Thanks to a suggestion by the people at “Business Products”, our magazine now boasts a much more sophisticated cover. I now send a suitable photograph and text via my mobile telephone and Glen prints the required number of covers. Last month, the month of Christ the King, showed the “Majestas” (Christ in majesty) which hangs above the east window in Holy Trinity Church. This was based on Sir Ninian Comper’s figure of Christ which forms part of the tester (canopy) over the high altar at S. Cyprian’s, Clarence Gate, London. Comper used the image of the beardless Christ in many of his churches. The original is a painting in Palermo Cathedral in southern Italy. The tradition of painting Christ without a beard originates from beardlessness being associated with wealth and rank. Roman emperors and senators were among the people who could afford to shave or be shaved. Today it is hard to find a (young) man who hasn’t got a beard – not to mention wall-to-wall tattoos. Fashions come and go.
In Comper’s original there are two six-winged angels (Seraphim) above and behind the figure as well as two beneath His feet. In other depictions, Comper placed the Seraphim to left and right of Crucified. I adapted the images to the space and placed them in the bottom corners of the triangular space. Laurentiu, the Roumanian artist (then working in Liverpool at my home church of S. John, Tue Brook) took Comper’s design and gave it an Orthodox flavour. The angels at Christ’s feet (supporting Him) are called Thrones. These are angels mentioned in the Book of Ezekiel in the Old Testament who were seen as whirling wheels with eyes. Christ holds His right hand in blessing while His left hand bears the Book of the Gospels with the (Roumanian) Alpha and Omega, Christ the beginning and the end. It is very much the glorious Christ come in judgement at the end of time. All very appropriate given that we are entering the holy season of Advent when we celebrate Christ’s first and second coming.
So to the first coming. “When came in flesh the Incarnate Word, the heedless world slept on, and only simple shepherds heard that God had sent His Son.” This month’s cover shows the Holy Family in the stable as we have it beneath the altar in HTB. Although Pope Benedict XVI didn’t approve of such arrangements, I’m afraid that it works well in a tiny church like ours. As you will have read in last month’s magazine, the figures have been repainted and the manger scene will be refurbished in time for Christmass. Next month’s magazine cover should include a complete manger scene, the Magi having arrived for January 6th.
I write this on so-called “Black Friday” when the world is caught up in a shopping frenzy. Like Hallowe’en, this has been deliberately manufactured by the retail industry. Don’t let it all get you down. As Diane said (in The Royall Family) “Christmas isn’t for the children.” Well, not just for children. Christmass is for everyone who seeks to follow the Lord Jesus. He “became incarnate of the Virgin Mary”. In other words, God took flesh of Mary’s flesh in order to dwell among us. This is why we recite the Angelus three times a day, 0600, 1200, and 1800 – or whenever possible. Here it is, without the 3×3+9 bells which normally accompany the responses.
V. The angel of the Lord brought tidings to Mary.
R. And she conceived by the Holy Spirit.
V. Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
R. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and the hour of our death. Amen
V. Behold the handmaid of the Lord.
R. Be it unto me according to thy word.
V. Hail Mary…etc.
V. And the Word was made flesh.
R. And dwelt among us.
V. Hail Mary…etc.
V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
V. We beseech thee, O Lord, to pour thy grace into our hearts, that as we have known the incarnation of thy Son, Jesus Christ, by the message of an angel, so by His +Cross and Passion, we may be brought to the glory if His Resurrection, through the same Christ our Lord.