“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”
As the altar was stripped after the Holy Thursday Mass, so we now strip our tableau of all its symbols.
During Lent seven symbols were added to the tableau:
Ash Wednesday: the embers and ashes of a fire. As well as representing the ashes it reminds us of a campfire such as would be left behind by someone who had stopped for a while on a journey.
Week 1: a pile of stones. This reminds us of Jesus’ temptation in the desert: “… the tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to turn into loaves.'” It also reminds us of the cairns set up to guide travellers on mountain paths.
Week 2: the Gospel reading was the Transfiguration: “There in their presence he was transfigured: his face shone like the sun and his clothes became as white as the light.” To represent this we added to the Lenten tableau for Sunday a bright white cloth. Later this cloth was replaced by a cloth of dull white, to symbolise the fact that the revelation lasted only a short time.
Week 3: the Gospel reading told of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well: “…anyone who drinks the water that I shall give will never be thirsty again…”. We added to the Lenten tableau a water jug; the blue and purple cloth cascading from the jug symbolises living water and the impending Passion.
Week 4: in this Sunday’s Gospel Jesus healed a blind man; he spoke of the contrast between day and night and between blindness and sight: “As long as I am in the world I am the light of the world.” To symbolise this we added to the Lenten tableau a lantern, to represent Jesus, the Light of the World.
Week 5: in this Sunday’s Gospel Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead: “The dead man came out, his feet and hands bound with bands of stuff and a cloth round his face. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, let him go free.’” To illustrate this we added a gauze bandage to the tableau.
Palm Sunday: as we walked with Jesus into Jerusalem, to join him on his final journey to death and resurrection, we placed some palms in the tableau.
Holy Thursday: the symbols from previous Sundays were removed from our tableau in front of the altar. In their place we put a jug, bowl and towel to represent Jesus’ washing of the feet of his disciples.
The Way of Life
On the hessian lectern fall that we have used during Lent there is a representation of “The Way of Life”. Our six-week journey through Lent was marked by six shells, the universal symbol of pilgrimage. The lectern fall could be seen in the background of our live-streamed Masses. The design of the lectern fall is based on a massive cast-aluminium sculpture entitled “The Way of Life” by Jonathan Clarke on the wall of Ely Cathedral. You can read more about it here: http://jonathanclarke.co.uk/commissions/ely-cathedral/.