Friday, 6 April 2012

Good Friday

How do Christians cope with Good Friday?  They proclaim that Christ was killed on the cross and pretend for a day or two that this was the end.  And then, hey presto, up he pops again, conquering death – allegedly.  To take this myth as literal is absurd and yet, the power of the Easter Narrative has given us some of the greatest works of Art.  If I have any belief in eternal life, it is that the truths behind the Gospel stories remain as vital as they have always been.

The Fetternear Banner dates from the 16th C. and has remained in remarkably good fettle for some 500 years.  Most of the dyes, using vegetable dyestuffs, have retained their vibrant colours; and the double-sided stitching (a costly process) using silk threads has only been eroded where iron dyes were used for creating black thread.  There are many familiar symbols – the scallop shell, the dice, the reed, the cockerel – but the most striking element is in the characters. And it is these people with whom we continue to identify, to this day. 

Christ’s flagellated body is gruesome; Judas’s purse around his neck becomes a noose as he dolefully contemplates his fate; and the scornful look of the Spitting Jew as he puckers up to hurl his insult at Christ is pitiful, on many levels.  I cannot hope to compete with John Donne’s Holy Sonnet XI, but have attempted, in the spirit of the metaphysical, a pun on die/dying/dye.  Even if we don’t believe in what some think the church calls God, we still have Art, for all eternity.

Casting Die

Christians shouted loud Hosannas.
Railing against a cruel world,
I raised the Fetternear Banner.

Stitched up, whipped against a pillar,
flayed and frayed I felt his wounds.
Cockerels crew against the clamour

of spitting Jews; I gobbed my phlegm
at the Kirk by the Heart of Midlothian.
Pincers ripped out nails secured by hammer;

a Dove descended as the dye was cast.

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