An Idle Tale
Updated: Apr 30, 2020
On our Lent Day of Recollection, we followed our by now familiar pattern of using a series of paintings as a means to reflect upon particular series of truths or episodes in scripture, as a focus for prayer and meditation.
I was keen to introduce the work of the contemporary and relatively local painter and art historian, Iain McKillop, an ordained priest of the Anglican Diocese of Guildford. (His paintings are inspirational, powerful and thought-provoking; to be able to invite him to talk to the parish or the deanery would be a real opportunity for a grace-filled encounter: www.mckillop.weebly.com)
I’d like now to offer you another painting by another contemporary artist who is equally well-worth discovering for yourself, Michael Cook. If you have the opportunity and the facility of the internet have a look at his website (www.hallowed-art.co.uk); it offers a great wealth of wonderful images for prayer, reflection and meditation:
This particular painting (acrylic on canvas, 2013) is called ‘An Idle Tale’, the title coming from the discovery of the empty tomb by the women after the resurrection: “When the women returned from the tomb they told all this to the Eleven and to all the others. The women were Mary of Magdala, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James. The other women with them also told the apostles, but this story of theirs seemed pure nonsense, and they did not believe them.” (Luke 24:9-11 JB) The contrast between the women filled with hope and new life and the disciples, bereft and lifeless is wonderfully realised: the open, joyful, fluid movements of the women, bringing colour and light into the dark interior; the tight, closed group of the disciples, still, hushed, bereft and forlorn, huddled together in the dark. Life bursts in from the outside and has to be welcomed and given a place within. The tight huddle of the disciples in the dark interior is like a seed planted in the dark earth waiting for the warmth of the sun to call it into life. A slightly fanciful thought perhaps but consider the compact shape of the group of disciples, almost circular, then consider the figure of the women with arms flung wide and face to the skies: the circular disc of the host, the open cup of the chalice. There is the obvious link with Easter, the broken egg-shell (lower-left) in the bird’s nest – or is it the crown of thorns? The tools and implements of work arrayed along the wall of the building behind the disciples; the bow saw and the blade of the scythe creating an illusion of an open eye looking down on the huddled group. Might the spades remind us that the Risen Lord was mistaken for the gardener? There is work to be done, there is a message to proclaim. The Gospel for the Second Sunday of Easter (Year A) again showed the disciples gathered and fearful: “In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews.” (John 20:19 JB). Even though our own freedoms are curtailed at present and we may be confined indoors, let us not give in to fear and anxiety, rather let us welcome in the light, life and hope that come with Christ’s resurrection. Our own personal examples of coping, patient waiting, mutual support and endurance may themselves prove a witness to others. Fr Alistair