We have been asked about the pictures we chose for our prayer cards, and as there was not enough room on the cards themselves to include a description, we thought we would tell you a little about them here. They were all chosen as examples of English spiritual art (a reminder that the ‘riches of English spirituality’ on which we have drawn for Called To Be Holy are not confined to the written word). All of these images have been used to enhance the worship of God through the ages.
Lent – St Michael and the Dragon
This is a detail from the Syon Cope, now in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. It was made between about 1300 and 1320 and is an example of Opus Anglicanum, the elaborate embroidery for which the English were particularly famous. The image refers to Revelation 12: 7-8,
‘And war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back, 8 but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.’
This seemed a good image to contemplate during Lent.
image © Victoria & Albert Museum
Passiontide – the Crucifixion
Above the altar of the Chapel of St George and the English Martyrs in Westminster Cathedral is the last carving made by the sculptor and typeface designer Eric Gill, who died in 1940. It shows Christ the Universal King reigning triumphant from the Cross; to his left stands St Thomas More, Lord Chancellor of England, and to his right St John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester. Both men were executed in 1535 for their refusal to deny the Supremacy of the Pope under King Henry VIII. Visitors are invited to pray here for the unity of the Church, the wounded Body of Christ:
‘Lord, we pray for all those who
witness to the Gospel in this land.
May all Christians work to heal
divisions within the Church,
So that together we may bear witness to Jesus Christ.’
(Read more here)
Easter – the Risen Christ with his wounds
During the Protestant iconoclasm of the sixteenth century the image was painted over with whitewash and words in Black Letter script from Cranmer’s Bible of 1539: For coueteousnes of money is the roote of all euyll… (1 Timothy 6: 10-12).
We can now see the restored image and look again, as Christians before us did, on the face of the risen Lord.
image © Evelyn Simak
Pentecost – The Tree of Life
Many people will recognise this as an illustration from the Lindisfarne Gospels: an illuminated manuscript gospel book produced around the year 700 in a monastery on Lindisfarne (or Holy island) off the coast of Northumberland. It can now be seen in the British Library in London. The manuscript is one of the finest examples of ‘Insular’ art which combines Mediterranean, Anglo-Saxon and Celtic elements.
This is what is sometimes called a ‘carpet page’: the geometric design with a repeated pattern squares represents the Gospel being taken to the four corners of the world. The Cross is empty – Christ is risen – but the whole page teems with symbols of new life in the Spirit. Among the rich colours, red represents life-blood and love, while gold stands for the radiance of heaven. The knot work, with spiral patterns going into the centre and back again, tells us about the journey into God of the Christian life; the intertwined animals and birds framing the Cross represent creation in all its vitality.
(this post is taken from the Called to be Holy website)