After the devastation of World War II the rebuilding of Coventry cathedral offered a symbol of peace, hope and reconciliation. The sorrow of Good Friday always gives way to the joy of Easter and resurrection.
A Night to remember
As most of the people of Coventry sheltered in the air raid shelters on the night of November 14th 1940, fire rained down from the sky on the sleeping city. 30,000 incendiary devices and 500 tons of high explosive bonds fell in what the Nazis ominously called ‘Operation midnight Sonata’! 600 people died that night and much of the city was left in ruins, including the cathedral.
However, much worse was to come in the following months in both Britain and Germany. By the end of the war many ruined cities were left crumbled to ashes.
Beauty rises from the Ashes
At the end of the war the atmosphere of hopelessness and despair lifted to one of hope, expectancy and a desire for a better world. The words inscribed on the east end of the old cathedral ruins, ‘Father forgive‘ were the words of Christ from his cross. The iron cross of nails symbolised the determination to forgive and to build for a better future. Instead of rebuilding on the old ruins, the architect, Basil Spence, boldly decided to keep the old ruins and build the new cathedral next to them.
“To walk from the ruins of old Coventry cathedral into the splendour of the new is to walk from Good Friday to Easter, your heart is lifted, your spirit is renewed, and you feel that there is hope for the world.”John Perry, former provost of Coventry Cathedral
Peace, Hope and a New Future
My only visit to Coventry cathedral was on a weekday. I was on my own and there were very few other visitors at the time. Although a comparative newcomer as cathedrals go, Coventry had a quiet, prayerful atmosphere.
In this inspirational place spirits are lifted by the freshness, the clear straight lines, the lightness, and the joy of vibrant stained glass windows. I remember being specially moved by the arresting Bible texts written in gold letters on the walls. This whole place is full of powerful symbolism with the central focus of everything being the dramatic vista towards Graham Sutherland’s east end tapestry. This bold statement turns us to look forward to the vindication of the One who suffered on the cross, but who now reigns and is coming again one day in glory.
Good Friday – Easter Day
Good Friday was indeed a black day, it was Earth’s darkest. The earth shook with convulsion in shock and horror while the sky darkened in mourning. It seemed only the ‘ashes’ remained. But the cross answers one great question:
How much does God love me?
This much —————————->
‘God loved the world so much he gave his only Son…’.John’s Gospel 3:16
‘And here we see the length, the breadth, the heightFrom Malcolm Guite’s ‘Seven Stations of the Cross‘ in his book ‘Sounding the Seasons’.
Where love and hatred meet and love stays true
Where sin meets grace and darkness turns to light
We see what love can bear and be and do,
And here our Saviour calls us to his side
His love is free, his arms are open wide.‘
The Cross is the answer to everything and those open arms beckon us.
Our modern world is being humbled and brought to its knees in our present crisis. Strangely, this is an appropriate posture as we come to remember those three days that changed the world – Good Friday to Easter.
I have found that close to the Cross of Christ is the safest place to be. It’s there I discover how much God loves me and find peace and true hope in a glorious future. Easter is just a beginning. If we are risen with Jesus there’s so much everlasting joy yet to come!
Wishing you safety and sincere Easter blessings.
Next Time – With human life at a standstill at present, the untroubled natural world has the chance to thrive and become more like an ‘Unspoiled Eden’ again.
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