The empty chair – 4 November 2019

In a peaceful Spanish garden there is an empty chair. The colours of this painting are soft, inviting you into this space, which offers solace for the soul. The artist, Joaquin Sorolla, planted this garden around his house, and this was his favourite place to sit. For his family, it was this place and this chair that were associated with him when he was at rest and happy. This was his own paradise.

Although he did not know it, this painting was to be one of his last. Sorolla painted his garden many times. It was here that he suffered a stroke in 1920, after which he was no longer able to paint. He died three years later. The chair remained in its place, a continuing reminder of the much loved family man.

Gardens have long been associated with Paradise. For example, the body of Adam was thought to have been taken by the Archangel Michael to Paradise for burial. Gardens can be liminal spaces bringing great comfort, a peaceful doorway from one life to another.


Once in a dream I saw the flowers
That bud and bloom in Paradise;
More fair they are than waking eyes
Have seen in all this world of ours.
And faint the perfume-bearing rose,
And faint the lily on its stem,
And faint the perfect violet
Compared with them.

I saw the fourfold River flow,
And deep it was, with golden sand;
It flowed between a mossy land
With murmured music grave and low.
It hath refreshment for all thirst,
For fainting spirits strength and rest
Earth holds not such a draught as this
From east to west.

The Tree of Life stood budding there,
Abundant with its twelvefold fruits;
Eternal sap sustains its roots,
Its shadowing branches fill the air.
Its leaves are healing for the world,
Its fruit the hungry world can feed,
Sweeter than honey to the taste
And balm indeed.

I hope to see these things again,
But not as once in dreams by night;
To see them with my very sight,
And touch, and handle, and attain:
To have all Heaven beneath my feet
For narrow way that once they trod;
To have my part with all the saints,
And with my God.

From ‘Paradise’: Christina Rossetti


Grant to us, Lord God, to trust you not for ourselves alone, but for those also whom we love and who are hidden from us by the shadow of death; that, as we believe your power to have raised our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, so may we trust your love to give eternal life to all who believe in him; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Common Worship, liturgy for the ‘Commemoration of the Faithful Departed’