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Easter Sunday reflection

Easter Sunday 4 April

by Deacon Selina

The Three Marys was painted in 1910 by the African American artist Henry Ossawa Tanner who, unusually for the time, painted religious paintings in the realist tradition.

His own faith had been formed in relationship to that of his father, who was a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. He was the first black American artist ever to gain a great international reputation, eventually living in Paris. His other works are well worth looking at as he captures fleeting moments exquisitely.

It is before dawn on the first day of the week, and the three Marys (Mary Magdalene, Mary of Clopas and Mary Salome) are making their way to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus. This painting captures the moment of tension when they can see that something is not quite right at the tomb and hope and expectation begin to rise in their hearts.

Each of the women has a slightly different reaction to what she sees.

This painting invites us to go with them and to be attentive to the places and situations in our lives that the risen Christ inhabits.

This poem is by Mary Coleridge and has been set to various musical settings.

When Mary thro' the garden went,
There was no sound of any bird,
And yet, because the night was spent,
The little grasses lightly stirred,
The flowers awoke, the lilies heard.

When Mary thro' the garden went,
The dew lay still on flower and grass,
The waving palms above her sent
Their fragrance out as she did pass,
No light upon the branches was.

When Mary thro' the garden went,
Her eyes, for weeping long, were dim,
The grass beneath her footsteps bent,
The solemn lilies, white and slim,
These also stood and wept for Him.

When Mary thro' the garden went,
She sought, within the garden ground,
One for whom her heart was rent,
One who for her sake was bound,
One who sought and she was found.

In your mind's eye, accompany the three Marys in the painting to the tomb. How do you react to the empty tomb, and what does it mean for you? Who will you share the news of the resurrection with?

The final painting is Noli me tangere(Do not touch me) – a very early work by Titian.

During World War 2, Kenneth Clark, Director of the National Gallery, successfully fought to keep the gallery open for temporary exhibitions (the permanent collection had been moved to a slate mine in North Wales for safe-keeping). In January 1942 Clark, sensing the public's hunger for great art, conceived the idea of bringing back each month one picture which would hang alone in one of the galleries, and this proved a huge success, because he invited the public to nominate what they would most like to see.

As a result, the very first picture that was chosen by the public was Titian's 'Noli me tangere', a picture of triumph over adversity and a love transformed, not diminished, by death and destruction.

It was a painting that gave the people of London a real sense of hope in the face of devastation.

As we come running from the empty tomb today, dare we believe that Christ is risen? Dare we believe that he who is set free from death's decaying shroud soars exultant over the universe? Dare we believe that he who has been released will take us by surprise too, speak our names and take our very breath away? Dare we reach out to touch our saviour as Mary did and place our hope in him?

Alleluia, Christ is Risen!

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