Sunday, January 31, 2016

The St. John's Bible-The Psalms Frontispiece

Psalms Frontispiece, 2004
Psalm 1:1-6
Donald Jackson
 Vellum, with ink, paint and gold

"Only in the Psalms do all the illuminations 
consist of abstract, non-objective designs.
 In the bible, the whole book of Psalms, 
is divided into five books, and this frontispiece
 visually reflects that structure.
 The five books are represented by five overlapping 
book-shaped panels, each a different combination
 of the same colors. 
A gold roman numeral identifies each panel. 
These panels appear at the beginning
of each book in a progressive accumulate 
corresponding to the numbers of the books.

Superimposed on this image are digital 
voice prints (electronic images of sound) 
of sung chants, hinting at the way we "see" psalms
 if they are sung or read poetically. 
The voice prints come from recordings of the monks
 at St. John's Abbey singing Gregorian chant, 
as well as other musical offerings. 
The voice prints of the Saint John's monks
 appear on every page, 
moving horizontally throughout the Psalms in gold."

An up close view of the incredible 
hand done calligraphy in this Bible.

How interesting to think of the psalms sung
 and the picture of that added to the visual reading.
Many times I think that the music we hear offers 
so much to the experience of reading Scripture.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

The St. John's Bible-Vision of Isaiah

 Vision of Isaiah, 2005
Isaiah 6:1-13
Donald jackson
Scribes: poetry Sally Mae Joseph; 
text, Susan Leper
Vellum, with ink, pain and gold

"Isaiah envisions God enthroned in the Temple, 
here sown with its bricks and arches outlined in gold.
 Smoke from the altar veils the image of God, 
which would overcome his mortal servant. 
Gold letters repeat the words "Holy, Holy, Holy"
 in Hebrew, Greek and Latin, 
echoing the words of the angels 
who act as God's servants and as heralds
 of his magnificence. 
One angel holds the terrified prophet 
in his many wings and purifies his mouth 
with the touch of live coal, 
preparing him to receive God's word."

This illustration certainly shows
 just a bit of the incredible work
 in the temple of the priest and prophets there.
A tribute to this time 
of the Old Testament Temple.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The St. John's Bible--Valley of the Dry Bones

Valley of the Dry Bones, 2005
 Ezekiel 37: 1-14
Donald Jackson
 Scribe: Susan Leiper
Vellum, with ink paint and gold

"In Donald Jackson's contemporary rendering
 of Ezekiel's vision, 
abandoned eye-glasses recall images
 from the Holocaust, white smashed windows
 appear as the aftermath of terrorism. 
The automobile graveyard suggests ecological disaster. 
Yet despite these horrors, God promises Ezekiel
 that when the Jews have their homecoming,
 even the dead will rise. "Thus says the Lord God: 
I am going to open your graves 
and I will bring you back
 to the land of Israel." Ezekiel 37:12
 Ezekiel's ultimate message of hope and survival
 is indicated by the garland of rainbow,
 traditional symbols of god's covenant, 
framing the text and reflected 
in the images of violence."

When we were in Israel
this last trip we had a day
 when we saw 5 rainbows.

Over the ancient city of Jericho---- God's promise.
He will raise these dry bones- He brings LIFE.

Monday, January 25, 2016

The St. John's Bible-Messianic Predictions

Messianic Predictions, 2005
Isaiah 10:4-32 
Thomas Ingmire
Scribes: poetry- Brian Simpson- text- Sue Hufton
Vellum with ink, paint and gold

"The promise of the Messiah is found
 throughout the books of the Prophets, 
and embodies God's covenant
 with the people of Israel.
 According to the prophetic texts, 
the Messiah is a king that God 
will send to restore his broken relationship
 with his people, bear the sins of mankind
 and end all suffering. 
The many titles of the Messiah, 
including King of Kings, Prince of Peace, 
and Immanuel, meaning "God is with us"
 appear on this folio as soaring words
 of jubilation in gleaming gold and jewel-like colors."

I like how the Hallelujah filters though
all the promises.
A reminder that in all of our days
there is an Hallelujah.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

When It Comes Crashing Down

In a split second the tinkling 
crashing noise
filled the air.
I came around the corner
 of the doorway
into the dining room
 and my shoulder hit the edge
 of this display cabinet.
 Dislodged the entire piece to the floor.
Earthquake like.
Right off the wall.

