We stood admiring the colour and narrative in the grand windows. An elderly woman with her middle aged daughter began to leave, the older woman commented loudly that she didn't see the appeal 'too modern', 'childlike'.
Our circuit on the Covid-friendly tour of Canterbury Cathedral was drawing to an end. We came into the final area beholding quietly the vibrant glass panels. Beautifully saturated colours, bold in design and telling a story not usually expected in this setting. We read the little plaque that renowned artist Ervin Bossanyi was commissioned to design the 'Salvation' and 'Peace' windows (1956), the former depicting the emancipation of jews from the Nazi concentration camps. Bossanyi himself was interned in France during World War I as an "enemy alien" - he was originally a Hungarian Jew. Bossanyi escaped Nazi Germany in the 1930's. You can read more about his legacy and the two windows here, stunning. Elizabeth Goudge fans would be interested to know he also designed a window which sits in Ely Cathedral.
They were indeed different in style, how could they not be, centuries spanned their installation and that of the others. As we turned to leave a male voice from behind us spoke, "Would you like me to tell you more about the windows you're looking at?". Not missing the opportunity for a personal guide we jumped at the offer!
As he pointed and walked us through the details it was as if our eyes were opened afresh and we saw them as they truly were for the first time; the whites of the eyes in the desperate prisoners, the haste to leave seen in the knocking over of the water vessel, family members waiting to be reunited, a lighted area around the liberator appearing as angel wings, the heavy doors flung wide, barbed wire, a broken chain, a man clutching his bible, the serpent slithering away bottom right, the candle which symbolised the coming light. They were suddenly breathtaking, alive! "Is that a swastiker shape in the padlock key hole?" my son asked. He was taken aback, it was his planned last point to draw our attention to and apparently people don't usually spot it. It's in the second and third window squares down on the left hand side, can you see it?
There are many more wonderful details I could point out, you can read about them in the link above if you're interested.
I came away from that encounter uplifted and fed in my soul. We had stood in awe and wonder as he skilfully unpacked the story like a gift before us. Two thoughts struck me and began to bubble up in my heart over the following days.
Firstly: my need for a guide.
I was reminded of the Ethiopian eunuch spoken of in the bible. This particular man is sitting in his chariot reading heaven sent words, the most incredible life changing words ever encountered. He's a diligent student yet doesn't understand what he's reading. Though he study, re-read and pour over them, with all his efforts their deeper meaning remains distant, lifeless. Then, it's as if we're in God's classroom and God the teacher looks over at his young pupil to see him struggling. He gestures to his TA Philip as if to say, 'Hey, go lend that chap a hand will you'. Philip literally springs into action, *keen as mustard!
"Philip ran up and heard the man reading the prophet Isaiah, and asked,
“Do you understand what you are reading?” The Ethiopian replied,
“Well, how could I understand unless someone guides me correctly?”
And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. **
What we see now is the unfolding of truth as if hidden in plain sight, skilfully revealed by a guide who brings his student into a fullness of understanding. I can imagine the joy, the relief, the sense of enlightenment at that exchange.
Sometimes I struggle on and on with something trying to figure things out for myself when what I need is a guide, a skilled mentor, someone to come alongside and help me understand what it is I'm wrestling over. I'm
reluctant to ask for help, falsely believing I need to be strong or that I can do it on my own. But seeking or accepting help is a gift not a weakness, it can only add not take away.
Another remarkable example is of the two men on the road to Emmaus and the risen Jesus in Luke 24:13-31. The Holy Spirit is also spoken of as the 'one who comes alongside and reveals truth' to us. John 14:16, 16:13.
Whether I need a mentor, counsellor or teacher, it's such a good and healthy thing to seek out voices which can bring me forward. Maybe you're feeling a bit stuck today, my prayer is that you'll go after what it is you need.
Secondly: my need to stay childlike.
I felt sad for the older woman who walked away. Not having seen the details of the story in the windows, not being open to it, she had gone away empty yet in her mind her cup was full. When there's no room for new discoveries, no curiosity or wonder, how can we be filled with awe?
I remember once when we were playing host and doing the tourist bit here, we pulled up to Stonehenge. My tribe sprang from the car to see the ancient monoliths. As we stood silently gazing, drinking in the palpable history, one member of our party stayed in the car, "Aren't you coming to look, don't you want to see?" my young son shouted back, "Na, it's just a pile of rocks".
We were all there, we all saw the same thing yet we came away with a different experience.
If I come at life full I leave empty. How can you teach a know-it-all? Jesus rejoiced that beautiful things were revealed to babes not the so-called wise people, Matt 11:25.
Lord help me to approach life with an open childlike heart to see the wonder and joys laid before me!
And so speaking of joys, would you like to see some holiday snaps then I'll tell you about my giveaway!
We needed this time away together on many levels. Hubby is still recovering from having Covid and also concussion, we never know what each day is going to bring and we've been navigating this since April. Not only did my young man need some fun and action but hubby could have a quiet week of undisturbed sleep and a quiet home to focus on the little work he does have. It was a key time to be together prior to my son's exam phase starting this week, I knew after this we'd be locked into term times, something us Home Edders are not usually bound by! And time to be with my two young adults, to walk, talk, drink wine, share secrets, play Uno, be windswept into cafes and castles, and walk the white cliffs of Dover, seemed like a grand way to build relationships into the adult years, who knows how long I will have to do this.
So, we took off spur of the moment, carpe diem! I found an AirBnB in Ramsgate on the Southeast coast of England, we used this as our base to explore the area over four days. Here are my simple pics of delights, quirks and joys to share with you my friends. I'll label them above the image where needed.
A fraction of Canterbury Cathedral, it's truly colossal and magnificent!
The fudge maker. The smell was tremendous and drew us all in. Yes we bought some!
Fun at the arcade. We even bought some candy floss to take home. We have VERY windswept hair!
Fish 'n' chips on Deal beach, of course we had to.
Never far away! "Excuse me Miss, do you have a permit for that sandwich?"
Broadstairs beach, Kent.
Ramsgate architecture. The Granville Ramsgate Hotel Designed by Edward Welby Pugin, his memorial bust can be seen in front. Edward's father Augustus Pugin revived Gothic style architecture and was involved in the interior design of the Palace of Westminster and the iconic clock tower where Big Ben is housed. Edward was involved in Neo-Gothic architecture and designed and completed more than 100 catholic churches, one of his father's church designs is shown below this image, St Augustine's.
Ramsgate, it looks like the med!
The wall along the esplanade is filled with cafes, bars and shops.
These blue plaques indicate a place of historical significance, they can be found all over the UK. In this nondescript little home the eldest daughter of Carl Marx, Jenny Marx lived. This was on the same street as our B&B.
The white cliffs of Dover. We put on some iconic Dame Vera Lynn tunes as we made our way here, it was quite emotional listening to the song named after them. We wondered what the soldiers felt seeing this sight when returning from the war, a bombing sortie or recon mission. It was mind blowing to see France's shores across the water, so close, close enough as if to touch. No wonder so many refugees gamble their lives getting into perilous dingeys to make the trip! We pondered all these things. You can see the edge of very busy Dover port in the bottom left corner.
Deal Pier, Kent.