Rally Day is on the way!

It’s September, which means that Rally Day will soon be here! I have a fondness for antique Rally Day and Sunday School postcards, so I’ll break my long silence by bringing out a few I’ve picked up in the past year.

Rally Day Invitation 1923 crop rsz

This Rally Day Invitation was addressed to “Master Francis Warnock” (does anyone still call little boys “Master?”) and postmarked September 22, 1923. The girl in the blue coat must be passing out the “Rally Day Herald,” given the message on the back.

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I believe this gentle scene is a companion to a Rally Day card with crystal radio headsets that I posted last year.

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The next postcard in my ephemera haul was addressed to “Misses Elva and Florence Waggy” of Baltimore. I was quite taken with the juxtaposition of the Gothic-style cathedral and the man riding the red girder up into the sky. I’m not sure who the artist is, though I’ve seen at least one other Rally Day postcard with the same monogram (see the lower right corner).

Rally Day FEP building church crop rsz

Many work in many ways / some great edifice to raise…

Each to help — and none to shirk / Rally to the best of works!

Elva and Florence apparently stayed active in the Church of the Brethren long past this Rally Day. They would later be responsible for building Nettie Memorial Chapel on Upper Reeds Creek (near Franklin, WV) in honor of a woman who I believe was their sister, Nettie.

The last postcard I have to share with you was sent from the Evangelical Lutheran Sunday School in Frederick, MD. The historic Evangelical Lutheran Church, now over 275 years old, was a pioneer in the Sunday School Movement.

This card, sent in September 1916 is noteworthy for several reasons. You can see that the message on the back was printed especially for this occasion. Most churches would fill in the particulars of their location, date, and time on a pre-printed message.

The postcard itself is an embossed design by Ellen H. Clapsaddle, the most prolific postcard and greeting card artist of her day. It has a nostalgic feel for 1916 — looking back to the late 19th century, perhaps. The woman at right looks over her shoulder to where we must be standing, as if she wonders whether we’ll follow her into the church.

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All this speaks to a well-established and well-funded Sunday School at a church that in 1916 was already over 175 years old. I wonder about the 1:45 p.m. time. Perhaps morning worship was followed by a fellowship luncheon and then the big Rally Day assembly.

So many of these early Rally Day cards speak to me of a time when parades and rallies, revivals and chautauquas were a much bigger part of American life. A time when marching bands and fiery speeches were good entertainment and a source of inspiration. While sometimes the invitation is gentle, and the spirit is warm or humorous, often Rally Day postcards’ vision is grander than “back-to-school.” Then I sense the call for Christian folk to mobilize, to Rally! and pledge themselves to the work ahead.

San José

Barcelona San Jose

An image of fatherhood for St. Joseph’s day. I picked up this card on a visit to Barcelona. The prayer on the back, which strongly echos the Lord’s Prayer, goes something like this:

“Our Father, I pray thee for my children, your children, that you have given me. Make me sanctify them with my life, my work, my counsel. Let your peace, your love, and your blessing rule in their hearts. May your will be done for them, and not mine, if my will is not as yours.

Help me earn bread for their bodies, teach me to give your nourishment to their souls.

May they love and forgive each other so that you will forgive their weaknesses. Deliver them from all evil, especially from that which they neither see nor fear.

Our Father: let me be a good father.”

Barcelona San Jose reverse

Holy Innocence

Today on the feast of Holy Innocents, I commend to your reading a beautiful post by Eleanor Parker, Clerk of Oxford. You’re likely familiar with Coventry Carol which we sing on this day. Parker expands the resonance of that song wonderfully by showing us the tradition to which it belongs.

She writes, “there are in fact a considerable number of medieval lullabies which share the mood of the Coventry Carol: somewhere between lullaby and lament, full of melancholy and pity for the child being comforted, whether it’s Herod’s victims, the Christ-child, or any human baby born into a weeping world.” Here’s just one stanza of such a lullaby: “Lullay, lullay, little child, child, rest thee a throwe.”

Child, it is a weeping world that thou art comen in;
Thy pour rags prove that well, thy bed made in the bin; [manger]
Cold and hunger thou most endure, as one begot in sin,
And after die upon the tree for love of all mankyn. [mankind]
Lullay, lullay, little child, no wonder that thou cry;
Thou art come among those who shall cause thee to die.

So many thoughts crowd my mind as I meditate on the weeping Christ Child being comforted by his mother. I’m glad that Jesus was not betrayed by family, though he would speak of it. It seems a mercy granted to him and also a truth revealed–a bond of love that survives the crush of a sinful world.

I think about what Parker describes as “the crying child, innocent and uncomprehending, who weeps for no reason – and yet has a reason to weep, though he doesn’t know it, because of the world he has been born into.” I think all the creatures of this world who suffer and do not know why–children, animals, the disabled.

I’m reminded of the Hopkins’ poem “Spring and Fall”

Márgarét, áre you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leáves like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! ás the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you wíll weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It ís the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

I think that Christ must weep because of the world and for the world; for himself and for us. And I think that compassion, like innocence, is a mystery in a weeping world.

