The visible reminder of Invisible Light.”
― T.S. Eliot
In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.
(John 1:4,5,9 NIV)
It appears as if we have two contrasts again–seems to be the theme of the week–this time the contrasts are of Light and Dark.
Dark can be powerful as it tends to be a little scary and frightening. I tend to think of the things that hide in the dark. Must be a throw back to childhood and some traumatic moment… but the dark can certainly leave me rather unsettled. No, I don’t sleep with the lights on or anything like that but I do tend to be a bit weary when out at night. Dark also tends, to me, to feel heavy, like a big blanket that wants to envelop me….a little suffocating and claustrophobic.
On the other hand there is Light— the radiant brilliant light of day—a form of white that is almost blinding. It can be overwhelming and engulfing… but in a good way…a cleansing sort of way. It seems pure, sincere, real, honest. It too seems powerful, as if it can burn a hole right through me—searing away the impurities.
I unfortunately don’t have time today to elaborate on the making of the St. John Bible as I’m off to the airport for a quick trip to Chicago, but I’m including a link for you to click over and peruse the site yourself. The art work to me is a fine example of the use of light and of its very important role in not only art, but in the very being of who we are as created entities.
The St. John’s Bible is the first commissioned bible, to be completed by hand, since the invention of the printing press. As an art teacher, I have followed the progress of the Bible with great interest. The Royal Calligrapher, Donald Jackson, yes as in the Queen, was chosen to be the official artistic director. The work has been painstaking and laborious…having first started in 1988. The tools, the art, the paper, the inks, the paints…all natural and completed by hand…form the preparations of the vellum (a type of paper that is most translucent which is made from animal hide–it is stretched and sanded by hand to be the perfect receptor for the ink and paints), to the grinding of the paints and the application of the gold leaf. A beautiful work indeed!
One of my favorite images is from the cover page for the Gospel of John. The opening passage addresses the concept of “the very beginning” and what there was in the very beginning…and that was The Word—and then Life, and then Light…three powerful images (love the symbolism of three). How does one capture those powerful concepts with a visual image–how does one create a visual image of the utmost Divine…as a person who paints, I too have made attempts at trying to find a way to portray that very concept…only to fall painfully short.
But Donald Jackson has done a beautiful job portraying the Divine as Light—an illuminous ethereal figure emerging form the mix of a yet unsettled cosmos…the swirling mix of matter, power and energy—when suddenly a figure appears–a figure that is radiant and reflecting, shimmering in purity—not yet of solid matter…liquid, semi-solid… “Mary, do not touch me as I have yet ascended to my Father” (John 20:17)–it is a milla-moment of transformation–a time that encompasses incompletion…this is the moment prior, the time with Mary is the moment after….amazing….I am humbled and awed by this light. May you too feel its warm embrace….