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Dan Flavin

The Surface of God

Gary’s Essay for his 1st Eucharist at St John & St Stephen’s. 25 June 2017

Dan Flavin – The Surface of God

Light and Nothingness
Dan Flavin’s simple yet powerfully evocative light installations are beguiling to the eye and the senses. His fluorescent tubes poised at geometric angles evoke a new awareness of our surroundings. Yet Flavin describes these pop-art works as simple and without depth, ‘they are only surface, don’t look for meaning.’

Only surface, without meaning?… yet look again; what a surface is revealed! These light-works intensify the everyday into an experience of oddness; light, shadow, texture and silhouette become vividly re-imagined or re-encountered through the saturation of colour. The surface reveals and is revealed; the viewer is immersed and reintroduced to a moment of presence in the world, and re-acquainted with the material and texture of the everyday.

Maybe in the Eucharist/Holy Communion we see something of this; Christ as ‘the surface of God’ is revealed and revealing, drawing us to an awareness of ‘the other’ as divine and human; clothed in nature and wonder, branch and leaf. We are invited to feast on Christ – the one who draws all things together.

Myth and symbol.
Post/modernity opens a world of truth beyond the rational and to look deeper at myth and symbol; through the living metaphors of baptismal water and the bread and wine of Eucharist we are caught up into the revelation and salvation of God incarnated in our mortal flesh.

Sacramental action is encountered in symbolic or mythic narrative. ‘The crucial function of myth is to make sacred history.’ This Eucharistic liturgy embodies a reality made real within our rehearsal, yet the mythic form remains fluid, undergoing processes of evocation, elaboration and interrogation.

Embracing otherness.
Although Eucharist can represent something reassuringly familiar it also remains deeply strange; but this strangeness may be the point! ‘Despite our attempts to contextualise worship in culture, communion points us beyond our present context, it relativises our best efforts to be relevant’.
‘In every religion’, Chauvet suggests, ‘one observes a break between the ritual “scene” and the “scene” of ordinary life’. To participate fully in the symbolic language and action of the Eucharist requires ‘a language that breaks away from the ordinary’. Ward calls this ‘de-contextualisation’, the point where contextual theology bows and gives way to the otherness of sacramental activity – to let the abstract to be abstract.

Agape – hospitality and encounter.
Yet at its heart Eucharist remains a simple meal – an agape – and simple hospitality is disarming. The table becomes a place of radical welcome; as in Babette’s Feast it ‘interrupts the narrative’, announcing joy in places of hostility. ‘Meeting at a table with a group of strangers has the incomparable and odd benefit of making it a little more difficult to hate.’

Here then, the communal body of Christ is a dynamic in-between-ness of the giving, receiving, and charitable sharing of God’s gift. Divine and human desires enter into a deep sense of intimacy and reciprocity in this Holy Communion. Community is nurtured.

So the inclusive feast of a simple agape meal honours the coded symbols of the ritual, whilst also subverting them. The symbolic ‘code’ of Eucharist is really no code at all, presence gives way to absence as our multi-faceted interpretations allude to its continuing non-containability.

Any time you’re on the earth, kiss me.
So we join together this morning; prayers rise like incense, bodies move and bow; voices sing and silence is known; heaven meets us in our flesh. Like the light of Flavin’s art – the strangeness makes our senses come alive – in taste, touch, sight and sound. We are reminded that the work of our hands, the struggles of life, and the gifts of God meet through earth, flesh, wheat and grape – making bread and wine divine. The blessing of God is within human endeavour; a real presence in material things.

So come, taste and see; all are welcome.

Gary

 

 

  • Img Copyright. David Urbanke 2013.
    http://davidurbanke.tumblr.com/page/29

 

 

HolyWeek-2015-1

Holy Week with the Existentialists – Palm Sunday

Welcome to this series of Lent Reflections.

These reflections can be used in conjunction with the second Lent Album,
One Day Like This’, which is intended to evoke both space and mood.

Existentialist thinkers were concerned with how it feels to be alive. An awareness that we are alive—in any situation—reinforces a sense of identity. What do moments in time give to our awareness of who we are, where we fit in the world, in our communities, in the universe?