A big tear rolled down my cheek.
I couldn't pick it up by myself.
Had to wait till dear hubby came home.
Collected the shards and pieces
into a box.
Grandmother's tea cup.
First husband's vintage mustache cups.
My mother's tea cups.
Gifts from others.
Marianne Latall's cups.
Texted three daughters.
They said it is the beginning 
of garden stepping stones.

It is just STUFF.
And in full Ann Voskamp training 
of 5 years.
I looked for the gift.
And there they were.
Missing handles.
Chunks gone in the back.
Saucers gone.
But here they are- GIFT.
Working to reset heart and attitude-
I went to the mailbox.
 And there nestled in the stack-
a handmade gift from a friend
in appreciation for listening
 and taking time.
And I noted the delivery time-
and the Day.
 God's great care for me,
moved in the universe

He alone mends 
the broken pieces of our world.
It is the people that matter.
And as I listen-
a mother finds out her child has Type 1 Diabetes,
a friend's mother dies unexpectantly,
a pastor loses his dear wife.
There is much greater loss than stuff.
 And the word on the daily calendar 
for praying --
And the message of a God
 who meets me
 Remembrance and Care
when I lose - JUST STUFF-
is the same Lord that meets me- 
when loss is health 
and people and relationships.
As it all 
and dies,
I remember HIS WORD.

The grass withers, the flower fades, 
But the word of our God stands forever.”

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Saint John's Bible- Solomon's Temple

Solomon's Temple, 2010
1 Kings 8:22-8:66
Donald Jackson
Scribe:Sue Hufton

"The completion of Solomon's temple fuses together
 several elements in Israelite history. 
With the religious overtones
associated with the dedication, 
the pro-monarchist faction of the the Israelites 
(which had been prominent since the time of David) 
received official approval. 
The political capital now
 also became the religious capital;
 both the king and the Lord inhabited the same city, 
and all the elders, tribal heads, 
and ancestral heads were assembled
 to witness the event.
Solomon's prayer and blessing
before the people 
established his legitimacy as king
 and sanctioned his decision to build the temple,. 
citing the Lord's promise to his father, David. 
Solomon may be glorious,
 but the glory belongs to the Lord."

"The illumination of King Solomon's temple mirrors 
two other illuminations. 
Ezekial's Vision of the New Temple
 as well as theVision of Chebor. 
The structure of the temple with its Gateways
 at the Four Points of the Compass,
 a delicate filigree version of the labyrinth pathway
 to the Holy of Holies directly references 
the Vision of the New Temple. 
The two winged guardians of the Holy of Holies 
have the four animal heads from the 
Vision of the Chebor in Ezekiel. 
They peer out from amongst the smoke
 and the power of the interior temple
 and tap into the mystery involved in close contact
 with the revelation of God's power."

A bit of the story of the setting and process of illumination-

"In Donald Jackson's scriptoriun in Wales, 
all this work was carried on as it would have been
 in a medical monastery. 
Tools and materials were prepared by hand, on site. 
Unblemished calfskins were scraped
 and sanded to produce a perfect writing surface. 
Goose, swan,, and turkey quills, 
taken straight from the birds, 
were cleaned, cured, and trimmed. 
Antique ink sticks were ground to make dense black ink. 
Paint was made by mixing hand-ground pigments
 with egg yolks- lapis lazuli for brilliant lies, 
vermilion for rich reds and malachite for glistening greens.

But there is also much that is modern. 
To ensure seamless continuity, the layout of every page- 
even the placement of every word- 
was planned on a computer. 
This enabled the team of scribes, working simultaneously, 
to produce perfect sheets that could later
 be combined in perfect order. 
So that their writing would be uniform
 throughout the Bible, 
all the scribes used a script specially
 designed by Donald Jackson."

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The St. John's Bible - Esther

Esther 5:9-16:7
Donald Jackson
Scribe: Sue Hufton
Vellum, with ink, paint and gold

"In the Jewish tradition, 
Esther is a redeemer figure.
The near brush with extinction, 
which the Jews in the story 
underwent at Haman's hand, 
has made this story the lens through
 which may interpret the Holocaust.
As Queen, Esther's access to King Ahasuerus 
allowed her to be the savior and protector 
of the Jews in the face of the evil conspiracies
of Haman. In one conspiracy, Haman expects
 that the gallows ordered will be used for Mordecai 
(a Jewish man who offended him).
 In a reversal of events, however, Haman's evil schemes 
cause him to be hanged from
 that very same gibbet instead.

