29 January 2016

Labyrinth At Rivendell

No. 1854 - 16 Nov 2011 - 16:46:02

26 January 2016

Selected Articles From PAX Quarterly Magazine

In The Beginning*
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

     It was with this simple and powerfully clear phrase that William Tyndale (c. 1494-1536) began the Gospel of St. John in his groundbreaking translation of the New Testament from the original Greek, published in 1526 using the latest movable type printing press technology.
     His focus was not on the turn of phrase, but on its purpose and accessibility.  He believed that scripture should be known "... even by the boy that driveth the plough."  Although he lived for the final twelve years of his life in exile on the continent, hounded and reviled by academic rivals and religious authorities (two kings and a Pope - and at a time in history when people were being burned alive for simply possessing a copy of the Lord's Prayer in English), he persisted in his dangerous and solitary work of translating scripture.  In his own words, he sought to "interpret the sense of the scripture and the meaning of the spirit."
     Tyndale was a gifted linguist with a genius for translating, and became fluent in French, German, Italian, Spanish, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew along with the under-valued Middle English of his homeland.  Influenced by the work of Luther and Erasmus, he translated the New Testament and the Pentateuch (first five Books of the Old Testament) from Greek and Hebrew into a precise, rhythmic, and idiomatic written vernacular now recognized as early Modern English.  F. F. Bruce writes that "Tyndale, working in the white heat of potential martyrdom, rises at times to a poetic glow, transcending the style of the original Greek" (The Book and The Parchments).

     Within months of his execution in 1536, his scriptural translations were legally published in England but not under his name.  Although expunged from the record, his language, skill and faith went on to live in the six versions of the English Bible leading up to the KJV.  In 1611 the committees of scholars, authorized by King James I to write a standardized English version of the Bible, used up to 85% of Tyndale's translation of the New Testament and 75% of the Old Testament that he was able to translate before his imprisonment (where he was denied pen and paper).  Remarkably, they retained the archaic endings of the early 16th century that were already falling out of use.  In doing so they created an authoritative yet highly readable version that would travel around the world to become a classic.  From The Book of Common Prayer, to the King James Bible, to the Wesleyan Hymnody and on into the twentieth century, the sacred language of Anglicanism has been essentially that of Tyndale.
     His impact on Modern English is historic and it is upon Tyndale's shoulders that Shakespeare, Donne, Milton and all the rest, under the sun, stand.  The lively and unadorned phraseology was - and has become - an inseparable part of everyday speech and vocabulary wherever people speak the language of the Book: I am the way, the truth, and the life ... Let not your hearts be troubled ... A small still voice ... A labour of love ... The writing is on the wall ... See eye to eye ... By the sweat of your brow ... Eat, drink, and be merry ... The salt of the earth ... Nothing new under the sun ... For everything there is a season ... and hundreds more.

Although his ability to translate the spirit of the Word is now legendary, his legacy is still not widely or sufficiently known.  However, it is unlikely that Tyndale would have worried about the outcome of his own reputation.  It was in the person of this brave, modest man that the Holy Spirit lived - and continues to live - in the presence of his life's work. 

* PAX: No. 23 St. John The Baptist © 2014 

17 January 2016

Selected Articles From PAX Quarterly Magazine

No. 0979 - 31 Jul 2012 - 17:14:47

The Gate of Heaven*
     "The church is a house with a hundred gates 
and no two men enter at exactly the same angle."
                                                                                            -- G.K. Chesterton

      There is a transformative rhythm to the architecture of a church -- from narthex to tower -- that touches the senses from first sight to last sound.  In this sacred space, where deep-lasting spiritual change is an on-going process, my prayer is gratitude.  I bring a camera eye with me whenever I enter through its various gates, never failing to marvel at the physical beauty and emotional calm of the building itself.  Outside may feel like the valley of the shadow of death but inside is the knowing of sanctuary.
     To enter formally, through the front doors of St. James', from the bright light of day on the street corner and into the relative quiet and darkness of the narthex, is to walk immediately into another realm.  The pace slows as ones vision adjusts in the subdued light coming through the leaded windowpanes.

No 1103 - 25 Feb 2014 -m 15:11:14

     In fact the whole interior of the church is bathed in the light coming from its many narrow, arched windows.  It pulls the viewer out of the contained entrance, to the left and into the high, open expanse of the nave.  This is the main body of the church where the parish congregates out of a desire to know the Word of God, and it is from the centre of this space that the Holy Gospel is proclaimed.
     At the easternmost end of the nave, across the transept and up the steps to the chancel bar are the sanctuary and altar where parishioners and clergy give offerings and prayers and where all kneel to receive the Eucharist -- a statement of belief witnessed and shared.
     Overhead, the apse is the barrel-vaulted ceiling that rises up over and around the sacred space in a constructed embrace of acceptance.  It is protective of the altar, the Host and the rite of communion.
      There are, surrounding this procession of architectural details, a series of chapels that heighten the intentions of individual worshippers.  The Blessed Sacrament Chapel behind the ambulatory and the Lady Chapel to the right of the nave, provide more intimate and quiet places for daily prayers and masses while the Baptistry, to the right of the narthex, is an exquisite setting for the rite of baptism especially on a candlelit Holy Night.  And finally, the choir gallery over the west end of the nave is surely a kind of chapel to the choristers and organists whose spiritual offering is music.

