Tag Archives: Art

18 March: Human Will XII: To Singers

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We continue reading poems by Radclyffe Hall. A great deal of her work has not aged well, but we have collected these  in Agnellus’ Mirror because they invite us to reflect.

This scrap of verse comments on giving the Human will full expression. Singers, dancers, writers, artists in any field; parents, teachers, carers: we will be more effective in our work if we combine mind and heart, intellect and soul; if we bring our whole selves to the work.

Sing with your intellect and soul combined;

Not all technique, nor yet all wild emotion,

Thus shall you touch the heart and please the mind,

Winning a real and merited devotion.

Radclyffe Hall lived in Sussex; this window of King David and others singing is in Sussex’s Cathedral at Chichester.

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Review: The Methodist Art Collection comes to town.

3_three_kings_methodist

When we were first married we worshipped in a village Methodist Church near Margate; an austere little chapel it was, whitewashed walls and uncomfortable benches. Thank God we did not have to sit under hour long nineteenth century non-conformist sermons, but were fed with wise words from Fr Martin Symonds, of Ramsgate Abbey.

That was more than a few years ago, but the austere image of Methodism is fixed in my mind, which expects churches to be bathed in coloured light from stained glass windows and peopled by statues of the saints who have gone before us.

Not all windows or statues in English Catholic churches would merit inclusion in a travelling art exhibition.

The Methodist Church has built up a collection of modern art, largely looking at Jesus, in one way or another. You can view the works here: http://www.methodist.org.uk/prayer-and-worship/mmac/index . The website will lead you to videos and other resources around these images.

Instead of hanging on church walls, the collection is sent out to proclaim the Good News in its own way; through exhibitions around the UK and in the future to Dublin, Rome and beyond. Until Saint George’s Day 2017 it is in Canterbury’s Beaney Museum.

Not all the images inspire me to ‘prayer and worship’, but I am hard-wired to David Jones, represented here by a delicate woodblock of The Three Kings, passing a David Jones signature passion-resurrection image: a war-blasted tree-cum-cross, sprouting new growth. The Magi approach a starlit Bethlehem amid Welsh hills that bring to mind a woman’s torso and raised knees at the moment of childbirth: the star’s rays beam down like a searchlight upon the haven where the Child lies, under the hill within his Mother’s womb.

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Next to Jones’s tiny, monochrome image hangs The Dalit Madonna, a big, bright work by Jyoti Sahi. While this glorious work picks up themes from Eastern and Western European tradition, such as the sun and moon in the sky, and the Babe blessing from the womb, the artist integrates these with his own Indian culture. The sun is represented by a marigold; the moon by a crescent, including Hinduism and Islam in this birth. Then the Infant is seated within an oval reminiscent of the traditional mandala of Eastern icons, yet despite his foetal position and naturalistic drawing, he is clearly blessing the viewer; he is strong but clearly dependent on his mother, who bends her body in worship and protection, her breast ready to comfort and nurture. Many Catholic preachers would tell you that Mary, who conceived Jesus before her marriage, would have been considered an outcast; an untouchable like this Dalit mother, a radiant human being who clearly loves her son, the centre of her world and being. And how many unwed mothers were condemned by the Catholic Church in recent times?

The one Old Testament story on view here is that of Cain and Abel. We could be among Jones’s Welsh hills, or the Lake District, or even the Downs of the Isle of Wight where John Reilly lived and worked. Cain is a stocky, almost Calibanesque figure, at work within the pale he has set around his neat, well-ordered, smallholding. He pauses in his digging to stare up at his brother, a slim, radiant type of the Good Shepherd, who like Abel would be killed by his own. Suddenly that spade looks menacing: a ploughshare about to become a sword. And yet one cannot help a twinge of sympathy for one who wants his world to be under control, without any disturbing incursions from his brother’s nomadic flocks; that brother who stands nearby with eyes for the far horizon, not for him.

The Lord’s eyes, too, are on a far horizon in Christ writes in the dust – the woman taken in adultery by Clive Hicks Jenkins. In a nightmare of blues, Jesus is almost cartwheeling as, with arms outstretched as on the Cross, he looks away from the scene, away from the woman and her accusers, away from us bystanders looking on. The woman, with her Magdalenesque red hair, high heels and little black dress, is bound, as Christ soon would be, a halter around her throat.The light that glows upon her skin is reflected from Christ, apart from the tiny white triangle of her underwear, visible beneath her skirt which she cannot pull down with her hands tied behind her back. It takes a few moments to see that her accusers already have rocks in their hands, awaiting the moment when Christ’s assent to her killing is given. A moment that never comes. Would we back these men up, if we were there? Were these the men who stoned Stephen? Was Paul among them? Was this the first step on the road to Damascus?

Go and sin no more, Jesus told that woman. A good motto for the Christian life.

