I wonder how many of you have seen the art installation that has been in Canterbury Cathedral for the last few months. Entitled ‘suspended’, it is both eye-catching and thought provoking and since it hangs over the centre of the nave, it cannot be missed. The round ball is made up of items of clothing discarded by refugees as they reached the beaches of the Greek Island, Lesbos and tells the stories of those who have been driven into exile, forced from their own homes, through war. War artist, Arabella Dorman, creator of ‘Suspended’, who spent ten years working in Iraq and Afghanistan, felt moved by a sense of compassion and national culpability to go out to Lesbos and document the journey of the refugees. “Nothing prepared me for the human drama, the scale of tragedy, that I witnessed unfolding on those beaches” she says, as she described the hundreds of items of clothing strewn across the beaches, stained, torn and wet, discarded by those who were offered clean clothes on arrival. “Suspended” captures the power evoked by the empty item of clothing and helps the viewer to engage with the hidden story of the wearer of those clothes, seeing the refugee not just as a number but as a real person.
On Easter Sunday morning, we heard in the reading from John’s Gospel that “Peter and the other disciple set out and went to the tomb. The two were running together but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself.” The power evoked in the discarded grave clothes was to be fully revealed in the resurrection. We can spend a lifetime engaging with the ‘hidden story’ of the wearer of those grave clothes as the true meaning is revealed to us as we grow in our journey of faith.
At the centre of the art installation ‘suspended’ is a central orb, a light that changes in density, sometimes shining brightly as the light of hope but, as it dims, reminding the viewer that refugees may be left unseen and in darkness as their plight is forgotten.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ brings the light of hope into the world, not just for Easter Day but for every day, for we are ‘easter people’, travelling with the light of Christ in our midst. But there is no doubt that at times it seems as if the darkness has overwhelmed the light. Archbishop Justin in his Maundy Thursday sermon spoke of the harrowing experience of having to read through pages of documentation of abuse in the Church of England in preparation for Independent Enquiry. More accusations and revelations come to the surface day by day. As I write, the leaders of the nations are talking of military action as a reprisal for the use of chemical weapons in Syria while day by day, in Yemen, the numbers of those dying from famine and disease continues to mount. Gun crime in America, terrorist attacks in various European cities and more. Do we sometimes feel the encroaching darkness and wonder where is the light?
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” Instead of allowing ourselves to be engulfed by the darkness, let us instead be that light shining in the darkness, casting light on the plight of those who suffer so they are not forgotten as we pray all the more fervently. The wearer of those discarded grave clothes is with us day by day, lighting up our path and enabling us to carry His light into the darkest places.
He is risen indeed. Alleluia.