Double Vision

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Thomas and Peter are this writer’s favorite apostles. Thomas because he refused to believe unless he saw with his own eyes and confirmed “an idle tale” with his own hand; Peter because he was impetuous, quickly stepping onto the sea at Christ’s invitation only to plunge like a stone when his faith failed him.

It was through these two very different eyes — one of Thomas, the other of Peter — that we viewed Dennis Aubrey and PJ McKey’s Two Churches in the Cliffs on Via Lucis this morning.

The two churches on the cliffs appeared differently to these different eyes of faith.

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Apse, Église Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption (Alpes-de-Haute-Provence) Photo by PJ McKey

The apse of Église Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption with its narrow vertical window immediately elicited a Petrine sense of immediate belief. It held Peter’s eye for a long time.

Perhaps it was held by the yearning for the vertical, that which transcends the horizontal banality to which a mass culture has shrunk everything not of its own making. Perhaps it is the delight of hope from above that trembles the spine of the despairing. Or perhaps it’s the beauty of the apse’s proportionality, the genius of the central Christian symbol: the intersection of the horizontal by the more gracious vertical — the horror of human cruelty interrupted and transformed by the unexpected shaft of light and the still small Voice heard by Elijah in his cave.  Or all of the above and more.

But Thomas is never far beyond Peter. It is the Thomas in us that asks the hard questions, insists on separating fact from fiction, reality from illusion, good faith from what Sartre called bad faith. It is Thomas whose faith couldn’t make itself piggy-back on the shoulders of the other apostles’ story of having met the risen Christ. It was Thomas who insisted that he see for himself the evidence for “seeing” or believing in hope beyond the horror of the suffering, cruelty, and death his eyes had seen days before on the Hill of Skulls.

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Chapelle Notre Dame de Beauvoir, Moustiers-Sainte-Marie (Alpes-de-Haute-Provence ) Photo by ICE-Marseille, courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

 

 

Which brings us to the second church on the cliff — the story of the stillborn in Via Lucis‘ post that awakens Thomas’ skepticism.

“Notre Dame de Beauvoir was known for its suscitations – stillborn children were carried up and baptised there, at which time they would immediately come to life and would be granted a place in heaven. This was a well-known phenomenon in the region and also known at two neighboring churches.”

While the thought of stillborn children immediately coming back to life appeals to Peter, it offends Thomas as an idle tale for the feeble of heart and mind. It’s either true or it’s not. And, if it’s true, what kind of cruel God would deny the same to the stillborn children and grieving parents who have not carried them up the steps to Notre Dame de Beauvoir for suscitations? Or is the tradition of Notre Dame de Beauvoir a sacred story of love and hope beyond what the empiricist eye of Thomas can see?

We have a left brain and a right brain, and sometimes it is true that never the twain shall meet. Likewise, faith has two eyes: Peter the believer, and Thomas the doubter — its own kind of double vision — looking out and up from one small brain.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, July 6, 2017.

 

 

Who’s taking the pictures? Who’s singing?

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Re-blogging Dennis Aubrey’s photographic essay today (see previous post) took me back to the sermon Dennis inspired years ago with his experience in the basilica dedicated to Mary Magdalene in Vizelay, France.

At the end of a week in Chaska when my cup has been overflowing with reasons to touch again the power of the non-rational that is deeper than what goes on in my spinning head, we republish “The Stones Are Singing” in thanksgiving for Dennis’s and PJ McKee’s influence on me and Dom Angelico’s influence on them.

Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, June 11, 2017.

The Monk in the Morvan Forest (Dennis Aubrey)

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We post Dennis Aubrey’s latest epistle for a number of reasons. Readers of Views from the Edge may recall that the Via Lucis photographic essay on the stones singing at Vizelay inspired a sermon on the stones singing. Here the monk who wrote the history of these Romanesque churches comes out from the shadows in a lovely tribute by Dennis, complete with pictures of PC and Dom Angelico Surchamp.

Via Lucis Photography

We are finally home again after two months photographing in France, Spain, and even a little bit of Italy. We drove 6,960 kilometers during that time at an arrive speed of 51 kilometers an hour, which translates to 4,344 miles and a dazzling 32 miles per hour. This demonstrates the narrowness of the country roads where we drive and the amount of time we spent in the Pyrénées and Alps. Until we hit the highway returning to Paris, the average speed was 48 kilometers per hour!

The trip ended in Vézelay at the Crispol hotel, which is almost like home to us. The Schori family is always so welcoming and the addition of the two children Max and Clémence makes it even brighter. It is always bittersweet leaving France. We love it there but we are always anxious to return home, this time to our new house amidst the Amish

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Tuesday Photo Challenge – Round Up 58

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This street scene from Tuscany was waiting in this morning’s inbox – an invitation to appreciate the beauty of architecture, age, and historical preservation, cobblestone  streets, sun light, an unhurried conversation, and a walk with a dog.

Dutch goes the Photo!

Welcome to the 58th round up of the Tuesday Photo Challenge!

You took to the streets and provided a great deal of wonderful insight!  I really appreciate the great posts that you provided and particularly enjoyed your creative way to approach some of the subtleties that make for great photographs of streets and street photography.

