We enter Holy Week this year just a few days after the year-anniversary of the UK's first lockdown. What a difference a year makes. It's become a staple of the national conversation in recent weeks to observe the transformation in attitudes, plans and expectations from last March up to now, the way that the ongoing Covid-19 crisis has at different moments served to unify and divide, to trigger outpourings of love and of anger, to inspire creativity and provoke dread or despair.
Like many who are not schoolteachers, NHS staff or other key workers, in these recent weeks I have been getting used to spending most of my time at home, getting very acquainted with Zoom and the various tools we are using for online teaching at the university where I work. It’s been quite enlightening (and at times quite shocking!) to see how this period of enforced restriction has affected my sense of time: little jobs can stretch out to fill a whole day, and often I will look at the clock (or the calendar!) and be startled to see how much time has passed.
One of my favourite pieces of Christmas music is ‘For unto us a Child is born’ from Georg Friderich Händel’s Messiah. I have loved it since I was a child, touched by its bouncing joy and the intricacy of its polyphonic choral writing, with lines appearing and disappearing like needles through the musical fabric, aligning with each other for a few ‘stitches in time’ before one vanishes to reappear a moment later in a different hue. As a music historian, I am enchanted by the majesty of Händel’s choral setting, but its glorious lyrics are what I love most.
Today, as I write, it is Pentecost. We marked the festival at church this morning, and the coming of the Holy Spirit is regularly celebrated at churches throughout the world. But what does Pentecost mean for research? Should scholars celebrate it outside of church services?
As we approach the most significant point in the Christian calendar – the weekend where we remember the sacrificial death and glorious resurrection of Jesus, our saviour – it is good to return to some of the core truths that he taught about himself whilst on earth. I've been struck recently in particular by one of the last things Jesus says to his disciples as he prepares for death, in John 15:
For Easter Monday, here is a reflection on a poem which I was sent by my supervisor recently: ‘Suddenly’ by the twentieth-century Welsh poet and Anglican priest, R. S. Thomas.
Christmas is almost upon us – but today let’s skip ahead a little in the narrative we retell at this time every year.
God's image in humanity is marred by sin and violence. But in Christ his image is restored in us, and we are called to be locations of his presence on earth as his Spirit works in us.
Richard Middleton on the human calling to image God and how this relates to our scholarly work.
It will surely have escaped no reader's attention that we are now less than a week away from Easter, that happiest of all days in the Christian calendar. This is the central celebration of our faith. It's a time when we remember the staggering, unthinkable sacrifice that Jesus made for us on the cross; when we rejoice at the earth-shattering power that God displayed when he raised him from the dead; when we recognise once more the forgiveness, power and hope that are ours now because of God's wonderful gift. In this celebration, the cross and the empty tomb are both equally important.