Sunday, 3 April 2016

Low Sunday: after the stress and excitement by Clare Weiner (aka Mari Howard)

(Photo: Ceri Leeder, with permission)
First, look at the picture. What do you see?

We have lived in the same house in the same suburb of the same city, for a long time. Before that, we lived in a different house, a mile or so north of this one, and before that ... well we have lived in this place a very long time. This means, of course, we've made, and sometimes lost, a lot of friends here.

And that makes a walk, say to the local shops, a possibly nostalgic, even poignant, event. The house where that family lived who went back to New Zealand after 16 years ... The big house where the family lived who travelled, in a van, taking their kids with them, to Eastern Europe before the USSR broke up, and to Vietnam, and Thailand, before everybody did. We were all at the same church ... The surgery where I joined the list of the new young doctor when I was young. He looked after my growing family for years - now he’s retired, gone ... And many others. The supermarket and Costa Coffee have replaced the family-owned bakery, butcher’s and greengrocer’s. Ghosts inhabit the roads, hiding in bright sunlight.

Today is called ‘Low Sunday’ for good reason. After running all those Holy Week and Easter services, what ministers and priests would not be exhausted? After the discipline of Lent, the emotional surges Palm Sunday, the solemnity of Maundy Thursday, after Good Friday, and then the excitement of Easter, why would we  not all be?

And after that joyful, noisy entry into Jerusalem, followed by the daily arguments at and around the Temple, the extraordinary, slightly mysterious, Passover meal, the awful betrayal, the trumped-up trial, and the crucifixion ... after the amazing, wonderful, Resurrection ... wouldn't the disciples have hit a low? Like “what happens, and what happens to us, now?”

They are left with a Master who isn’t there, a focus which though possible if he was there, seems too full of questions. 

So, he’s not there as his old self - and how does his new self exactly turn up? Often when we have lost someone, through a death or a break-up or merely a move away, we think we see them ... but it is a stranger. Nostalgia, poignancy, loss... even if the truth is in our minds. Might that be Jesus be coming around the corner as they walk along the street? Might he suddenly be among them, as they gather in the Upper Room? Breaking bread?

Look again at both the pictures. 
(The second in colour and inside the church). What do you see?
(Photo Ceri Leeder with permission)

Conceptual Art is about concepts: there may be several ideas, combined, and no ‘right answer’. Here I see three things:

I see the cloths like the sails of a boat. Especially in the first picture. Remember ‘I Saw Three Ships’, the Christmas carol?

I see the cloths (especially in the painted version) like plastic bags, rejected by fly tippers and caught in the bare branches of winter trees. ‘Despised, rejected...’

I see the cloths as shrouds, wrapped in them the three victims of the crucifixions on that day when the sky turned dark at noon. ‘Simon Peter ... entered the tomb, observed the linen cloths lying there... and the kerchief used to cover his head ... neatly folded by itself.’

The piece is designed to capture the horror, pain and suffering of Good Friday ... it makes us feel its atmosphere, spare, dim, chilly and grey. From which we now move, pass Low Sunday and towards the coming of the winds of heaven, the Holy Spirit, which will drive all nostalgia and poignancy away. And empower the Disciples to move on, spreading the Word as they go, throughout the world.

Happy Easter living! 

(With thanks to my friend Ceri for the pictures of her installation which inspired this piece)

Clare Weiner writes fiction as Mari Howard (currently working on the 3rd in the Mullins Family Saga, Love You to the Moon) and blogs on her interests and inspirations as here as Mari Howard Author.

Anyone who is in the area of South Gloucestershire or  nearby on 
April 23rd 2016 is invited along to here her (and many others!) read from their work at the Hawkesbury Upton Literary Festival. A free festival in a Cotswold Village. Open 10.0am - 5.30pm Fiction, Poetry, Children's section. Panel discussions & readings, bookstall.


  1. Thank you for this. I see not just the horrors of Good Friday but also the joy of the resurrection. The cross of Christ is empty. He is risen. I wonder what the disciples felt knowing he had risen and sometimes seeing him but also aware that there was more to come. They wouldn't know fully until the day of Pentecost all that the death and Resurrection of Jesus would mean.

  2. I saw both cloths and plastic bags. In the black and white picture I saw desolation. In the colour version I saw hope even in the bareness of the branches. These are branches waiting for the new life of spring and summer. Thought provoking. Thank you

  3. So interesting! That was beautifully written, and yes, so odd for the disciples between the resurrection and Pentecost. Just like seeing that loved-and-lost person in every crowd, except that it really COULD be him every time! Not being able to go to him, but knowing that he might turn up at any moment. Lots of previously overlooked imagination-fodder there, thank you!
    In the (painted? Sketched?) version at the top, the first thing I saw was a dove - prefiguring Pentecost, remembering baptism? The 3D version has more potential for all those different views, I suppose because you can literally view it from different angles. Really fascinating.

  4. In the top picture I saw shields in the trees - the shield of faith, perhaps?

  5. This is wonderful, Clare.

  6. I couldn't make out what I was supposed to focus on in the first picture. I depend far too much on words. Pictorial instructions test my patience and sometimes flummox me completely! I'm glad you gave some clues.
    What I actually saw in the first picture was an old tree with three young ones the same shape in front. The optical illusion was that the sails were gaps in the tree trunks.

    1. A good and honest reply to something which may or may not mean anything to you....on its own, it perhaps didn't have so much significance, but when you take it in context, which was plastic bags snagged on bushes (which we all deplore) and its link with the humiliation of Christ's death,
      it begins to make sense....Ceri Leeder (artist and friend of Clare)

  7. So interesting all the comments! I suspect there may be no right answer we are meant to see - or maybe. many seem and thought of by the artist

  8. I love this. I found it really inspiring. Low Sunday indeed - I feel comforted by your explanation. Roll on Pentecost: come, Holy Spirit!
    Thanks, Clare. Great post.