The Good Friday service and Kirsten's reflections on Bach's St Matthew Passion have prompted me to put fingers to keyboard once more. Anyone who has read my last year's A-Z Challenge will realise that one of the many works which has inspired me over the years is Faure's Requiem, in particular, the Agnus Dei.
It's been a strange few days for me, given that this is, metaphorically and spiritually speaking, the second Holy Week I've been through since last Easter. I suspect I'll elaborate more on this during the upcoming A-Z, but suffice it to say that I've not gone drifting off into some parallel universe during my long absence from blogging. No, it's because in late 2015, I made the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius, the full, 30 Day retreat, where of course the Passion, death and resurrection of our Lord feature largely. So Holy Week, for me and the other several dozen retreatants, was during the hinge of autumn and winter; the end of October and the beginning of November, as the days began to shorten and all around us, the leaves were changing colour, falling and beginning to decay.
Faure's Requiem became one of my mainstays during those days, whether hummed under my breath or listening to the CD down in the basement of the retreat centre, where the noise wouldn't disturb anyone else. I also spent much time out of doors, roaming the gloriously beautiful grounds or alternatively, working in the art centre. I seem to sense God's presence in a far more sensate way nowadays than used to be the case when I was younger. Not surprising I guess, that this came so much to the fore during such an intense period of prayer and reflection. The Exercises are by way of being a marathon, in whichever form you make them: full residential or everyday life over a number of months. I did have a tendency to get too much 'into my head' to begin with, especially when encountering the sometimes quite structured way the suggested reflections can appear at first. I've always been a one to panic when confronted with lists, heading, subheadings and Things In Brackets! So it took a while for me to acclimatise and realise that the maxim 'Pray as you can, not as you can't' really does ring true.
Getting back to the Agnus Dei, the photo above is of a wallhanging I made after praying through the Crucifixion. It's inspired by a favourite meditation by Alison Swinfen of the Iona Community, taken from the anthology Iona - Images and Reflections, (Wild Goose Publications). The words embroidered onto the host are a misquote (no books with me on retreat!) of her title: And so you love us back into the earth. You can read the whole text here. Scroll down to see the photo that comes with it. I learned a lot about hopelessness, helplessness, perseverance and waiting in the face of darkness and apparent nothingness during that 'Holy Week,' and it was images, prose, poetry and music that helped me to cling on .