Sunday, 25 May 2014

Our Lady of the Golden Egg

"Our Lady of the Golden Egg", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

It has been slightly over a month now since we celebrated Easter. Today's featured drawing is about one of the most persistent symbols of Easter -- the egg.

Even in today's secular society, Easter finds people dying hard-boiled eggs all of the colours of the rainbow. In the stores, there are eggs made of chocolate and other confections, plastic eggs filled with candy or tiny prizes, pysanki (eggs decorated in the Ukrainian fashion), painted wooden eggs, beaded eggs, porcelain eggs, jewelled eggs by Faberge, eggs of every imaginable material and style. Priests bless eggs and distribute them at church, people exchange eggs as gifts, children find them in baskets in their homes or hunt for them in gardens or roll them over the lawn. It is hard to imagine Easter without eggs. But what are they all about?


As a source of new life, the egg was a symbol of creation, spring, and fertility in many cultures and religions, long before the advent of Christianity. The ancient Persians exchanged eggs at the spring equinox, Romans gave red-painted eggs as gifts at the new year, and to this day an egg is one of the symbolic foods on the plate at the Passover Seder which celebrates the new life of the people of Israel when they were redeemed from slavery in Egypt. Christianity inherited this rich natural symbolic tradition. However, the great spring festival of Easter, the Christian Passover, added a new meaning to the symbolism of the egg, for just as the hard shell of the egg is broken open so that new life can emerge, so was the rock-hewn tomb of Jesus broken open when he rose from the dead on the third day. Ancient cultures saw the egg as a symbol of the rebirth of nature, but Christians came to see it as a symbol of the rebirth of mankind.

Over time, different Christian cultures developed various ways of explaining this symbol of the Resurrection, especially through storytelling.  One of the better known stories is the one about Simon of Cyrene -- the man the Romans forced to help Our Lord, now weakened by hunger, dehydration and torture, carry his cross to the place of the crucifixion.

It is said that Simon was a farmer. He had come into Jerusalem that fateful day to sell his produce to city folk who were preparing the Passover feast to be eaten that evening. Simon had eggs to sell, something that everyone would need for the Seder table. When the soldiers forced him to carry the cross of Jesus, Simon had no choice but to leave his basket of eggs behind. Remarkably, when he returned for his basket later in the day, it was still there, and not an egg was missing. But, even more remarkably, the eggs were no longer white, but were brightly coloured. 

Another story is about Our Lady.  It is said that as she stood beneath the cross of her Son throughout the long hours of His agony leading to His death, she, too, had with her a basket of Passover eggs which she set on the ground near the cross. The eggs reddened as blood from the wounds of Jesus dropped on them.  The story relates that, seeing this, Jesus said to those who were there, "From now on, you, too, shall paint eggs red to remember my crucifixion." A Polish legend says that Mary gave eggs to the soldiers at the cross and asked them to be less cruel to her son. As she spoke, she wept, and her tears fell on the eggs, spotting them with brilliant colours.
[Much of the above information was taken from http://fullhomelydivinity.org/eggs.htm]

The inspiration for my drawing (shown above) actually came from another painting by John Wm. Waterhouse.  His painting, entitled "The Crystal Ball", shows a young woman, beautifully clothed standing in front of a large window while contemplating a crystal ball.  After a great deal of thought, I decided that I wanted the woman to represent Our Lady and that instead of a crystal ball, I would show her contemplating a golden egg -- a symbol of eternal life.  In other words, Our Lady would not be trying to divine the future, but, rather, she would be showing a symbol of that future which is divine.


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BRADEN

Here is my most recent photo of young Master Braden looking as handsome as ever.  

I simply cannot believe that he will soon be entering the "terrible twos".  Of course, I am already convinced that he will remain as wonderful as ever no matter what his age!



Braden looking as sweet and handsome as ever!



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ST. EPHRAIM REQUEST

This past week I received a request for the use of an icon by a diocesan newspaper for the Diocese of Westminster in Great Britain.  I, of course, gave them permission and will show you the publication when I receive a copy.

St. Ephraim (sometimes spelled Ephrem) was a deacon and a prolific Syriac-language hymnographer and theologian of the 4th century from the region of Syria.  His feast is celebrated on June 9th by Roman Catholics and the Church of England. 


"St. Ephraim the Syrian", icon by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2012



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SUKI AND SALLIE


Another photo of Suki which I changed into a
pencil drawing using the Pencil Sketch app
Ah, the joys of being awakened at 5 a.m. by the rattling of the vertical venetian blinds covering the door to my balcony!