Even in the first two pictures reviewed here, the effects of sin creep in: the tree from Flanders, the outcast mother. We see the sin in Cain’s illusory self-sufficiency and his inherent jealousy; loud and clear in those shadowy, self-righteous stones, poised for murder. But like Jones’s three kings, each of us can follow the star, which leads us to a fleshly, humble place. The damage of our sinfulness will not prevent the Cross from being the tree of Life.

If you get the chance to see this exhibition on its travels, do spend some time with a few of the works. Others among them may speak to you louder than these four have done to me. Stop, look, listen.

MMB

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10 February: From Canterbury to Dallas

From Canterbury to Dallas (event)

As I left the Crypt of Canterbury Cathedral today, I was drawn into the treasury room. Often there is one precious, ancient object to gaze upon. Today it was something old, something new.

The Church of the Incarnation in Dallas has commissioned from the Canterbury Cathedral glaziers, new windows taken from old – eight hundred years  old – windows in Canterbury. A selection is now on display including this panel of the sacrifice of Isaac, the angel risking his hand and wing to withstand the blow Abraham is about to deliver.

The new windows, made using mediaeval techniques, are vibrant and unmarked by the centuries of weather and pollution that have damaged the originals. Unlike the old monks of Canterbury, the ministers at Dallas will be able to bring every detail of the windows to the scrutiny of viewers using modern IT. The monks would have embraced IT, of course, as an aid to spreading the Good News – as Agnellus Mirror does in our own small way.

I shall return more than once before the windows are parcelled up and dispatched to Texas: they are on display here until 22 February, closing at 16.00 each day.

MMB.

 

Read and watch more at these links:

Canterbury to Dallas 1

Canterbury to Dallas 2

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THE CELESTIAL CITY – Gothic Cathedrals.

May I share a notice from our friends at the Canterbury Gregorian Music Society. You’d be made most welcome!

THE CELESTIAL CITY – Dr. Jeffrey Miller

Temple of Solomon

Saturday 25th February 2017 10-1
Canterbury Cathedral Lodge
(small audio-visual room)
A morning workshop of talks and chant around gothic cathedrals
Jeffrey Miller holds research and teaching posts at the University of Cambridge and the Bartlett School of Architecture in London. His principal interests are in Gothic Architecture in Europe, including its materialization and meaning in medieval communities. Our morning will consist of two talks and two singing sessions. The talks will look at how mediaeval architects related their vision of a cathedral to passages in the Bible referring to the Temple of Jerusalem. How were the decorations and adornments conceived and realized? Cathedrals were important places for the civic and spiritual life of cities. How did communities decide where these buildings should be and how they should relate to the layout of their cities? We might also have a sneak preview of the end of the world. Questions such as these will be used to frame the two talks by our guest. In between we will discuss and sing some chant for the consecration of churches (and the end of the world?).
Free for members £5 for non-members
includes hand-outs, music and light refreshments
Further information from: jonathan.butchers@gmail.com

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20 January: Inter-galactic Discoveries, XXI.

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12 January: Open Heart, Open Mind III: To see more clearly: looking at our art

St_Richard_Statue

Before leaving Chichester Naomi published this resource for anyone looking at Christian art in Churches and elsewhere. Make it a new year’s resolution to spend quiet time in front of a work of art, perhaps using some of the questions in the resource this post links to.

To see more clearly: looking at our art

Reflecting on art in a religious context: A resource for churches in the Diocese of Sussex and beyond

There is a rich tradition of art in churches in Sussex – from the mediaeval frescos at St. John the Baptist, Clayton, to twentieth-century works commissioned by Dean Hussey at Chichester Cathedral, to contemporary commissions such as Maggi Hambling’s The Resurrection Spirit at St. Dunstan’s Mayfield (2013). Our art is a wonderful resource for helping us to understand and reflect upon matters of faith.

We can also draw on the rich history of religious art in museum and gallery collections in Sussex, and further afield – whether by visiting these collections, or viewing images online or in books.

These notes and questions are intended to encourage individuals and groups to engage in a contemplative way with works of art in churches and elsewhere. It suggests a series of questions to prompt reflection and/or discussion of different types of works of art.

As we begin the Year of the Bible in the Diocese of Chichester this Advent, our art can provide a powerful focus for reflection on biblical narratives. Within these pages, you will find some specific guidance for looking at biblical art, as well as for other types of art you might encounter in a religious context.

No expert knowledge is needed to appreciate art – just an openness to look and to ask questions. Through spending time looking at the art in our churches, we can not only see it more clearly, but also in doing so, as St. Richard prays, know Jesus Christ more clearly.

Naomi Billingsley, Bishop Otter Scholar, the Diocese of Chichester, Advent 2016.

Statue of Saint Richard outside Chichester Cathedral.

 

Download the resource here: looking-at-religious-art-_-otter-scholar

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1 January: Door! Door!