Thank you for all those wonderful posts and providing me with some inspiring posts to read!

Now that I’m back (and spent a good part of the day off-loading my images and organizing them), I took a quick stab at this view of one of the streets in Volterra…

20170522-Volterra_DSF1356_7_8_tonemappedStreets of Volterra

Volterra is a town that should be on everyone’s must visit list in Tuscany; it has a true charm and great variety of sites to visit all well within walking distance.  From Etruscan to Roman and Renaissance, there is wonderful representation within Volterra.

The…

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Easter

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Artists often say it best. Jacopo da Pontormo‘s painting of the peaceful Christ rising above “the guards who shook and became like dead men” (see text below) invites us this Easter to ponder afresh Christ’s hidden reign in the world in which violence, militarism, and imperial ambitions still feign to rule.

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Jacopo da Pontormo (1494-1556)

For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead,and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me”  [Gospel according to Matthew 28:4-10]

Jacopo da Pontormo helps me see what the mind cannot fathom. Christ is Risen! In spite of all appearances to the contary, Christ is Risen! Alleluia! He is risen, indeed!

Gordon C. Stewart, in Galilee of Chaska, MN, Easter, April 16, 2017.

A Murmuration of Starlings

Click HERE for a moment of murmuration wonder and delight, compliments of The Atlantic and Carolyn Kidder, who brought it to our attention.

My mother didn’t like Starlings, but she never saw anything quite like this.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 12, 2017.

Book Launch Invitation

Those of you who live in the Twin Cities Area of Minnesota are invited to breathe deeply and celebrate the launch of Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness. Books will be available at a friendly price! The evening begins with brief remarks and a short reading, followed by a lively Q and A, ending with refreshments and a author book signing.

Click HERE to view the invitation from Shepherd of the Hill Church and The Sower Gallery, and let them know you’re coming. Or . . . just come! at the last minute.

Date: Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017

Time: 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. Doors open at 6:30

Location: Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church is located at the southeast corner of State Highway 41 (Chestnut Street) and Engler Boulevard in Chaska.

The gracious people of Shepherd of the Hill, the Sower Gallery, and I would love to see you there!

Grace and Peace,

  • Gordon, Chaska, MN, January 24, 2017.

Be Still!

Yesterday was a day to celebrate. The publisher of BE STILL! Departure from Collective Madness graciously agreed to used Vincent van Gogh‘s painting from the asylum of Saint-Rimy as the Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness’s cover.

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“Prisoners Exercising (After Dore)” – Vincent van Gogh, 1890. Also called “The Prisoners’ Round”

Today Be Still! is going through the final steps before publication by Wipf and Stock Publishers in Eugene, Oregon.

It will take two to three weeks before Be Still! will appear on Amazon. You will find it sooner on the Wipf and Stock site at reduced price. Those in the Greater Twin Cities will be invited to a book launch and book signing party where Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness will be available at reduced cost.

Grace and Peace,

Gordon

 

 

 

Why a Manger?

“This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” [Gospel of Luke]

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Tintoretto, 1518-1594. The Nativity from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.

Why a manger, the animals’ feeding trough? Why does Tintoretto’s babe seem to be so interested in the animals? Why are the animals so comfortable around him?

Luke is doing theology, which is not everyone’s cup of tea! But we all engage in it. It’s about Reality and what we believe most deeply about it.

“Good” theology — if we may be permitted to use the word in a world which is of the opinion that one opinion is just as “good” as another — seeks to connect the dots between the past, the present, and the future. Traditional Christian theology arcs back to the “goodness” of the beginning (creation) and anticipates the redemption of all things in light of the Christ-event – the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

As often happens, I heard Luke’s birth narrative this year in ways I had yet to put into words.

Could Luke himself have been arguing for what we now know in light of climate change: that we humans are of the same order as the cows, the chickens, goats, and sheep among whom Jesus of Nazareth was born? That is, we are not a superior species. We are not the exception to nature. And the redemption of reality itself includes the entirety of nature — the rescuing of nature from its despair and destruction by human hands.

So it was to poor shepherds, tending their flocks by night that the angel said,

“Do not be afraid; for see -I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”

Joyous Nowell, Merry Christmas, Happy Earth Day,

Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Christas Day, Dec. 25, 2016.

 

Peace and Hope after the Election

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El Greco‘s “Pantocrator – Christ” feeds my anxious soul in a way words do not this Sunday after the American national election.

Christ’s eyes are knowing, sorrowful yet composed, searching deep within me. The right hand offers the blessing of peace while the left hand rests gently on the globe, the assurance that he is still the pantocrator (“all-ruler”) whose reign, though hidden, is trustworthy and real.

We republish El Greco‘s “Pantocrator – Christ” with thanks to the Vanderbilt Divinity School Library with the following attribution:

Greco, 1541?-1614. Pantocrator – Christ, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=48051 [retrieved November 13, 2016]. Original source: http://www.yorckproject.de.

I didn’t attend worship this morning. I didn’t want any more words. I stayed home with El Greco and a brief word from Isaiah (Is. 65:19).

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, November 13, 2016.