The other night while I was worshiping with my small Anglican parish, Luminous, something visually profound stuck out to me.
It happened during the Gospel Reading, which is a normal part of our Liturgy. We were singing Audrey Assad's song "New Every Morning" while the Gospels were brought down from the Altar & read in the middle of the room – among the people – something itself that that speaks volumes.
As we sang the line "In the beginning, the Lamb of God was broken, & His blood was poured out...", I noticed the artwork on the Gospel Book that we use, which is The Four Holy Gospels, illuminated by Makoto Fujimura. I've seen the cover art a thousand times... I even have a copy on display in my living room. But it struck me profoundly this time.
The gold on the top represents God's glory. And the red splattered on the bottom represents the Blood of Christ. The lyric & the illumination fused together in my mind. And the simple connection caused me to ponder a familiar truth.
It's quite simple, really. And honestly, it probably wouldn't have struck me if I hadn't been sitting on the aisle & standing right next to the Gospel Reader as all this went down. But still, it made me think.
Here was this subtle yet strong connection between the Liturgy & a piece of art. And yet, no one was pointing it out. No one got up to "make the connection" to everyone. But there it was, hiding in plane sight. Beauty. Quiet, simple Beauty.
It made me think of the scene from The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, where Walter has flown halfway around the world & climbed to the top of the Himalayas to finally find his hero & covert colleague, Sean O'Connell.
That's the power of "illumination."
That's the potential of "visual liturgy."
At Luminous Parish, we don't have a bunch of immersive projection every week (though we surely could), but we do have a high value for art & how it illuminates the Liturgy. Subtle & sometimes hidden symbols that contain depths of truth & meaning are peppered throughout the space just waiting to be discovered. Iconic images that tell the Story in slow ways. And once they are seen, they stay as quiet, repetitive reminders.
Ghost cats are lurking throughout these liturgical mountains. Will we be still enough to notice them? And when we do see them, do we have the patience to stay present in the moment? And will we allow our technology to become a distraction?
I love those experiential moments in worship where the entire congregation is immersed in a visual reality. I'm not suggesting we do away with these bigger, more visible occasions. But are we also creating an environment for ghost cats to roam quietly & freely?
Beautiful things don't ask for attention.