Shadowy faith

Adoration of the Christ Child Gerard van Honthorst c. 1620

Adoration of the Child, Gerard van Honthorst, c. 1620

 

The fact that faith is shadowy is a blessing; it tempers the light to the eye’s weakness and prepares the eye for the light, for it is written: ‘He cleansed their hearts by faith’. Faith therefore does not quench the light but protects it. If you cannot yet grasp the naked truth is it not worthwhile to possess it wrapped in a veil?

 

Bernard of Clairveaux
On the Song of Songs 31.9; CF 7:132
quoted In the School of Love: An Anthology of Early Cistercian Texts. ed. by Edith Scholl, OCSO (Kalamazoo: 2000), p.72.

Moving over the waters

Six Days of Creation (detail) Czech Bible of 1506 Bridwell Library, Southern Methodist University

Six Days of Creation (detail)
Czech Bible of 1506
Bridwell Library, Southern Methodist University

 

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters.

 

The other day I happened upon a wonderful exhibit from Bridwell Library’s Special Collections. The First Four Centuries of Printed Bible Illustration presents some outstanding images in glorious, generous detail. (Thank you Bridwell, for making the images large enough to explore!) It’s quite a treat.

This woodcut especially caught my eye–I can’t remember ever having seen a creation image like it. I love the texture of the waters. I love the way God seems strong and active. It’s an image of creative activity where you can imagine why God would rest after six days.

The entire page is a wonder. God’s hands are so expressive; every panel is dynamic, yet balanced.

I find myself feeling grateful. Thankful that such a work has survived the years. Thankful that we live in an age where I discover such treasures on my computer. And thankful that someone was willing to photograph it and share.

Czech Bible, 1506 Bridwell Library, SMU

Czech Bible, 1506
Bridwell Library, SMU
(Click to enlarge image)

Paintings in place – St. Matthew in the Contarelli Chapel

Today I thought I’d share a video from The National Gallery, London. We see so many images in books and on screens–and in galleries. It’s good to be reminded that some paintings have been made for particular spaces and particular points of view.

Caravaggio’s paintings have captured my imagination since my days as a student. He was a complicated person and some of his work is unsettling, but it rewards attention. I hope you enjoy this brief tour of the Contarelli Chapel in the church of San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome.

Daily Bread

Gathering Manna German Bible, Nuremberg: Anton Koberger, 17 February 1483 Bridwell Library, SMU

Gathering Manna
German Bible, Nuremberg: Anton Koberger, 1483
Bridwell Library, Southern Methodist University

 

Two things I ask of thee;
    deny them not to me before I die:
 Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
    give me neither poverty nor riches;
    feed me with the food that is needful for me,
 lest I be full, and deny thee,
    and say, “Who is the Lord?”
or lest I be poor, and steal,
    and profane the name of my God.

Proverbs 30: 7-9

 

Thinking well

 

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To think well is to serve God in the interior court: To have a mind composed of Divine Thoughts, and set in frame, to be like Him within. To conceive aright and to enjoy the world, is to conceive the Holy Ghost, and to see His Love: which is the Mind of the Father. And this more pleaseth Him than many Worlds, could we create as fair and great as this. For when you are once acquainted with the world, you will find the goodness and wisdom of God so manifest therein, that it was impossible another, or better should be made. Which being made to be enjoyed, nothing can please or serve Him more, than the Soul that enjoys it. For that Soul doth accomplish the end of His desire in Creating it.

 

Thomas Traherne (1636? – 1674), Centuries of Meditation, (First Century, 10).

Other guests to share the feast

Rich Man and Lazarus Holman Pictorial Bible Salesman's sample

Rich Man and Lazarus
Holman Pictorial Bible
Salesman’s sample

 

——–

As we gather at your table,
as we listen to your word,
help us know, O God, your presence;
let our hearts and minds be stirred.
Nourish us with sacred story
till we claim it as our own;
teach us through this holy banquet
how to make Love’s victory known.

Turn our worship into witness
in the sacrament of life;
send us forth to love and serve you,
bringing peace where there is strife.
Give us, Christ, your great compassion
to forgive as you forgave;
may we still behold your image
in the world you died to save.

Gracious Spirit, help us summon
other guests to share that feast
where triumphant Love will welcome
those who had been last and least.
There no more will envy blind us,
nor will pride our peace destroy,
as we join with saints and angels
to repeat the sounding joy.

 

Words: Carl P. Daw, Jr.
Words © 1989 by Hope Publishing Co., Carol Stream, IL 60188.

Tune: Raquel by Skinner Chávez-Melo

Special Invitation

I’ve been looking at postcards again.

Here’s one sent by Mrs. Gridley in 1912

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and a lovely, delicate drawing of children listening to a Rally Day greeting over crystal radio headsets.

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And then I found this invitation to a youth group outing with Peter Max-inspired fireworks.

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A few traces of the Church’s imagination and practice that happened to catch my eye.