Monday, June 5, 2017

The dragon slaying days are never over

It began a couple of months ago with The Word... well, at least it was then that we heard word of the need of a new chasuble for the upcoming ordination of the Rev Michael Sahdev as priest.  There were a couple of discussions, emails back and forth, and then we readied our vision for his approval.

From there,  we discussed the the measurements and convened on a choice of fabric.

The design was nearly ready, except perhaps, refining the details of the chalice motif for the centre of the chasuble.  The chalice and paten/host are the symbol of the Eucharistic ministry of a new priest and the service he performs in command and commemoration of Our Lord in that rite we know as The Mass. Michael had seen patches with embroidered chalices before... but we imagined something unlike what is done elsewhere these days.  The image was in the mind... then out into a quick sketch, and a request for a little faith, as always, for the cartoon of the design can't compare to what we know it can become.

So off to the works: engineering three-dimensional forms in a computer so they become fabric and thread - easier said than done.

The head is too small to get a good likeness.... so what if we take a bead of ivory and carve it?  Done.
Saint Michael's head of nobler material could not be.  And the priest-to-be worried, "what if it falls off?"  But nothing many rows of thread - and yes, a bit of jeweler's glue too - could not secure.  It shall be attached still a hundred and two, and three hundred years from now, when we are all gone and it is used by another priest, or enshrined in a cathedral museum somewhere.  These vestments are to serve not just at the altar, but as testament of our sacred arts, our devotion and represent the customs and the culture of our times.  Should someone forget how and in what regard religion was held in our days, they should see this and trust in our resolve, our witness of the faith was deliberate, and steady, and respectful.  This is our witness.

So along came the halo and the wings, and the dragon at his feet (with a little forked tongue hanging to the side, for the devil is slain, defeated, pierced by the archangel's spear and no longer cause for fear as the story goes).

And there were pearls, as the clouds upon which the fight of good and evil once ensued.  And then a shrine to protect its memory and encapsulate it, for this chapter described in the tiny scene, dynamic and symbolic, is but part of a larger mystery: that of the chalice and host which represent the blood and body of Christ.

The little shrine takes the place of the knob which is ubiquitous in the chalices used in the Christian liturgies.  In the medieval and Renaissance periods there are instances of this, so Gothic gables and forms were used to harmonize the whole.

Issuing from the chalice and host are rays of light of gold, for they represent the covenant of our salvation by following the precepts of Christ: foremost of which is to drink the wine and eat the bread in memory of Him.

Here we see Father Michael during the celebration of his first mass and perhaps the symbolism is clearer than ever.  While he consecrates the bread and wine at the altar, the design on his chasuble is a visible symbol of the salvific mystery being carried out in the said consecration.

As chalices go, it is apt that he was given a token one by the Bishop during the ordination, and a real one by the members of the Vestry of the church where he was baptised, confirmed, and worshiped until this Saturday when he was ordained at the Cathedral and returned to the church for his first mass.

We hope he wears this chasuble on every anniversary of his ordination and be reminded not just then, but every time he  has to vest it, of the weighty office and tasks, but also the great honour of serving as the agent of salvation for the faithful and even those who perhaps do not yet belief - but attracted by the shine of the chalice, the beauty of our religion which is designed to echo the Holy! Holy!Holy! chanted in heaven, be instructed into its deeper meaning, and the reason of its being.

May your patron in the little shrine, Saint Michael the Archangel, guard and protect you, Father, and may he help you defeat the evils of the world so that the mystery of salvation contained in the chalice be accessible to all. Thank you for allowing Klave Centesca the opportunity to add to the treasures of Our shared Christian faith for now and posterity, and may the Peace of the Lord remain always with you.

The Legend on the design reads: IHS : MICHAEL + PRIEST + JUN 3 + A.D. 2017 + as testament of the day it was first used.    So as we say back home: Ad multos annos!

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