Only the Splendor of Light

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What we now see through the Hubble telescope is poetry written on a grand scale much larger than our mortal minds can fathom.

A deep infrared view of the Orion Nebula from HAWK-ILong before the Hubble and long before the onset of climate departure that rocks our illusion of the human species’ exception to nature, Walter Chalmers Smith‘s poetry gave voice to the sense the Hubble elicits, the sense of mortal awe looking at what we cannot fathom.

How do you express the inexpressible mystery of the Creator whose name was unutterable in Hebrew Scriptures, save the self-described “I AM”? How do you put into words what cannot be known? How do you sing about the One who is ineffable — beyond all words? —  Professor C. Michael Hawn, Perkins School of Theology, “History: ‘Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise’.”

Poetry is the language of faith. Perhaps it is also the language of God, the Ineffable.

To all, life Thou givest, to both great and small,
in all life Thou livest, the true life of all;
we blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree,
and wither and perish, but naught changeth Thee.

Great Father of glory, pure Father of light,
Thine angels adore Thee, all veiling their sight;
all praise we would render, O help us to see
’tis only the splendor of light hideth Thee!

— Walter Chambers Smith (1824-1908), “Immortal, Invisible God Only Wise” (1867), stanzas three and four.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, October 30, 2017.

Double Vision

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?

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)

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

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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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.

Farmer walking through fields in Kumta

Scroll down for Joshi Daniel’s photograph that inspired this reflection.

Tourists and residents see things differently. Actually, it’s more than that. They see different things, like the farmer walking through the field in Kumta, and this tourist website that introduces would-be visitors to Kumta.

Today we’re tourists in Beynac-et-Cazenac, one of the loveliest places we’ve ever experienced. Well, i,e. experienced as tourists. But even a tourist (we’ve rented a house      for the week (pictures to follow) recognizes the slower pace of this medieval town on the banks of the Dordogne River.

The Experiment in International Living (EIL) offered a deeper way of seeing the world forty years ago. That summer I lived with a host family in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia. Immersed in the daily life of my Slovakian family and students at the university, I was not a tourist. I cared nothing about the sites a tourist might visit. I walked everywhere, paying attention to where I was, looking more deeply, more thoughtfully – being more present, one might say – less disembodied, less virtual, less distracted, not as entertained, but so much happier in my body.

Like the Experiment in International Living, Kosuke Koyama encouraged me to slow down, to walk instead of run by, drive past, or fly over – to see the dailyness and the natural field of the man Joshi’s photograph. God, said Kosuke, is a three-mile-an-hour God who meets us at the pace of human being walking.

Momentarily, we’ll walk very slowly down the steep hill into the village on Sunday morning in this beautiful place. If we go to fast, we’ll fall on our faces.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Beynac-et-Cazenac, June 12, 2016.

Joshi Daniel Photography

A farmer walking through fields in Hegde, Karnataka while holding a basket Farmer walking through the fields | Hegde, Kumta, Karnataka, India

If you would like to buy a print of any of the images, get in touch with me here.

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Cathédrale Saint-Nazaire de Béziers (Dennis Aubrey)

Once again Dennis Aubrey’s writing and photography on Via Lucis Photography of Religious Architecture offers a rare jewell worthy of wider circulation.

Via Lucis Photography

Beziers has fallen!
They’re dead.
Clerks, women, children:
No quarter.

They killed Christians too.
I rode out,
I couldn’t see nor hear a living creature.
I saw Simon de Montefort.
His beard glistened in the sun.

They killed seven thousand people!
Seven thousand souls who sought sanctuary
In St. Madeline’s.
The steps of the altar were wet with blood.
The church echoed with their cries.

Guiraut Riquier, troubadour (Translated by Martin Best)

In 1130, the master builder Gervais built a Romanesque cathedral in the thriving episcopal town of Béziers. Built eighty years before Notre Dame de Paris, it had a comparable nave height as that Gothic masterpiece and was 50 meters long. Evidence given at the time indicates that it was a truly remarkable structure but it lasted only 79 years. The Cathedral of Saint Nazaire was burnt to the ground on July 22, 1209.

We went to Béziers in…

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Cherubic smile

Joshi Daniel’s photograph reminds viewers of the power of inner joy. Thank you, Joshi, for using your extraordinary gift in a way that makes the world a better place.

Joshi Daniel Photography

Black and white portrait of an old woman with an angelic smile from Trivandrum, Kerala Old woman with a cherubic smile | Trivandrum, Kerala, India

This charming old lady kept on speaking to me while I took this photo of hers.

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