Reflecting on the fullness of life
Remembrance. As we live through these four years, remembering that Great War that brought in a century of wars and conflicts that shocked humanity to its core, our memories take us, at this time of the year, towards a sense of loss and sadness that most of us will know.
We can find ourselves contemplating our own mortality and how best to live life in the full, here and now.
At St Edmundsbury Cathedral we have had the benefit of an artist in residence, Mark Cazalet, who has, over the last six months, painted images of people who have come to sit and meditate or pray. We have grown used to 153 human faces all around us, captured, often, in deep thought and contemplation. What is remarkable is these faces show something distinctly different to how we usually present ourselves. When we take a selfie, or when we are painted, or photographed, we put on a persona – a mask for the world. We want to be captured with our best side showing.
Mark enabled the sitters to go beyond the face, the persona, the mask, we usually show. He has captured the sitters in a different place. Not in the public realm of our fears and anxieties, our desires to be regarded well, to pose properly.
As we reflect, at this time of remembrance, these images around us remind us not to be afraid to contemplate more profound purposes and meanings. For those who believe in God, these faces seem to seek God’s presence. They seem to be drawn towards a sense of the fullness of God, in which we live, and move and have our being. The fullness of God – the presence, the blessing of God. Pleroma – the Greek word you’ll find often in the Bible – translated as abundance, as fullness. As in John’s Gospel, chapter 10, verse 10: Jesus says: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
Abundance, fullness – pleroma. An overflowing generosity that goes beyond what’s required, taking us to a place of wholeness. So wherever the human mind might travel in its explorations, there is always more, until we come to rest in the fullness of God. I wonder if we capture something of the fullness of God when we add ‘fulness’ to other words. Joyfulness, carefulness, thoughtfulness – ‘fulness’ augments the simple words; joy, care, thought.
Another name for this fullness is the love of God. To live life in all its fullness is to remember that our lives are rounded by a love that is both ultimate and intimate, transcendent and immanent. A love that is the ground of our being. That love is the fullness of God that overflows into all aspects of our lives, good and bad. When we come to our senses and see, touch, hear, feel that love, we begin to live in fullness ourselves. In thankfulness, joyfulness, hopefulness, gracefulness.
As we remember those who have died – in war, in conflict, those we have loved and see no more at this sombre time of the year, let us reflect on the fullness that lies at the heart of all things, where all is taken into the whole, and held.
-- The Very Rev Dr Frances Ward is Dean of St Edmundsbury Cathedral