On Monday East Belfast will experience one of the moments in rock history. On his 70th birthday Van Morrison will play a concert on Cyprus Avenue the street he made world famous on his album Astral Weeks.
That iconic record Astral Weeks is like the rarest of meteorites appearing in a night sky without warning. It is an acoustic, ambient blues and jazz fusion with pain, death, love, romance and transcendental yelping that draws from a legacy of Woody Guthrie, evangelical Christianity and a transvestite called Madame George (that mentions Fitzroy for goodness sake) among many other things.
Within its genius it is easy to trace the themes that would keep Van Morrison in muse for the rest of his career; childlike visions, his Belfast upbringing, religion and these continual moments of spiritual epiphany even in the middle of dark nights of the soul.
As you listen to Astral Weeks you can feel one young man’s pain and, as you are pulled into the slipstream and viaducts of his dreams, you journey with him towards redemption.
In the midst of the common and most ordinary Van Morrison captures a vivid vibrant vision of the sacred and holy. That same Hyndford Street where Astral Weeks was written became a song in its own right in 1991. Finding the extraordinary in the ordinary on that song, Morrison calls "dreaming in God". As yet another more recent songs says, it is an ability to transcend the ritual and find the spiritual (Behind The Ritual).
Holiness is all around us. As William Blake put it,
“See the Lord in a grain of sand
And heaven in a wild flower
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour”
Or cleric, poet and author Mike Starkey put it:
“The place you are is full of wonders
Even if that place is a wilderness
Open your eyes wide
Look for long enough and you will see.”
As St Paul puts it, “we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
So, along with Van, I am be looking beyond the ordinary to find the extraordinary. Beyond the moment to find eternity. Especially this weekend!
On Sunday morning August 30th at 11am, I along with my congregation (Fitzroy Presbyterian Church) will be building the entire Sunday Service around the work of Van Morrison using his hymns and songs under the title "WHEN WILL I EVER LEARN TO LIVE IN GOD; The Lord, N Fitzroy... and Van Morrison" ALL WELCOME!