St. James Cathedral of the Armenian Patriarchate in Jerusalem is one of the oldest Christian churches in Jerusalem. I had been there three times, twice with permission from Bishop Sevon to photograph.
St. James is not open to tourists during the day. The Church is open only for masses; morning, afternoon, special occasion: it is consecrated.
After morning mass, Bishop Sevon held my hand and griped my arm to lead me toward and in front of the St. James alter, giving me a lesson on consecration through the story of James.
He told me about consecration in a round about way using the Virgin Mary as a vehicle to explain why James was not the blood brother of Jesus the Messiah, but only a “brother” in terms of association, like in a fraternity, or an order, or a nationality, as the Jews welcome one another in such a way once it is determined you are Jewish upon meeting – like Christians too – brotherhood in the embodiment, but not by direct generational blood ancestry.
Bishop Sevon made the analogy thus: one would not take a Holy Chalice and fill it with common drink, or a plate that was consecrated and use it for every day common meals, so too with Mary, the vessel that held the divine through whom He entered this world.
Here is the dictionary definition: (verb)
1. to make or declare sacred; set apart or dedicate to the service of a deity: to consecrate a new church building.
2. to make (something) an object of honor or veneration; hallow: a custom consecrated by time.
3. to devote or dedicate to some purpose: a life consecrated to science.
4. to admit or ordain to a sacred office, esp. to the episcopate.
5. to change (bread and wine) into the Eucharist.
St. James is a consecrated space. The place itself is used for holy purpose and hence closed to tourists (though people are allowed in during mass to observe, though the Cathedral closes promptly with 10 minutes of mass ending).
As I observed three masses I noticed the rich and specialized singing, prayer, ritual that enacted and prepared the Holy Eucharist, the attention given everything showed intention of consecration and veneration. Respect to these things is taken serious. They are taken serious not because they are things, but because what these things represent in the Holy.
Much as icons serve as doorways through which one enters divine space by contemplation or simply through substitution, so too are these actions, this place, the (more…)
“Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”
A friend of mine recounted a experience she had that moved her when she was at a church where the Liturgy was intended to take the congregation in prayer and worship, in heart mind and spirit, up to meet God.
She said an old Gospel song came to mind singing the (more…)
It has been a time of transition for me, perhaps beginning with the breakdown of my laptop in Prague (see Bad Apple).
Now here we are again, nine months later, a new laptop is readied to make the journey and for editing photos, updating web communications for this blog and keeping in touch with people in the US from Jerusalem.
I am a new born into a new life having seen my business in the commercial arts disappear in a failing economy, moved out from my Laguna Beach, California residence of 28.5 years into a room and a storage unit – those are the travailing weights, emotionally and psychologically of the pregnancy, and pains of my labor – a new born into what I do not know, like a new born seeing life for the first time. From this, I do know, I must pursue this project of bringing awareness of the consecrated to the American church. I do know I am free to do that and that I must because I am freed to do that.
I have seen successful investment by sponsors to finance the upcoming (2009/10) Israel trip as well as invitations from across the country for me to come stay – photograph the life and consecrated spaces in the towns of my hosts: Manhattan, Washington D.C., Denver, Santa Barbara, Albuquerque, Chicago. Back to doing what is important to me. This blog can now be active again as I take the time to consider the consecrated and share this journey.
Bad Bad Apple
Thank you to the many who have been asking where the blog updates have been.
Yes I am behind with the blog, and I apologize. Yes, there is a problem.
My Apple Laptop has died. The screen has stopped working and the Apple store in Prague could not bring it back to life. Their service tech recommendation was to repair or replace my laptop when I get home. With out it, however, it is very difficult to edit the shots I take and post produce them for the blog. It looks like a new 17 will have to be purchased to replace my old 17. But that is for later and for now, the show must go on.
