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Viewpoint from Rt Rev Graham James 29/12/2017 

BISHOP GRAHAM 2016Rt Rev Graham James
Bishop of Norwich

as publsihed in the Yarmouth Mercury

 

On an early December evening I was in Canterbury Cathedral with just a few others.  We held candles and stood at what’s called The Martyrdom.  It’s where Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, was murdered on December 29th 1170.  He was saying his evening prayers when some armed knights arrived, thinking that by killing the Archbishop they were doing the will of the king, Henry II.  What they were really doing, if they did but know it, was to make a martyr.  Even today thousands of people visit Canterbury Cathedral every week to go to the site of Becket’s death
 
dove leftMany of us are fascinated by those whose belief, faith, or conviction means they are willing to die for it.  We want to catch something of their spirit to strengthen our own sense of purpose, and to reflect on our mortality
 
In the first years after Becket’s death his body lay in the crypt of the cathedral before a more elaborate shrine was built.  In the crypt nowadays there is a modern sculpture by Anthony Gormley, a Norfolk resident.  Transport is cast in the shape of a human person, made entirely of antique nails recovered after the repair of one of the cathedral roofs.  It is a lot more than a lesson in recycling.  Nails have a place in the Christian story, of course, but this sculpture is a study of the human body.  The nails give it substance and yet the body is transparent – fragile as well as solid.  You gaze through it
 
Dove rightMany of us seem to dislike our bodies.  Perhaps it’s the consequence of so many glamorous images of celebrities.  The cosmetics industry makes profits out of those of us who think we are too fat, too wrinkled or too thin 
 
In Canterbury Cathedral I saw how Anthony Gormley made a body of fragile beauty out of discarded scraps.  The story of Becket’s martyrdom is a reminder that, no matter how great our status or power in this life, we can be easily struck down.  But killing someone does not destroy what they stand for or believe in.  Becket may have been murdered but his influence lives on.  Jesus Christ may have been crucified but a third of the world’s population follows him two thousand years later.  We are more than our bodies.  In Canterbury Cathedral that night the flickering candle flames were a protest against the darkness and evil of our world in every age 

 

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