By the way, did you know that the early history of the venetian blind is actually based on conjecture. The early Venetians, who were great traders, are thought to have brought the idea of the blind from Persia to Venice. Later, Venetian slaves, once freed, supposedly brought the blind to France for personal comfort and as a means of livelihood. Gradually the concept spread with the greatest upsurge in popularity happening in the mid to late 20th Century.

Anyway, back to Suki...

She is undoubtedly one of the cleverest cats with whom I have ever shared by life.  She has devised all sorts of ways to get me to wake up in the morning when she has decided that it is time for her to eat once again.  Let me tell you about some of the techniques she has developed.

As I mentioned, there is the rattling of the venetian blinds.  She does this not just once, but repeatedly until she has evidence that I am awake.  Then there is the plastic bag "torture"!  

Since it has gotten more and more difficult for me to get up and down without experiencing severe pain, I now keep a wastebasket close to the recliner -- my usual camping grounds.  Into this container go all my bits of compostable garbage such as used tissues, paper towels, napkins, etc.  It is important to me to keep these things separate from other garbage since these items can all be added to my compost bag (my building has a garbage system which includes a recyclable items section as well as a compostable items section).  So I keep two separate recyclable plastic bags in my wastebasket in order to keep the compostable items separate from the recyclables.

Suki long ago discovered that slight movement of plastic makes a particular sound.  This sound, repeated often enough and for long enough, will awaken even the soundest sleeper!  She never tears the bags with her claws, but she simply brushes the bags with her paw -- over and over -- until she knows I am awake.  This technique is a bit riskier as the wastebasket is closer to where I am sleeping and she knows that when she awakens me in this way, I am going to be rather angry and may just try to reach out suddenly and grab her by the scruff of the neck!

So, in order to protect herself, she now always does the plastic bag "torture" on the side farthest from me.  As well, she remains ready to leap away at the first indication that I may be trying to grab her.  

When she first discovered this technique, she did not realize that she was putting herself in danger's way and would sit on the side of the wastebasket closest to me.  One morning, as I came abruptly to consciousness due to the repeated sound of Suki's paw moving across the plastic bags, I was in a position where it was not too difficult to reach out and grab the dastardly cat!  She immediately tried to escape, but I was able to hold onto her neck without hurting anything but her pride.  Amazingly, I was even able to continue to hold on her as I got myself into a sitting position -- I think this was possibly due to my anger-fuelled determination.  Once I was sitting, I grabbed poor Suki with my other hand and got her into my lap.

Now, moving slowly, I was able to stand while continuing to hold onto Suki.  Once I was up, I immediately took her to the bathroom, chucked her inside and closed the door.  I felt quite victorious for a few minutes -- that is until the wailing started!  Suki began to cry loudly, making that terrible sound she can create when she feels offended (the sound that makes me suspect she has a bit of Siamese in her!).  Next came the scratching on the door.  When the two noises were combined, anyone listening would get a true sense of the full meaning of the word "caterwauling"!  After a few minutes of this, I gave in, let Suki out of the bathroom and fed her -- so she won after all.  She always does!   

So, other than being awakened early each morning -- which I really don't mind -- I am doing much the same.

I am now in the process of arranging funding for the work that needs to be done to my gums.  As you all know too well, dental work is so expensive and, sadly for me, it isn't covered by the Canadian health care system -- unless you are on welfare or receiving government disability income!  I do have a bit of dental insurance that came with my pension, but the insurance company's rules are so strict about what is and isn't allowed that I usually end up paying out of pocket for most of the dental work that needs doing.  I will let you know when I have everything arranged and the necessary dental surgery has been scheduled.

Otherwise, all the other problems continue to be the same or slightly worse as is to be expected!

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CHURCH STUFF

On this 6th Sunday of Easter, the Gospel reminds us that we are getting ever closer to Pentecost Sunday -- when the Holy Spirit fell upon Our Lady, the Apostles and all the disciples gathered in the upper room.

The major feast day of the coming week occurs on the 31st of May -- the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to her cousin, Elizabeth.  I have done several icons of this wonderful event, but here is my favourite:

"The Visitation", icon by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2009

May the peace of God be with us all in the week ahead and may we, too, be visited by the gentleness and merciful love that epitomizes the Gift that Our Lady so willingly brought to us.  Amen.

St. Elizabeth, pray for us. Amen.

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