From Pascha to Good Friday

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That Easter (Paschal) Vigil Father Dionysios chanted “Christ is Risen!” only once. His next words were “My child, my child!” (1) The explosion of light which followed after at midnight the church went dark and the bells rang out to proclaim the resurrection was literally an explosion. When people started cheering and letting off firework crackers, one flare rebounded on a tree and exploded on his 6 years old son’s eye. K. his neighbour, 25 years old, had shot a flare with a sailor’s gun. It was Christos’ first time to hold the Paschal banner on the platform. They took the boy immediately to the nearest hospital, to the intensive care unit. For 5 days, Father Dionysios was holding his little boy’s hand praying for a miracle to save his life. His friends were screaming “Kill the murderer! He killed your son!” Father Dionysios told them to stop. “Do not lay charges on this man! Let us punish him with our love. What would Christ have done in our place? This is what you need to ask yourselves.”  For 4 days and nights, Father Dionysios pleaded on his knees. We did not know what happened on that 4th night but we saw him the following day in church exhausted but serene. Then, at 11 am, the news from the hospital came.  “We did all we could …” Father Dionysios looked up to the sky, and a tear trickled down his cheek to the ground.

The following day, Bright, Resurrection Day, but for their village was Good Friday. The little coffin was white. Father Dionysios, pale, was holding his little son’s hand, just as he had done all his life and the last four days in intensive care. He was his only son.

After the funeral, they kept pressing him to lay charges against his neighbour. He refused again. The following day he went to visit him in jail. The man everybody called a murderer. When he saw him, he wept and held his hand. Both were weeping. “Don’t say anything”, he told him. “He Who gives life, He knows ..” And he forgave him.

The Tear in the Chalice

One Sunday in June was the Memorial Service. At “Thine Own of Thine Own”, Father Dionysios looked at the Cross in the altar, and saw Christakis, not Christ, on the Cross, looking at him. Tears welled up in his eyes. Then he looked up again at the Cross, and he saw his son’s “murderer” face on Christ’s. His neighbour was still in jail. More tears welled up in his eyes. When he raised his eyes again for a third time, he saw Christ’s face on the Cross, Christ weeping and a tear falling in the Chalice.

 

(1) This story is real, and the event took place in Drosia, Evia, in 2011. Christos Soutzios, 6 years old, the priest’s only son, got killed by a flare. That memorial service took place on June 5, 2011. 

Source: https://www.egnomi.gr/article/14902/to_megaleio_tis_psyxis_toy_papa_dionysi.html

https://www.newsit.gr/topikes-eidhseis/xalkida-sygklonizei-o-pateras-pou-eide-na-skotonetai-to-paidi-tou-apo-naytiki-fotovolida-video/2769945/

 

 

*Sent by Hieromonk Synesios, St. Arsenios Monastery

 

 

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Facing Death

Heartbreaking. Both of them …

Such a sad smile at 2:26  He must have known that it would be his last and that his time was short. I can’t watch this without crying. No one will ever perform this like he did. He owned this song. Memory Eternal +

 

 

A friend of mine told me how all this reminded him of of the elephants who visited their human friend and conservationist Lawrence Anthony for his funeral  and made their way back to his homestead in South Africa on the anniversary of his death. Intrigued I looked it up, and indeed  “Wild elephants gathered ‘inexplicably’, mourning death of ‘Elephant Whisperer’. Author and legendary conservationist Lawrence Anthony died March 7. His family told of a solemn procession on March 10 that defied human explanation here

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And here, esp. @4:38 to the end

Oh, this sting of Death!

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Seconds from death: Amazing picture of lion eyeballing hapless wildebeest among top wildlife images of year 2016

Oh! Death’s breath! 

Arise, O my soul, O my soul, why sleepest thou? The end draweth near, and thou shall be confounded.  Arise, therefore, from thy sleep, and Christ our God, who is in all places and filleth all things, shall spare thee.

 

A Spectral Array of Blues

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TROIS COULEURS: BLEU (1993) is a stunning film from one of the world’s preeminent directors, a rich, dark film with all the Kieslowski marks: death, silence, depression, and inner torment of the protagonist. Bleu is an impressive, inspired and inspiring anatomy of Loss, Death & Mourning with certain Christian overtones.

Desson Howe notes that “in Krzysztof Kieslowski’s “Blue,” the rehabilitation of a human spirit after painful tragedy is given stunning, aesthetic dimension. A story about a woman (Juliette Binoche) who loses her family (her composer-husband and 5-year-old daughter) in a car crash, this Polish-French production is also a spectral array of blues — cold, heart-chilling and beautiful.

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For the trauma of loss and persistence of memory, watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=osu3j7N1fGU

Emotionally, “Blue” is a grim ordeal, as Binoche (still in the hospital recovering from the accident) attempts suicide, then retreats into deep-freeze mourning. But Kieslowski, cinematographer Slawomir Idziak, set designer Claude Lenoir and composer Zbigniew Preisner infuse the harrowing atmosphere with stylistic rhapsody.” (Washington Post, March 04, 1994 )

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More importantly, unlike Michael Rosen’s Sad Book, certain Christian themes throughout the movie offer the hope of redemption. Throughout Kieslowski implies a form of divine intervention or destiny at work, forcing Julie to come to terms with her past, others, and herself and serving as an agent of epiphanic inspiration.

