Tuesday, 22 December 2009

O Rex Gentium...

O Rex Gentium
O Rex Gentium, 
et desideratus earum, 
lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum:
veni, et salva hominem,  
quem de limo formasti.

O King of the nations, and their desire, 
the cornerstone making both one: 
Come and save the human race,
which you fashioned from clay.


Readings from the book of the prophet Isaiah, 2: 4 - 
He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.

and 9: 6 -  For a child has been born for us, a son given us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 

Today's antiphon, with its metaphor of humanity as fashioned from clay, reminds me of the work of Anthony Gormely.  It fascinates me: particularly the way in which he brings people together to create living art.  It is a collaborative process, one in which place and space are explored.
His most recent project was a live piece entitled One and Other - or what came to be known, in shorthand, by the place and space on and in which it was created: the plinth, Trafalgar Square.  Another of his works, the Field Project has seen the creation of hundreds of thousands of tiny clay figures.  This too, was a community-oriented project, in which Gormley enlisted local groups of people to make the figures, in a sense, representing themselves and creating what he calls 'surrogate populations'.  The collected figures are compelling.
The link to the Field Project has an interview with Gormley from a couple of years ago, discussing the project.  In it he comments on space and lack: the viewer, confronted in a room filled with these small figures can feel crowded out... and yet the focus of the gaze of all the figures is on that which they lack: life.  He notes on the sensation of the viewer feeling somehow diminished, excluded and unimportant that: 'Well you are important. You are where all those gazes want to be. They want what they haven’t got, which is life and you haven’t got what they have, which is this space. There is a kind of exchange of lack.'   

It is this phrase 'exchange of lack' that strikes a chord.
And yet... in the incarnation, it is less an exchange of lack - lack for lack, than an unequal and wonderful exchange: life for lack.
We are like the little clay figures gazing at God, wanting life, movement, breath and being.
And in the child in the manger, we are offered life in abundance.
Do we dare to live a life fully lived?
O come, o come, and save us from the life half-lived that we may rejoice in you...


Oh, come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Oh, bid our sad divisions cease,
And be yourself our King of Peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

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