The cup of blessing

On Sunday we had the first of the talks by the artists who have produced the installations that are in the Cathedral until Easter. The first to go was Angela Wright who spoke to a large crowd of people intrigued by her work which reaches from the sanctuary floor to the window above the screen – or is it the other way round? Someone present for the talk said that it reminded her of one of the pillars in the Cathedral, the pillars that are the glory of gothic architecture. Others took up Angela’s own idea that it was a waterfall. It reminded me of the vision of Jacob beside the Jabok, of the angels ascending and descending on the sacred ladder (Genesis 28.10-19). Things can go both ways and there is this constant flow of grace and prayer between God and humankind.

Jacob's ladder as depicted by William Blake

Jacob’s ladder as depicted by William Blake

But behind the great screen is the other installation. Edmund de Waal’s work, entitled ‘Another Day 2014’ is, by virtue of it’s location, more hidden. The twelve vitrines are located in the retrochoir – you have to search out the work, it isn’t obvious it is there when you walk into the Cathedral. There is something important about this as there is a great deal about this particular work that is about those themes of searching and patience.

Angela Wright let me have her reflections on Edmund’s work. This is what she wrote

‘I find that the more times I see it the more I discover. One interacts with it like a game of hide and seek, yesterday from where I was standing a vessel completely flattened out and became a mist. It is such a beautiful work it really does make us pause in a world which is so speedy.’

That is such a beautiful way of describing it and sums up what I have been feeling. Every time I go into the retrochoir what I find is something slightly different. But there, waiting to be discovered are the twelve pots, the twelve vessels, the twelve cups that are ‘hidden’ in the vitrines.

'Search and find'

‘Search and find’

Are there twelve because there were twelve disciples, twelve apostles, who the Lord sought out? Are there twelve because there are twelve tribes who those disciples reflected? Are there twelve because of the months in the year, the hours before noon and after noon? I don’t know. But I do know that the vessel, the pot, the cup is a powerful object in the faith.

I remembered a poem by Christina Rossetti called ‘A better resurrection’ with this final stanza

My life is like a broken bowl,
A broken bowl that cannot hold
One drop of water for my soul
Or cordial in the searching cold;
Cast in the fire the perish’d thing;
Melt and remould it, till it be
A royal cup for Him, my King:
O Jesus, drink of me.

As they sit at the table in the Upper Room, Jesus passes the cup around the disciples, the ‘cup of blessing’ as St Paul calls it in 1 Corinthians 10.16. ‘This is my blood’ he says, as we say in the Eucharist, as we drink from the cup and become a vessel for the Lord, for the life of the Living God. Yet I know that

My life is like a broken bowl,
A broken bowl that cannot hold
One drop of water for my soul.

Edmund de Waal’s mysterious, gentle work, reminds me that I need remoulding, repairing, that I may hold that ‘drop of water for my soul’, which is gently poured upon us.

Next Sunday (23 March) Edmund will be talking about ‘Another Day 2014’ and it will be fascinating to hear him talk about the creative process that led to this installation. Meanwhile, I look to the days of this Lent to be re-formed in Christ that I may securely hold the treasure that he gives.

Lord,
repair my brokness
that I may be a worthy vessel
for the grace you pour
into my life.
Amen.

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