04 April 2021

Praying in Lent and Easter 2021:
47, Resurrection sculptures, Lichfield

Saint Mary Magdalene at Easter Morning … a sculpture by Mary Grant at the west door of Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

During the Season of Easter this year, I am continuing my theme from Lent, taking some time each morning to reflect in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship that has been significant in my spiritual life;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society, Partners in the Gospel).

Today is Easter Day (Sunday 4 April 2021). This week, I am offering photographs of images of the Resurrection from seven churches, some of which I have already visited during the season of Lent.

This morning’s photographs are of the carved images at the west door of Lichfield Cathedral of the ‘holy myrrh-bearers,’ the women who brought spices to the tomb of Christ on Easter morning, preparing to prepare his body for the proper burial that could not take place on Good Friday, and not expecting the Resurrection.

This sculpture of Mary Magdalene at the west door of Lichfield Cathedral is by Mary Grant. Her figures around the central doorway include sculpture of the Virgin Mary, who supports her lifelike infant gently and the two Marys who visit the tomb on Easter morning: on the left is Saint Mary Magdalene, holding ointment; to the right the ‘other Mary’ (Matthew 28: 1) or Mary the Mother of James (Mark 16: 1, Luke 24: 10).

In her composition, Mary Grant links the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child with the two women who visit the grave at Easter morning; the porch of the West Door becomes symbolic of both the cave of birth at Christmas and the grave of death at Easter; the Incarnation leads us on to the Resurrection, Christmas invites us to move towards Easter.

Mary Grant (1831-1908) was once described as ‘one of the busiest of lady-sculptors.’ Her grandfather was Thomas Bruce, the seventh Earl of Elgin, who pilfered the Parthenon Marbles from the Acropolis in Athens and sold them to the British Museum in London.

She studied in Florence, Rome and Paris before setting up a studio in London in the late 1860s. Her works include a portrait of Queen Victoria for India, a bronze bust of the Irish politician Charles Stewart Parnell for the Royal Academy in London, the screen of Winchester Cathedral and the marble reredos in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh.

The figures on the West Door of Lichfield Cathedral, carved by the Victorian sculptor Mary Grant, link Christmas and Easter, the Incarnation and the Resurrection (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John 20: 1-18 (NRSVA)

1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ 3 Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. 4 The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples returned to their homes.

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13 They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ 14 When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ 16 Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God”.’ 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (4 April 2021, Easter Day) invites us to pray:

Loving God, we come to you on this day that your Son
broke the bonds of death and rose victoriously from the tomb.
May the risen Christ continue to strengthen us
with the desire to share the good news of Your love for the world.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The West Front of Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

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