This illustration aims to show the duality
 of Esther and her two different lives.
 On the one hand is her life as a beautiful 
young Jewish woman, 
as faithful to her heritage 
as she is to her consign Mordecai. 
O the other hand is her life of power 
as the Queen of Persia arrayed in all 
her regal trappings and surrounded
 by ancient Persian gold artifacts. 
This tension between the two conflicting identities 
of Esther can be seen in the different
 emotional cast to the eyes. 
The Empress is confident in her world of position, 
whereas the humble Jewish woman betrays fear, 
apprehension, wisdom and bravery."

Esther's full plat of roles
 is certainly a role model
 for the women of this time and age too.

Monday, January 18, 2016

The St. John's Bible- Ruth and Naomi

Left- Ruth and Naomi -----Ruth 1:16-18
Right- Ruth the Gleaner-----Ruth 2:2-23
 Suzanne Moore
 Scribe-Sue Hufton
Vellum, with ink paint and gold

"Bereft of her husband and two sons in a foreign country
 the Jewish Naomi, mother-in-law to Ruth, 
decides to return to Bethlehem 
during a time of famine. 
Ruth, a Moabite, remains loyal to Naomi 
despite their different ethnicities, 
and these verses and the illumination express 
the depth of love and fidelity Ruth has for Naomi.
This loyalty is rewarded in history 
when the Moabite Ruth becomes the grandmother
 of the Jewish King David.
Second Illumination- The Gleaning

"Since Jewish law stipulated that a land owner
 had to allow the poor and the alien to glean 
the harvested files, 
the marginalized had food and nutrition. 
Gleaning is hard work, but it is also a gift, 
and Boaz, a relative of Naomi, 
grants permission to glean off his land. 
Ruth's gleaning leads to love, 
and soon she and Boaz are married 
providing the "seed" for the future king.

Ruth's stature is evident as she looks up into the page. 
She carries an expansive basket of abundance 
and promise, and the lines
 of her dress cascade down creating 
a graceful design of Stars of David."

These graceful images beautifully
 reinforce the connection of
Ruth, Bethlehem, and David in the lineage of 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

The St. John's Bible- The Joshua Anthology

 The St. John's bible- 
the Joshua Anthology
Joshua 1-24 NRSV
Donald Jackson
Scribe: Susan Leiper
Vellum with ink, paint and gold

"As Moses reaches the end of his life,
 the Lord commissions Joshua, 
Son of Nun to be be Moses' successor 
and to lead the next generation of Israelites
 on a journey to the Promised Land.
The Book of Joshua chronicles the battles, 
deaths and mayhem of violence
 of that journey which initially began in Egypt.
The Joshua anthology, there first major illumination 
in Historical Books from The Saint John's Bible, 
focuses on the crossing of the children of Israel 
into the Promised Land. 
In this Illumination, Donal Jackson sets up a number 
of visual design elements which reprise throughout 
the work and tie the threat of the volume together. 
An Egyptian border motif taken from a wall painting
 in the Valley of the Queens is seen cropping 
into the margins of the anthology page, 
and the addition of a bronze bull and scarab beetle 
continue the Egyptian references. 
The Children of Israel, after having fought their way
 to the Promised Land following so many years
 of Egyptian bondage, 
are still seduced by the pull of the plytheistic images, 
false idols,
and magical rituals of their Egyptians masters.
 Death, violence, and conflagration are present 
in the flames and the headless bodies floating 
down the river; the price of slaughter
 is paid by both sides of a conflict.
Despite this destruction, there is still hope;
 strong and stable arches rise in the center
symbolizing the Ark of the Covenant 
carried across the river and throughout the land.
 The Law of Moses, in the form of fragments from 
Thomas Ingmire's illumination 
of theTen Commandments, 
is jostled across the Jordan, through the ruined city,
between the hills and into the Promised land.
Slender batons of gold, active and present
 throughout the illumination
carry out the theme of God's constant presence
reminding all to
 "Put away the gods that your ancestors served
beyond the River and in Egypt,
 and serve the Lord."
Joshua 24:14
(the display notes at the Biggs Museum)

Thinking about what gods we serve today 
in our own lives- 
the influence of culture and who really masters us?