Abel and I had the afternoon together, and he brought along his new word,’Door’. An appropriate word for the New Year, and a very useful word too. On the train, in the lift at the station or in the art gallery, many buttons are at a height a wheelchair user can reach comfortably, and so can a toddler with a stretch. Then the buttons are designed to be very sensitive for less strong fingers – each one an opportunity for Abel to demonstrate his mastery of technology.

A free gallery means that a small person can come in, look at one or two things and toddle off again. When he’s older, he’ll maybe stay longer.

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A Church that is open means that anyone can come in, look at one or two things, maybe light a candle, peruse or pick up a leaflet, and toddle off again. If she feels welcome, one day she’ll maybe stay longer.

Just as Abel was interested in the buttons, doors, sculptures and even one or two paintings, so visitors to our church buildings may be interested in what they see. Few churches explain their stained glass, statues, or other features, because we regulars hardly see the familiar, any more than we see the buttons in the lift. But these things were installed for a reason: to help us on our journey to God.

This New Year, let’s  try and see our church buildings through fresh eyes. It may help us to see our faith through fresh eyes too!

MMB.

 

 

 

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Thank you all, from Will and Company.

carvingwomanchich

Some time in the last few days, we published the 500th blog on Agnellus’ Mirror.

We passed this milestone before we realised it. Let’s move forward in hope that what we are offering is good and helpful,  at least mildly interesting, even sometimes inspirational.

This little carving of a woman praying has been welcoming pilgrims coming to Chichester Cathedral since mediaeval times. Who knows who she is? Who knows who carved her? But she’s there, quietly calling people to prayer, even if most walk by without seeing her.

We hope that we, too, are quietly calling people to prayer in words and pictures.

Thank you for your continuing support!

Will Turnstone.

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13 November: In and Out of the Door of Mercy.

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Although NAIB has an Anglican door of mercy just outside her front door, I never expected to pass through one myself, but we entered two of them in Poland, the first at the Sanctuary of the Holy Family in Zakopane. A beautifully carved wooden frame had been constructed around the West door of the Church: you’ll have noticed that we have been using their version of the Mercy Icon when our reflections touch on the Year of Mercy. Look carefully and you’ll see it on the left of the frame.

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Where should a Door of Mercy lead? This one opened onto a crucifix just inside the door, a manned confessional, then a beautiful interior, with the birds of the air upon the ceiling and scenes from local history in murals above the nave. Here, next to the altar, was the font with John baptising his cousin and Our Lord. Here was the Blessed Sacrament exposed, half a dozen faithful keeping watch.

 How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of Hosts. Psalm 84:3

mercy.carving. (328x640)But where should a Door of Mercy lead? It leads us – not just the Old Testament High Priest – into the sanctuary, but also out of it.

We have [hope] as an anchor of the soul, sure and firm, and which entereth in even within the veil; where the forerunner Jesus is entered for us, made a high priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedech. (Hebrews 6:19-20).

We have hope and entering a door of mercy is a sign of that hope but as we exit the door we are called to be instruments of mercy, not passive recipients of it. We are called to forgive seventy times seven (some people I know can almost be that annoying!) and to have compassion on our fellow servants; to feel for them and to build them up. (Matthew 18). So now, as the Year of Mercy ends, go out through your local door of mercy and get at it! (Your door of mercy is the one you have the key to and where your letters and visitors arrive; your front door.)

MMB

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19 October: A Physical Body, A Physical Cross

 

Xtlily

Godstone, Isle of Wight

R.S. Thomas knew a quiet place to pray, ‘In a country church’.[1]

He … saw love in a dark crown

Of thorns blazing, and a winter tree

Golden with fruit of a man’s body.

I was walking through an apple orchard the day I composed this post, and enjoyed a golden apple left behind by the pickers. In brilliant sunshine it was warm to the taste. Come the winter, that orchard will be muddy and less inviting; the trees bare of all but small and deformed fruit, waiting for the birds to devour them, peck by peck.

Many church crucifixes are golden, from thinking that precious metal should be used to represent the precious death of the Lord. Perhaps R.S. Thomas has some thought of the love of the artists who made the crucifix or glass in his country church, but principally it is the body of the Lord he contemplates.

The physicality of that body came home to me as I bit into that warm golden apple. A man’s warm body growing cold on a winter tree, but a loving heart, crowned with flaming thorns, never growing cold.

The scandal of the cross is that it happened – and yet we adopt this as our Christian symbol, rather than an empty tomb, say, or the star of Bethlehem. Thereby we proclaim ourselves as sinners: the cross is not a good luck charm, it is a true story.

Let us pray that we do not ignore the fruit that is ripe for the picking on that winter (or spring, summer, autumn) tree; may we taste and see that the Lord is good. (Psalm 34:8)

MMB

[1] SP p29

 

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