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Thoughts on Good Friday

Jesus graffiti, photo by Aaron Phelps
Photo by Aaron Phelps

This year on Good Friday and continuing my tradition, a piece of graffiti artwork to delight the eyes and challenge the heart. Although I don’t know who produced the artwork, the photo was taken in Brighton, England, by Aaron Phelps.

I love this image. To quote St John of Damascus (quoted often in my recent dissertation/book):

‘Visible things are corporeal models which provide a vague understanding of intangible things. Holy Scripture describes God and the angels as having Read more

Sad to see at any time, let alone Christmas

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5RnVfXFd5MU[/youtube]

In previous years, I have wished everyone a Merry Christmas with a bit of art (usually graffiti) and perhaps a poem. This year, I’m afraid my Christmas mood has been very definitely spoilt by news of a (near) riot at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem between different denominations who both have rights within the space.

This church, traditionally held to be built upon the site of the place where Jesus was born, ought to be one of the most holiest sites in the world. To some it is. To most this Christmas, it’s another testimony of Christians seeming inability to love one another. Lord, have mercy.

Thoughts on Good Friday

A photo of a graffiti mural by Nolan Lee

This year on Good Friday, the artwork is a graffiti piece called Good Friday by Nolan Lee. More of Nolan’s work is available at his own website.

One of the reasons why I think graffiti always works around this time of the Christian year is because graffiti is visceral, rough, violent and makeshift artform. Today, of all days, when we remember how the Lord of all the earth was executed, it always seems to me like an excellent way to explore its meaning.

I’ve not found any commentary from the artist but I love the upward gaze… is it Mary? Jesus’ mother? The eyes look older, tired, eyes that have seen too much. The cross firmly fixed in her mind and in her sight. Read more

You get by with a little help from your friends…

A painting of St Teresa of Avila

With apologies for recent silence, this post marks an attempt to get back into the blogosphere. In the month of February, I had some study leave which was both good and fruitful although it proved to be cut short because of domestic problems whereby my good lady wife fell quite seriously ill.

She is, thankfully, on a road to recovery although what has happened will mean we probably have to make some lifestyle changes for her long-term. However, in the midst of all, the love of God was very present to us both.

There were no warm fuzzy feelings or ‘mountain stream’ moments to be found, but just the love and care of the Christian community around us who have been brilliant in both caring for my good lady wife and also helping me as I spent a few weeks as a quasi-single parent (for whom I have a new found respect).

Anyway, this picture is not my wife (thankfully). It’s St Teresa of Avila who famously said something that has echoed long and loud for me in these last few weeks as we have relied on God’s people for help. In so doing, through the Body of Christ, we have experienced the love of Christ to us. Their hands and feet have been, to us, His hands and feet:

“Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
No hands but yours,
No feet but yours,
Yours are the eyes through which is to look out Christ’s compassion to the world;
Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good;
Yours are the hands with which he is to bless men now.”

Copts protecting Muslims at prayer in Cairo

Christians protecting Muslims while they pray during protests in Egypt

With a h/t to Maggi for this, this photo from Reddit shows Egyptian Copts forming a human barrier around protesting Muslims so that they could pray without disturbance whilst maintaining their vigil in Tahrir Square.

When one considers how much the Copts have suffered at the hands of their Muslim-majority neighbours, especially the various extremist attacks in the last twelve months, it only raises the bar for how much of a Christ-like act this is.

Merry Christmas Egypt, our prayers are with you

An Egyptian Coptic Christian wrapped in a sheet on which a cross has been painted in blood
(Photo: Ben Curtis/Associated Press)

At the start of last year, I blogged about my experiences in Egypt and how Coptic Christians there had been such a profound influence on me, particularly in seeing the daily suffering they endure as a minority… often a persecuted minority.

I had made a note in my diary after Christmas to highlight an article, dated 23 December, from the Guardian website that was entitled ‘Egypt’s Coptic Christians struggle against institutionalised prejudice’. Sadly, events have overtaken me with news of the bombing in Alexandria.

The slightly grisly photo on the left is of a man with a sheet outside St Marks (the bombed church). The Christian cross is marked out in the blood of one of those injured.

The Guardian article is worth a read but it talks about Read more

Thoughts on Good Friday

Graffiti image of the crucixion with a caption 'Strawman'

As has been my wont in recent years, I am posting another piece of graffiti on Good Friday. Thankfully those renegade creative types around the world continue to find the crucifixion a story for inspiration and criticism on our streets.

It’s with the latter in mind, that I post this image from Matthew Gidley on Flickr. It isn’t clear where it is from and who it is by.

This year I have been thinking a great deal about Paul’s words in both 1 Corinthians 1 and 1 Corinthians 15.

In regard to the later chapter, Paul says that if Christ was not raised from the dead, the Christian faith is utterly pointless. Read more

Cross Purposes

Chagall development painting for the Tudeley church window
Painting for the East Window, All Saints' Tudeley, (Chagall)

Having grown up in Paddock Wood, I was for the most part unaware that just up the road at the tiny, rural All Saints’ Church in Tudeley I would have found the only church in the world to have all its twelve windows decorated by the Russian artist Marc Chagall.

When I became a Christian in my late teens, All Saints’ became a regular place for me to pray. It is, quite simply, one of my favourite places to sit and be in the whole wide world.

The windows are just beautiful and deeply enchanting. Commissioned as a memorial tribute to Sarah d’Avigdor-Goldsmid who died aged just 21 in a sailing accident off Rye, the main East window shows Sarah drowning in the sea while Christ crucified looks down. I don’t know much about art (or anything really) but I love the combination of honest brutality in showing Sarah’s plight in the midst of such beautiful stained glass. Sanitised Christianity this is not.

I write about this now because I had a chance this week to visit a special exhibition called Cross Purposes. Much kudos to my old mother church, St. Andrew’s Paddock Wood, who have combined with my old school and their art gallery, Mascalls Gallery, to put on a special exhibition.

In the Gallery, Cross Purposes has brought together powerful images of the crucifixion from some of the most important artists of the 20th and 21st Centuries. I was astounded to see the list of names – Stanley Spencer, Tracey Emin, Eric Gill, Maggi Hambling, Emmanuel Levy and (of course) Marc Chagall.

Shown for the first time in this country, Chagall’s original drawings and paintings for the Tudeley windows are on display. They are fascinating to see the development of Read more

Our shame adds to Egypt’s shame

Picture of the icon of Christ with Abba Minas or Christ and the disciple

David Keen has been highlighting the activities of the UK Border Agency today and, in particular, a story written by Paul Vallely writing in the Independent about the detention of children by that agency and the impact on their mental health. 1300 children were held in immigration centres in 2008-9 here in the UK. Moreover, the Royal College of Paediatrics and the Royal College of Psychiatry’s study into the mental health of children in such centres showed that EVERY SINGLE ONE of the children displayed some signs of distress and 73% had developed significant emotional and behavioural problems since being detained. Not one of them had previously had such problems. Paul Vallely writes:

All the children seen by clinical psychologists presented as being disorientated, confused and frightened. More than half, who had previously been well behaved at home and in school, had developed conduct problems.

It is nothing short of shameful that this kind of treatment of families and children should be happening in the UK.

However, I want to focus on another aspect of Paul’s story. I want to focus on the Egyptian Coptic Christians, Hany and Samah Mansour, and their five kids under ten who fled to the UK Read more