Holy Week is the most vivid and emotional week of the Church calendar. In it we see Jesus and his followers going through extreme human emotions; celebration, hope, doubt, fear, friendship, betrayal, isolation and surprise—emotions that we all encounter through our lives. The sharp contours of our lives, struggles and joys all contain the touch of divinity.

These daily meditations invite you to reflect upon your moments in time and place. They remind us that extremities of human experience can make us feel fully alive or totally isolated. Yet in sharing our experience, we realise that we are not alone; there is solidarity in humanity, and solidarity with the very human Christ.

 



Palm Sunday – Hope & Expectation
Mt. 21:1-11; Mk. 11:1-11; Lk. 19:28-44; Jn. 12:12-19

“… When I am moved by a painting or by music, by clouds passing in a clear night sky, by the soughing of pines in early spring, I feel the distance between me and art and nature dissolve to some degree, and I feel at ease. I then feel that there is, briefly, no past and no future, and I am content… And when I think of someone I really care for, I feel an exchange of understanding and acceptance that is the measure of love. This is how the saints feel about God. . .”

Ralph Harper, On Presence

 

Meditation – Make some space to think

Some people speak of ‘flow’ to describe when we are working, or thinking, or acting in a way that is productive yet totally natural. We almost can forget we are even doing it! Flow is allowing ourselves to be carried by a moment.

“Be Bold, Be Beautiful, Free, Totally, Unlimited”

When did you last feel that you were doing something good, productive, creative? Were others in support of you? Examine the feelings of that moment.

Prayer

Allow your thoughts and prayers to dwell on these suggestions and moods.
As you are moved, let your prayers be guided by these; pray for the world, your community, and those you know.

HolyWeek-Album-2017

Music:
Low Burn by Underworld      (Gary’s path)
Second Life Replay by The Soundtrack of Our Lives      (Vincent’s path)

All Holy week posts can be found here;

st-johns-leaves-poppies

The Peace of Wild Things

Last week’s remembrance service was a very moving time. The Poem at the end of the two-minute silence was by Wendell Berry;

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

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Prayer Station – the hidden silence of prayer

Psalm 148. The Hidden Prayers

_img_5022This Prayer station was developed in September 2016 as a focal point for prayers for the community of both the church, the school and hopefully the wider community.

The writing on the wall is Hebrew script and so reads from right to left. The text is Psalm 148, a hymn of exultant praise to God, whereby all of creation is called into worship and delight of the creator,

Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his host!
Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!
Let them praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created.
He established them forever and ever; he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.
Praise the Lord from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps,
fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command!
Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars!
Wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds!
Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth!
Young men and women alike, old and young together!
Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted;
his glory is above earth and heaven.
He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his faithful,
for the people of Israel who are close to him.
Praise the Lord!

_img_5037The use of Hebrew text is inspired by the artist Michael L. Radcliffe. It is both beautiful, and yet unfamiliar; and refers to the historical origins of Christianity from the Hebrew religion.

The Psalm on the wall indicates the ongoing prayers and praise of creation, that takes places beneath our radar of awareness, like a chant unheard; it even goes under the more obvious surface images, a subconscious prayer which we only glimpse from time to time.
The more obvious prayers are the Icons; an inheritance from the Orthodox Church, making the invisible visible, opening windows to reveal the presence of God in specific moments, (Theotokos-Incarnation, Pantocrator-Christ, Trinity). So the subconscious is drawn into consciousness, and our prayers are spoken into the warm embracing silence.

The Psalm continues its journey on the wall, and through the door to where?

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The second images are an evolving piece on the Trinity, the life of God as expressed in self-giving relationship.

Further to this idea of the silent praise of creation, children from the school were asked to write hidden prayers for the community, for family, and the world. These have been wrapped up and are no longer visible, and placed on the walls as small parcels. They represent the silent prayers of all people; our hopes, fears and dreams, and they hold the church in a space of silent, longing prayer.

Please do take time to use the prayer station; light a candle, say a prayer or write in the prayer book, take some time to sit quietly, to think, to reflect and allow those unheard prayers carry and strengthen you in solidarity and hope.

 

Gary