of creation. Christ is risen, he is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Read: 1 Corinthians 15:20-22

Pray:
Living Lord,
when your resurrection seeded in the dark,
you raised not only yourself but us,
to be new people, fashioned in your own image,
seeds sent out over the earth to spread your good news.
Help us to be that good news,
even when we feel smothered by care and strife,
so that we might share with everyone we meet
the life your grace brings.
Amen.

Further reading: Stations of the Resurrection: from Easter to Pentecost, Richard Q. Greatrex, Redemptorist Publications, 9780852315453, from which this illustration and prayer was taken and which contains fuller reflections and much more.