The management at the hotel has accommodated my pleas to load Lightroom (necessary for reading the 5d mkII RAW files) and Firefox so I could get to my MobileMe account. But with 512MB of RAM, it is VERY slow crunching (for those of you with Macs you will know this as the beach ball or colored wheel that comes up each time the system is having trouble calculating… or over burdened). It comes up so often I find myself falling asleep as if being hypnotized by a glistening watch swinging, and I am getting sleepy, sleepy, sleepy….
I am able, however to take the captured digital data form my CF cards and transfer them to two external hard drives for back-up. That is a very good thing!
For the time I will be traveling outside of Prague, I will not have access to this computer, now known as my office. But I will be back for a final week near the end of March and try to post a couple more reflections.
The blog will continue long after I return as it is here for consecrated space and not just for the Prague trip. So much of the shots will be edited back at home.
In the meantime, here are a couple shots from a church called Our Lady of the Snows.
This opening image reminds me of something I read in a book about the power of images.
I thought nothing of this Pieta when I saw it in the Church of St. Giles.
I documented it anyway.
It was later in the evening after editing the shot and after going to bed that I awoke from a shallow sleep, haunted. This image was on my mind and under my skin. The agony depicted in this shot didn’t take immediately but became more as it simmered sub consciously.
But not just the image of the dead Christ laying in His mother’s lap, His lifeless arm curled up over his heart, their faces separated by opposite direction and a dark cross looks as a shadow of death – not just that – but what was just out of the frame to the left.
Sitting forward on a bench, her back to me, with her head in her hands leaning toward the front of the church, was a girl who appeared troubled. She had come here obviously seeking solace from some hardship. The church was closed except for entry to the very back, the main of the church was behind a locked cast iron gate. And it was cold in there. For me the light was soft and I moved to the other side of the back to peer through the gate for something of interest.
Then I heard a wail from the girl, her agony was vocal.
Now it is the middle of the night in my hotel on my hard bed, and I am awake because of this image and that memory, and my lack of compassion at the time for that girl. And I think of the compassion of Christ even in death. And I think of Mary’s anguish for her son. And I think maybe I will remember this next time and not hesitate to being of help, if even to say a prayer for someone in pain when I encounter them. Even as I write this I am convicted. And I think of the dead Christ in Mary’s lap.
That statue, at the time, did not move me. But art can do this – it can resonate within us for consideration even becoming indelible.
3rd Day (2nd Day Out w/the Cameras) NEW TOWN new format.
As I pondered my next post, I thought of it starting something like this, “Nine hours walking cold cobblestone streets with 25 pounds slung over my shoulder is why Aspirin was invented.”
With each day of shooting comes a day and half of editing and post work, add another 1/2 day for the blog update and that means 3 days per outing. This doesn’t work for the time I have and the amount of images there are to acquire. That means something has to go. I have decided it is the Blog – at least in the current format.
I would love to keep everyone abreast of my travel, the sites, what I did, etc. but to be honest, that is not really what I had intended for the Blog. Although I am shooting more than consecrated spaces, as it is in my nature and curiosity for human activity that also propels the camera to my eye, or the embrace of sunlight to define an object from the shadow, the beautiful caress of an image to light the imagination… this Blog was to bring attention to and discuss the importance of Consecrated Space. I will share those photos with everyone on my list when I get back to the states.
With production hours in mind, I will have to produce fewer galleries as they take up the most time. When I have time I will post the galleries in a page that will be aptly named, “GALLERIES” and it will be located in the above drop down nav in the black bar called, “Pages”. I don’t know how many of those I will get to.
Something about a photo:
Photos have a life of their own. Though they are pictures of something that exists and was encountered, they are not that (they are … pictures, not the thing or the event). A photo tells its own story since it is removed from the event and the thing it echoes. Add to that the eye of the photographer and selective choice in bringing the image to the viewer, not to mention what the viewer brings to the image, how the image resonates with their feelings, thoughts… and it has its own life as a different creation. Like paintings, when unpacked, discussed, shared, they are a bridge on which dialog is met between people, and in the exchange of thoughts and feelings, abstract and intimate alike, we part with a piece of each other.
