Wednesday, December 16

advent 2009

On a recent trip to Ireland, I visited Trinity College. Trinity is an iconic Irish institution. The college was founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I “to civilize Ireland with both learning and the Protestant religion … for the reformation of the barbarism of this rude people.”

Emerging from the tunnel-like entrance into the cobbled enclosure of Parliament Square, you are exposed to the Georgian grandeur in the peaceful heart of Trinity College. Beyond all of this beauty, what holds fast in my memory is the Book of Kells. Renowned as the most beautiful book in the world, this glorious and priceless collection is no doubt the star attraction at Trinity College. These 680 pages of monkish Latin script and painting present a virtuoso display of richness of imagination, breadth of humor and wit, and faithful observation of the world of nature, all executed with a breathtaking delicacy of touch. The monks copied out and illustrated the four Gospels at the Monastery of Kells in County Meath around the year 800. These skills may have been learned in St. Columba’s celebrated monastery on the Scottish island of Iona. The monkish illustrators used chalk for white color, lead for red, lapis lazuli for blue, and obtained black from carbon and green from copper verdigris. Over the centuries the colors on the much-admired principal pictorial pages have faded. Even with the fading they remain a symbol of devotion that has been treasured and preserved.

We at First Baptist are blessed with many traditions and symbols that we should treasure and preserve. Among my favorite traditions is decorating the Chrismon trees. We have beautiful handmade Chrismon ornaments that are treasures and symbols to us as Christians. They may not hold the historic prominence of the Book of Kells, but they share both symbolic value and deep respect for our faith. Lots of love and attention went into making them. Even their placement on the tree is significant. During the season of Advent try to look at the different ornaments and what details they each have. Go online or to the library and expand your knowledge of Christian symbols. Visit other churches and study their Chrismon trees. Invite your friends to come see ours. They are definitely symbols we should cherish.

– Liz Palles

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