No 6372 - 26 May 2014 - 20:39:09

     Under all of this is the crypt, the scene of the action where the work of the parish continues to maintain the edifice and its inhabitants.  Currently it is where the guilds and caretakers store their tools and supplies and where local children (Saint James Music Academy) learn to play classical music; it has also long been a home for festivals, fellowship, and community service.
     Lastly, and overhead all of this, is the bell tower that holds an eight-bell carillon and is the very expression of allowance it its purpose.  Whether calling the faithful to prayer or ringing out the exultation of a festival day, the sound of bells pealing is an invitation to the moment, an opportunity to let go of worry and experience a joyful feeling.
     The journey through a church can reveal the meaningful exchange between the physical, material world and the deeply cherished spiritual values at the crux of faith.
     A more comprehensive exploration of church architecture and the spiritual journey can be found in The Geometry of Love, by Margaret Visser -- a transfiguring study of "space, time, mystery and meaning in an ordinary church."

No. 3219 - 17 Mar 2014 - 18:49:46

*  PAX: No. 27, St. John The Baptist © 2015

15 January 2016

Barnacle Love Match

No. 6042 - 06 Sept 2010 - 13:39:52


12 January 2016

Selected Articles From PAX Quarterly Magazine

The Sound of Sanctity*

     My neighbourhood is noisy, located as it is on a busy artery in downtown Vancouver, with its almost constant traffic, rants, fights, sirens and shrieking gulls.  Still, my home is comfortable and attractive and my neighbours are simply engaged in ordinary living under extraordinary circumstances.  But there is one notable sound that lingers purposefully and contemplatively, and it is made by the bell in the tower of St. James' Anglican Church at Gore Avenue and East Cordova Street.  Three times daily I have the opportunity to pause and listen with an open heart.  I am transfixed and yet mindful as the traffic sounds fall away and random dysfunction ceases momentarily.  Of course the scene at hand soon returns to "normal", but there is always another ringing promised, another respite.

      The bells were given to the church by the Reverend Fr. Robert Grange Harker -- Fifth Rector of St. James' from 1920-21-- twelve years after his return to England.  He was instrumental in the long-distance planning, financing, designing and building of the third church of St. James' (with the determined interest of the indomitable Reverend Canon Fr. Wilberforce Cooper who managed and drove the project on site).  By securing both the services of talented architect Adrian Gilbert Scott, and the matching funds necessary for the construction of the building, their vision was realized by 1935 although it would take another ten years to complete the work fully.  Fr. Harker's gift of the bells was meant to be anonymous, but it was a poorly kept secret.  He was said to be delighted with the inscription written by Fr. Whitehead and concealed on the small treble bell, very much like the medieval custom of punning inscriptions.  It reads: GOD BLESS THE MUSIC OF THESE BELLS AND TREBLY BLESS THE HARKER.

 Bells have been associated with religious rituals since the early Middle Ages in Northern Europe where the earliest bell-founders were probably monks.  Foundries have since sprung up wherever the founders have lived, and one of the oldest surviving sites is Taylor's of Loughborough in Leicestershire, England.  Here the bells of St. James' were cast in 1936, shipped through the Panama Canal and arrived at the Ballantyne Pier in November of 1937.  It was stipulated that, once installed, the bells could not be rung until the bills were paid and the bells were installed in time for a 1937 Christmas Eve ringing.

Fr. Harker believed that it would be difficult to find adequate bell-ringers on these "remote" shores, so he had the eight bells made into an instrument called a chime.  The 42-hundredweight ring of eight is set into an iron framework box, each bell equipped with a clapper attached to a wire cable which in turn runs down a rope and pulley system to the console in the corridor behind the high altar.  It has a diatonic scale from C to C with inner tuning that allows for fully harmonized music.  Our console specialists, Lesley and David Evans, have written that "although this ring of bells cannot be 'rung' in the true sense (that is by circle ringing), they can be played by a carilloneur, by a roll mechanism or by playing the eight white notes on the 'piano' keyboard."

   The sound I hear daily is of the largest bell, the covering C, the tenor, weighing over 2,000 kg and with a diameter of 60.5 inches.  It has an extra clapper attached to a rope that leads down to the church where it is rung for Angelus, Sanctus and tolled for the death and last departure of parishioners (possibly the last church in Vancouver to do so).  Its inscription reads SOUND SOUND THE GLORIOUS GOSPEL TO THE PRAISE OF GOD AND TO THE HONOUR OF ALL WHOSE WORDS AND DEEDS PROCLAIMED IT IN THESE PARTS 1881-1936.  It offers the sound of sanctity to this neighbourhood and gives me solace amidst the frequent chaos.

      Editor's note:  The console referred to above has recently been removed for restoration and repair -- at substantial cost, which is being partially borne by one anonymous donor, with the hope that others will offer help.  The bells and clappers in the tower are also being refurbished -- obviously in situ.

* PAX: No. 16 Michaelmas 2012

02 January 2016