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The St. John's Bible- The Shema

 Hear, O Israel,
Special Treatment
Deuteronomy 6:4-5(NRSV)
Hazel Dolby
Scribe: Sue Hofton
Vellum with ink and paint

Throughout the St. John's Bible, 
special attention is given to verses of scripture
 referenced with the Rule of Benedict
 and of significant to the St. John's community 
prayer life or that of other traditions.
The Hear O Israel special treatments 
appears in Deuteronomy 6 
and is known as the Shema which, 
in Hebrew, means "to hear or listen." 
The Shema is an affirmation of Judaism
 and a proclamation of faith in one God. 
This profession of faith is often prayed 
by people of the Jewish faith
 every morning and evening, 
summing up the first and second commandments 
to "Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God,
 the Lord is One."

This verse also has significance 
to the St. John's Abbey monks since 
"listen" is the first rule in the Rule of St. Benedict. 
The rule, which governs the communal
 life of the monastery,
implores the monks to
 "listen with the ear of your heart."

The Shema illustration here highlights
 one of my personal highlights of this passage.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The St. John's Bible- The Ten Commandments

The Ten Commandments- 2003
Exodus 20:1-21 NRSV Translation
Thomas Ingmire
Scribe: Donald Jackson
Vellum, with ink, paint and gold
Hill Museum & Manuscript Library, 
Collegeville, MN

The theological brief from the 
Committee on Illuminations and Text
 required the artist to combine five different passages 
from Exodus into a single illumination. The brief also 
suggested that the giving of the Ten commandments 
represented a new creation-the gift 
of law bringing order 
to the chaos of human affairs. This was chosen as 
the principal image around which to group the others.

Depicted along the top of the composition
 are the burning bush,
 the first Passover, the crossing of the Red Sea, 
and the twelve pillars, 
representing the twelve tribes of Israel,
 erected at the foot of Mount Sinai. 
God's words are arrayed across them in gold letters. 
The lower half of the page contains 
the Ten Commandments, 
overlapping and dissolving the colored background.
 Instead of writing the words, the artist stenciled them, 
using the typeface of Stone Sans
 to emphasize the authoritarian nature of God's words.
(from the description of this work at the Biggs Museum)

What I especially liked in this visual translation 
is the thought of the 10 commandments 
bringing order to the chaos of human affairs.
How much our Heavenly Father wants us to live the abundant life.
 Living within the framework of the commandments
 brings His grace to our daily life.

Monday, January 11, 2016

The St. John's Bible- Genesis-Getting started

A very special Bible project 
was undertaken by St. John's University-
 Collegeville, MN.
It is the first commissioned,
 hand illustrated Bible 
project in over 500 years.
In mid- Dec, we were able 
to see the current display
 at the Biggs Museum in Dover, DE.
 Here is what the exhibit is:

"The Biggs Museum of American Art
 is exceptionally proud 
to be a rare American host of Illuminating the Word, 
The Saint John’s Bible. This international exhibition 
features 70 pages of The Saint John’s Bible, the 
first monumental hand-illuminated bible to be 
commissioned by a Benedictine monastery
 in over 500 years. 
Saint John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota, 
commissioned the enormous art project of an entire 
hand-painted bible: every word, every illustration,
 every image, from one of the best-known contemporary
 scribes and illuminators in the world, Donald Jackson. 
The artist’s team worked for almost fifteen years 
to adorn each vellum page of The Saint John’s Bible 
in the manner that medieval monks created bibles 
before the invention of the printing press: quill and ink. 
These inspiring accomplishments will be accompanied 
by a display of tools, materials and artists’ drafts used
 in the Bible’s creation along with other examples
 of historical illuminated books and manuscripts 
from the collection of Saint John’s University 
and private collectors. The exhibition will be 
accompanied by several educational tours, 
lectures and artist workshops 
for all skill levels honoring the ancient traditions
 of book arts."

I have decided to use these beautiful 
drawings for my meditation time this January.

"Marginalia, any writing or decorations found 
in the margins of a manuscript, was common in
 medival and renaissance manuscripts. 
Often the scribe or artist would 
personalize the manuscript 
by drawing fanciful decorations 
in the borders of a page. 
Later readers might make a note on the text, 
as many people do when using a textbook.
The marginalia found throughout 
The St. John's bible is decorative 
and enhances the aesthetic 
pleasure of the volumes."

For example - the butterfly and thistle 
are common in the Collegeville area 
and throughout Minnesota.
Other examples of flora and fauna are sprinkled 
throughout the volumes, and these visual elements 
ground the volumes geographically
 in north-central United States. 
(excerpts from display info)

I will be telling more right here 
about this amazing Bible- stay tuned.