During Christmas 1942, a group of German soldiers were trapped outside the Russian city of Stalingrad. One of the soldiers, Kurt Reuber, was a clergyman and a doctor. Using charcoal, he drew a tender picture of Mary holding Jesus, on the back of a Russian map. Reuber died in a Soviet concentration camp, but his sketch survived and was taken back to Germany. A copy of this drawing, which includes the words, “Light. Life. Love” was sent as a gift to Coventry Cathedral, in recognition of its ministry of reconciliation. It is on display in a chapel dedicated to the Madonna of Stalingrad.
When life is difficult and ugly, things like art and beauty can seem frivolous, pointless even. Yet, in the midst of such terrible times, beauty can bring hope. Every year, thousands of visitors from all over the world come to Coventry Cathedral and also spend time in the ruins of the old Cathedral. There are joint projects with other countries encouraging dialogue and understanding between different groups of people, especially engaging young people. Some people in Coventry may still see the Cathedral as a waste of money or may still be angry at the personal losses that they and their family suffered during the war. For many more though, the stark reminders of how terrible war can be, alongside the healing power of a sacred place, filled with light and colour, is a way of reminding us that hope may arise, even in the darkest times. I invite you to take time to see the beauty around you this week.