With that said, let US try something with this blog. If you are game.
EAGER TO GET TO IT… RECON
I hadn’t been checked in at the hotel for more than 30 minutes when I decided it was time to get out and into Prague and see what was around. A quick recon with one camera and a 35mm lens would be enough. It was raining lightly. It was Monday
Hotel 987 is only a five minute walk to Old Town Square. So, the adventure begins.
The electric crackle of the trams reminded me a lot of Milan, especially given that it is gray and rainy, the naked trees and lack of warmth impress a dreary post-apocalyptic tone to the outing. Modern structure in Winter gives me this feeling. It was Winter in Milan.
A chair on some scaffolding makes a nice silhouette against a gray blanket sky, and frames a walking woman carrying a folded umbrella.
Powder Blue Pepsi Lady, so European, adorns a building wall. I adore you as my landmark, seeing you, I know I am close to home. You are a fine backdrop to a red tram full of people this saturated day (are they dreaming of Pepsi too?).
Wet cobblestone spotted with Umbrella People makes for interesting shots. Red Umbrella, what are you thinking? Walk away, I am following you with my camera. click, click.
A lady runs in the rain, in a hurry for something, she is in black but framed by the pink St. Nicholas. A town square bristles with walkers and lookers, I am not the only one with a camera
Old Town Square, the rain, umbrellas, colorful architecture, all make for poetic studies.
Here are a few shots in the first Out & about gallery:
Many churches I find are closed, it is Monday. I hope that is the reason. Only one is open. St. Nicholas of Old Town Square (there is another St. Nicholas in the Little Quarter), open for entrance, though it is roped off inside offering limited access. Baroque style brings to mind an ornate wedding cake. It is currently open only for services and is famous for its public music performances (sadly for me, they begin in April).
Both this (1730’s) and the Little Quarter St Nicholas (1702) are the Baroque creations of architect Kryštof Dientzenhofer. Information abounds on the web.
Here are some shots of St. Nicholas II
With the St Charles Bridge under repair, another photo op denied me, I opt to meander toward the Jewish Quarter for a visit to the renowned Jewish Cemetery. Definitely a consecrated space, set aside for the rest of the dead and memory of the living.
12,000 tomb stones undulate poetically above an estimated 100,000 buried. Small pebbles rest atop the markers as wishes and prayers, offering respect to lives once lived.
New Town Wednesday…
In 2003, I was a painter.
It started innocently enough armed only with a Sony 717 camera and curiosity.
The trip was planned for Paris to see the Louvre and to see several of the “Seven Great Gothic Cathedrals”.
It turned a previous calling in painting a new direction; the study and proclamation of the consecrated and sacred.
France, where the Gothic style began with Abbot Suger and the mystical infusion of symbol where the structure itself became representative of the Holy Jerusalem, and also of the human body (New Testament folk should love the Metaphore here of the temple/ the body/ and an architectural form) all as a theological remembrance for a fallen world. A service from and to the Divine.
An idea of the spirit of this can be read here about the doors excerpted from Abbot Suger’s writings:
“Whoever thou art, if thou seekest to extol the glory of these doors,
Marvel not at the gold and the expense but at the craftsmanship of the work.
Bright is the noble work; but, being nobly bright, the work
Should brighten the minds, so that they may travel, through the true lights,
To the True Light where Christ is the true door.
In what manner it be inherent in this world the golden door defines:
The dull mind rises in truth through that which is material
And, in seeing this light, is resurrected from its former submersion.”
More insight to Abbot Suger’s thoughts.
Oddly, the one church I missed was the Abby Church of St. Denis – ground zero of the Gothic shift.
That month in France I photographed 30 churches in Paris, and about in the cities of Rouen, Chartres, Amien, Beauvais.