Friday, June 25, 2010

On Eagle's Wings

St. Andrew’s jumped feet-first into the digital age this week when the computer in the parish office gained a DSL (digital subscriber line; don’t feel bad, I didn’t know what DSL stood for either) hookup and access to the Internet. That was a little more complicated than it might have been because the church mouse had eaten through the phone line into the office (not noted earlier because the phone in there is wireless). The church mouse also apparently has stolen the church hammer, which I needed yesterday and couldn’t find --- but that’s another story.

Anyhow, the Internet hookup is part of a diocesan drive to connect its parishes scattered across Iowa digitally, but one thing does lead to another. In my case, to a remodel of the parish Web site, actually a blog (blogs are free; Web sites as a rule aren’t) so that it could be parked on the church computer and updated from there. Besides, it was looking a little sad and needed refreshing.

That meant I needed to find the photos that were part of the blog and take a few more (the cross on the front of our building was still white on the blog, for example, but now is red). And as you might expect, I couldn’t find them. That’s because all the contents of all the hard drives that I have access to are as disorganized due to my nature and various computer disasters as the contents of my head are.

So I spent Thursday evening, all of it, gathering photo files --- and thousands of these have accumulated since the arrival of the digital camera in 2005 --- into one place. Now I need to do some severe editing --- eliminating the poorly exposed, clumsily framed and just plain silly (we should probably do that with our heads, too, now and then).

But I did come up with a decent although not exceptional photo of the eagle lectern at St. Andrew’s, part of the furniture brought from the 1900 church after its not-too-firm-a-foundation gave way 50 years ago and demolition followed. It’s a wonderful piece of work, carved from oak, and now serves us both as pulpit and lectern.

Many churches have these --- in wood, brass and other materials --- but some who should know better are confused about the symbolism involved. A clergyman who certainly should have known better once informed the assembled faithful, making a badly flawed sermon allusion, that our big oak bird was a phoenix --- that mythological critter that rose from the ashes.

Actually, the eagle is a symbol of St. John the Evangelist, one of the twelve and author by tradition of the fourth Gospel. So that’s why lecterns like ours are around and why it’s appropriate that our big bird’s wings support the lectionary book during the lessons and sermon notes at other times.

There’s also a lovely contemporary hymn, “On Eagle’s Wings,” composed by a priest named Michael Joncas in 1979, still those heady days after Vatican II when Roman Catholics were encouraged to open their mouths for the first time in centuries and sing during Mass. The refrain:

“And He will raise you up on eagle's wings,
Bear you on the breath of dawn,
Make you to shine like the sun,
And hold you in the palm of His Hand.”

Marooned at the museum yesterday afternoon when both the chief guide and her volunteer associate were involved in the same funeral, I spent a little time --- not too successfully --- trying to pick it out on the big old square grand in the commons room. That old piano is a wonderful piece of furniture, but apparently a beast to tune --- the last tuner swore he’d never touch it again. Here’s a far better version:

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