Wine Profile: Pinot Gris

When I could hardly croak out a hymn at church a couple of Sundays ago my friend Noeleen chuckled and suggested that next year I should consider not giving up wine for Lent. As I went down with one bug after another over that six-week period of abstinence I shall certainly be considering her words. But for now Lent is over, and although Summer has officially ended I can’t let it go without profiling one of my favourite Summer wines, Pinot Gris.

Pinot gris
(c) Wine Folly

Continue reading “Wine Profile: Pinot Gris”

Art You Should Know: The Angel of the North by Sir Antony Gormley

Angel of the North
The Angel of the North, by Sir Antony Gormley,

‘…but [the angels] said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!”‘

Completed in 1998, the towering (20m tall) Angel of the North dominates the skyline over the A1 and A167 roads near Gateshead in Tyne and Wear, England, and is instantly recognisable throughout Britain. Continue reading “Art You Should Know: The Angel of the North by Sir Antony Gormley”

On Whose Authority? The King James Bible Part 2: The Birth of a Legend

King James VI
Portrait of King James I of England (King James VI of Scotland)

When King James VI of Scotland became King James I of England he faced a slew of problems, from war with Spain and Ireland which had led to a national debt of £400,000, to periodic outbreaks of plague and a growing fear of witchcraft. Religiously England and, to a lesser extent, Scotland were split between the mainstream Protestant Churches of the two countries, the Catholics who continued to look to Rome, and the Puritans who were agitating for radical Protestant reform.

James was a man of literary leaning (he authored several books over the course of his reign), and in 1604 he convened the Hampton Court Conference with representatives of the Church of England, including leading Puritans, to discuss a solution. As well as addressing such topics as baptism by laypeople, and excommunication, the Conference agreed to authorise a new English translation of the Bible. Thus was the Authorised Version, the King James Version, conceived. Continue reading “On Whose Authority? The King James Bible Part 2: The Birth of a Legend”

Art You Should Know: Michelangelo’s Pieta

Michelangelo’s Pieta, 1498-1499

“… and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

Simeon’s prophesy to Mary when she presented the infant Jesus at the Temple in Jerusalem, Luke 2:35b (NIV)

Michelangelo Buonarroti carved his ‘Pieta’ from Carrara marble in 1498-1499, originally as a funeral monument for the French Cardinal Jean de Bilheres. It measures 1.74m by 1.95m and is the only piece Michelangelo ever signed. Continue reading “Art You Should Know: Michelangelo’s Pieta”

On My Reading List: March 2016

March has been quite a month for me, with a four day training course at the start of the month and an upcoming weekend away with my bestie (here’s to twenty years of friendship, Becks, and many more to come!), plus a time-consuming project at work, and suffice it to say my reading time has suffered accordingly. Here, then, is my only reading list for the month. Continue reading “On My Reading List: March 2016”

Poet Profile: Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

One Crucifixion is recorded—only—
How many be
Is not affirmed of Mathematics—
Or History—

One Calvary—exhibited to Stranger—
As many be
As persons—or Peninsulas—

Is but a Province—in the Being’s Centre—
For Journey—or Crusade’s Achieving—
Too near—

Our Lord—indeed—made Compound Witness—
And yet—
There’s newer—nearer Crucifixion
Than That—

A year or so ago I had some friends over for dinner and my dear and devoutly-Catholic friend Mary shared the poem above. “What does it mean?” she asked, drawing all of us into a protracted conversation not only of the themes and meanings of this particular poem but of the work of Emily Dickinson, and poetry in general (dinner conversation at my house is not to everyone’s taste). Continue reading “Poet Profile: Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)”

Author Profile: C. S. Lewis (1898-1963)

narnia poster
Poster for the 2005 Disney adaptation of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, based on the book by C. S. Lewis.

If you’ve read my list of Six Christian Classics it probably won’t surprise you to learn that I’m quite a fan of the work of Clive Staples (‘Jack’) Lewis, who is regarded by many Christians as the pre-eminent apologist of the twentieth century.

This great ‘man of letters’, who taught at both Oxford and Cambridge, was born in Belfast and raised in the (Anglican) Church of Ireland, but a series of events, which included the death of his mother from cancer in 1908, the influence of early twentieth century intellectualism, and his experiences as a Second Lieutenant in the trenches in World War One (beginning on his nineteenth birthday), led him to reject the faith of his childhood. Continue reading “Author Profile: C. S. Lewis (1898-1963)”

Treasure Trove: Saint Patrick’s Breastplate

Saint Patrick.jpgIn honour of Saint Patrick’s day, I’m sharing a prayer traditionally attributed to the ‘Apostle of Ireland’, Saint Patrick’s breastplate.

Tradition tells that Patrick was a young Briton of Roman extraction who in the fifth century was kidnapped by pirates and spent six years as a slave in Ireland. After escaping and returning to Britain he subsequently chose to return in order to share the gospel with the Irish, who at that time were pagan. His ‘breastplate’ is based upon a prayer for divine protection that the saint is reputed to have offered up when facing opposition from King Loegaire, High King of Ireland. Continue reading “Treasure Trove: Saint Patrick’s Breastplate”

Six Christian Classics

At the very end of John’s gospel, the author adds this postscript:

‘Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.’ – John 21:25, NIV

There may be a certain amount of hyperbole involved in that statement, but a vast number of Christians have spent the last two thousand years endeavouring to remedy the lack. This list is somewhat biased, being based on books which I actually have on my shelves, but it is at least brief. It includes three fictional works, and three non-fiction. Showing still further bias one author, C. S. Lewis, appears twice. Here, then, is my list of six Christian classics, each of which I would heartily recommend.

Continue reading “Six Christian Classics”

Paintings You Should Know: Rembrandt’s ‘The Return of the Prodigal Son’

The Return of the Prodigal Son
Rembrandt van Rijn, The Return of the Prodigal Son, c. 1661-1669

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”

– Luke 15:20

Jesus’s parable of the return of the prodigal son (prodigal: spending money or using resources freely and recklessly; wastefully extravagant) is one of those passages which sits at the very heart of the gospel narrative: the story of a father who waits longingly for the return of his younger, estranged son, only to welcome him with open arms when he returns, penitent, having squandered everything his father gave him. Continue reading “Paintings You Should Know: Rembrandt’s ‘The Return of the Prodigal Son’”