There is also specifically love and forgiveness: Julie for example discovers that her late husband was having an affair. She tracks down Sandrine, Patrice’s mistress, and finds out that she is carrying his child; Julie arranges for her to have her husband’s house and recognition of his paternity for the child. What a ray of hope and redemption for such a “bleak” film, focusing on death and mourning, to end with the ultrasound of a baby, waiting to be born! Life conquers Death because Love is Life, and nothing, nobody can defeat Love, not even Death, the ultimate enemy.

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Then, there is humility, self-effacement and sacrifice. After the crash, in an attempt to blot out the trauma of loss, Julie destroys the score for her late husband’s last commissioned, though unfinished, work—a piece celebrating European unity, following the end of the Cold War. It is strongly suggested that she wrote, or at least co-wrote, her husband’s last work. Throughout there is an implication that she has hidden her own work behind the public face of her husband. In the final sequence she rewrites and completes the score and the Unity of Europe piece is played, while images are seen of all the people Julie has profoundly affected by her actions.

Significantly, this climactic piece which features chorus and a solo soprano is Saint Paul‘s 1 Corinthians 13 epistle in Greek, the hymn of love.

For a profound rendition of the Christian Hymn of Love (1 Cor, 13) , watch Trois Couleurs: ‘Bleu’ finale: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jmQ88PWzvR0

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13 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 

6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. 

13 And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

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So, although there are some scenes, themes and plot developments in Bleu which conflict in my opinion with a Christian outlook, such as the typical French twist with Julie and her husband’s friend becoming lovers, still I find this film so much more comforting, uplifting and inspiring than The Sad Book* and its like, so plenty in modern art!

*See https://orthodoxcityhermit.com/2015/09/17/heartbreaking-anatomies-of-loss-death-mourning-iexemption/

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I’m Sad, not Bad

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This is me being sad.

Maybe you think I’m happy in this picture.

Really I’m sad but pretending I’m happy.

I’m doing this because I think people won’t like me if I look sad.

Sad Book by Michael Rosen: darkness in literature

Sometimes sad is very big.

It’s everywhere. All over me.

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Then I look like this.

And there’s nothing I can do about it.

What makes me most sad is when I think about my son Eddie. I loved him very, very much but he died anyway.

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Michael Rosen’s Sad Book: A Beautiful Anatomy of Loss, Illustrated by Quentin Blake

“Grief, when it comes, is nothing like we expect it to be,” Joan Didion wrote after losing the love of her life. “The people we most love do become a physical part of us,” Meghan O’Rourke observed in her magnificent memoir of loss, “ingrained in our synapses, in the pathways where memories are created.” Those wildly unexpected dimensions of grief and the synaptic traces of love are what celebrated British children’s book writer and poet Michael Rosen confronted when his eighteen-year-old son Eddie died suddenly of meningitis. Never-ending though the process of mourning may be, Rosen set out to exorcise its hardest edges and subtlest shapes five years later in Michael Rosen’s Sad Book (public library) — an immensely moving addition to the finest children’s books about loss, illustrated by none other than the great Quentin Blake.

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With extraordinary emotional elegance, Rosen welcomes the layers of grief, each unmasking a different shade of sadness — sadness that sneaks up on you mid-stride in the street; sadness that lurks as a backdrop to the happiest of moments; sadness that wraps around you like a shawl you don’t take off even in the shower.

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Blake, who has previously illustrated Sylvia Plath’s little-known children’s book and many of Roald Dahl’s stories, brings his unmistakably expressive sensibility to the book, here and there concretizing Rosen’s abstract words into visual vignettes that make you wonder what losses of his own he is holding in the mind’s eye as he draws.

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What emerges is a breathtaking bow before the central paradox of the human experience — the awareness that the heart’s enormous capacity for love is matched with an equal capacity for pain, and yet we love anyway and somehow find fragments of that love even amid the ruins of loss.

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With exquisite nuance, Rosen captures the contradictory feelings undergirding mourning — affection and anger, self-conscious introspection and longing for communion — and the way loss lodges itself in the psyche so that the vestiges of a particular loss always awaken the sadness of the all loss, that perennial heartbreak of beholding the absurdity of our longing for permanence in a universe of constant change.

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But what makes the story most singular and rewarding is that it refuses to indulge the cultural cliché of cushioning tragedy with the promise of a silver lining. It is redemptive not in manufacturing redemption but in being true to the human experience — intensely, beautifully, tragically true.”

Where is sad?

Sad is everywhere.

It comes along and finds you.

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When is sad?

Sad is anytime.

It comes along and finds you.

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Who is sad?

Sad is anyone.

It comes along and finds you.

 

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By Maria Popova

Source: http://www.brainpickings.org/2015/08/25/michael-rosens-sad-book-quentin-blake/

http://www.michaelrosen.co.uk

*

Be sure not to miss Michael Rosen’s absolutely breath-stopping telling of his story and reading of his book at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-SQE_bDWFY

*

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Still, I would really like to disagree very strongly with both Maria Popova’s and Michael Rosen’s conclusions as a Christian. Yes, it is all this, but there is so much more to it. What do you think? I have never experienced such profound loss myself, so maybe I don’t know what I am really talking about, but there must be more to it than all this pain and mourning.  But more about this on my next post …