Theme 1 : Artwork 4

Reflection Title: 
Too Soon Departed
Reflection Content: 

Odd how death comes, suddenly and unannounced, even when the struggle has been long and hard and we hang on every breath. And then it happens: the moment when breath is buried and does not come. Life simply slips away. Plans vanish. The future is arrested. The world is emptied of what was and divided into the moment before, the moment after. When the eternal invades life, we shudder. Death fills the room. Absence grows, and for a time the world speaks back to us an empty word. The past tumbles in. And yet, as time passes in slow motion, day in, day out, as it passes into months and years, that which was grows more tender, and eventually takes its place in the shadows of our life or comes to us in the bright places of memory.

What our life together has meant and what it now means presses in as if to fill the void left by the “too soon departed.” And, as the days of remembrance begin to unfold, at least for some, the eternal draws nearer.

Story Title: 
The Echo of Your Promise
Story Content: 

When I cry my voice trembles with fear
When I call out it cracks with anger.

How can I greet the dawn with song
When darkness eclipses the rising sun

To whom shall I turn
When the clouds of the present eclipse the rays of tomorrow

Turn me around to yesterday
That I may be consoled by its memories.

Were not the seas split asunder
Did we not walk together through the waters to the dry side

Did we not bless the 
bread that came forth from the heavens

Did your voice not reach my ears
And direct my wanderings

The waters, the lightening, the thunder
Remind me of yesterday’s triumphs

Let the past offer proof of tomorrow
Let it be my comforter and guarantor.

I have been here before
Known the fright and found your companionship.

I enter the sanctuary again
To await the echo of your promise.

—Psalm 77

Contemporary Story Title: 
Soulful Voice
Contemporary Story Content: 

Terry Mattingly is the Director of the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He is also a columnist for the Scripps Howard News Service in Washington, D.C., and writes blog entries on religion at, a website that engages in the global dialogue about religion and spirituality. One of Mattingly’s blog entries from 2012 tells the true story of Peter Joseph Bis (1951-2012), who was a homeless man that lived in Washington, D.C.

The atmosphere on Capitol Hill’s brick sidewalks stays frosty year round as the power-walking professionals rush along in suits of wool-blend armor, their earphones in place, smartphones loaded and eyes focused dead ahead.

But things changed at the corner of Second Street and Massachusetts Avenue NE. . . . For the past decade, this was where the late Peter Bis kept his office. . . . He was the friendly homeless man with his own website, business cards and a life story that—even when warped by schizophrenia—touched thousands. . . .

St. Joseph’s Catholic Church . . . held a memorial Mass for Bis last week, a month after he died of a heart attack at age 61. . . . In his own way, Bis truly was a teacher, stressed [Deacon Gary] Bockweg. “He taught us that everyone we walk past deserves to be recognized as a real person, even if their appearance is deceiving. . . . We’ve been walking past his vacant spot under the tree for a few weeks now . . . each day growing a little more accustomed to the emptiness there, and that unheard greeting. Over the years we had come to take Pete’s presence for granted. And now, we’re reminded that we’re all just passing through this life.” . . .

“Peter Bis was a gentle soul . . . ,” said [parishioner Joe] Jones. “The last thing people do today when talking to a stranger is call them by name. That’s how Pete connected. . . . He called us by name and that slowed us down. That made Pete real to us.”

—Terry Mattingly (born 1954), “A Soulful Voice on a Capitol Hill Sidewalk.”

Artwork Title: 
The New Life
Artwork Content: 

In a letter written in 1871, Dante Gabriel Rossetti explained his painting as a representation of dying as a transitional condition from life to death and as his visual interpretation of Dante’s expression of dying in La Vita Nuova (The New Life):

“It must of course be remembered, in looking at the picture that it is not at all intended to represent Death . . . but to render it under the resemblance of a trance, in which Beatrice seated at the balcony over-looking the city is suddenly rapt from Earth to Heaven. You will remember how much Dante dwells on the desolation of the city in connection with the incident of her death, & for this reason I have introduced it, as my background, & made the figure of Dante and love passing through the street & gazing ominously at one another, conscious of the event, whilst the bird, a messenger of death, drops a poppy between the hands of Beatrice. She sees through her shut lids, is conscious of a new world, as expressed in the last words of the Vita Nuova: ‘that blessed Beatrice who now gazeth continually on His countenance who is blessed throughout all ages’.”

—Andrew Wilton and Robert Upstone, eds., The Age of Rossetti, Burne-Jones and Watts: Symbolism in Britain 1860–1910. 

Question Title: 
Death, a mystery beyond measure?
Question Content: 

dying is fine)but Death
wouldn't like

Death if Death
good: for
when(instead of stopping to think)you
begin to feel of it, dying's miraculous

why? because dying is
perfectly natural; perfectly
it mildly lively(but

is strictly
& artificial &
evil & legal)

we thank thee
almighty for dying
(forgive us,o life!the sin of Death

—E.E. Cummings, (1894-1962) 

Have you noticed how death comes, sudden and unannounced? Have you sat waiting for the end to come, hanging on every breath? Like a bird it comes and drops a cut flower. And, have you noticed how just beyond the dying chamber people, everyone it seems, continue to busy themselves as if nothing was happening? Do you notice in this painting that the beloved blessed Beatrix, departs as the sundial signals noon, the moment of pure light?   

Music Content: 

Out of the Night (Alleluia)
The text of Out of the Night...—a very brief salutation for voice and viola, written “to greet the dawn outside St. Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai” —consists of the single word “Alleluia,” a suitably rapt response to the miracle of the returning day and the renewal of life.

Ivan Moody, from the notes to the recording.

“Out of the Night (Alleluia).” John Tavener, Out of the Night, Leigh Nixon, tenor, Jane Atkins, Viola, Sony 1999. Track 15.


Deep River
Paul Robeson (1898–1976), one of the richest and most expressive voices of the twentieth century, was also a passionate spokesman for civil rights and justice from the time of the Spanish Civil War until his death in 1976.

“Deep River.” traditional, Ballad for Americans, Paul Robeson, bass, Vanguard Records 1991. Track 2.


Dante’s Prayer
“Dante’s Prayer.” Loreena McKennitt, The Book of Secrets. Quinlan Road  CD19404 1997. Track 8. Excerpt from “Behold the Bridegroom,” Russian Easter, St. Petersburg Chamber Choir, Nikolai Korniev, conductor, courtesy of Philips Classics Productions. 

Image Thumbnail: 
Image Summary: 

Beata-Beatrix, 1864–70. Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1828–1882. 

Story Audio: 
Contemporary Story Audio: 

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