If you’ve never seen an illuminated manuscript, a quick Google search of the term will tell you everything you need to know about this fascinating art form. The men and women who labored over the colorful and elaborate pages of Bibles, psalters, and prayer books believed they were infusing a piece of God’s immeasurable glory onto the page and that—in some small way—their artistry could make the divine something tangible.
Barbara Crooker explores this topic in her poem “The Book of Kells: Chi Rho,” which we were pleased to publish in the April issue of In Touch Magazine. In it, she writes:
In the interstices, creatures of air: birds and moths;
creatures of sea: fish and otters; creatures of land:
cats and mice. For the whole world was holy,
not just parts of it. The world was the Book of God.
The alphabet shimmered and buzzed with beauty.
In other words, every nook and cranny in these texts could be used to display a portion of God’s handiwork—everything from a humble dandelion to a grandstanding peacock with his iridescent tail feathers on full display. With an inkpot and a finely sharpened quill pen, the artists who created these miniature masterpieces captured what they saw down to the smallest detail, and everything they depicted was holy.
Every time I see an illuminated manuscript I ask myself, Can we do what those men and women did thousands of years ago? I’m not talking about creating art necessarily. (I for one can’t even draw a stick figure correctly.) But can we look with the same keen eyes and appreciate the “Book of God” that is our world? Our heavenly Father didn’t leave a single inch of His creation blank after all, though it may seem that way to us. The truth is that we lose the ability to value the glory all around us when we let it go unrecognized. Our sense of wonder will atrophy in this busy, distraction-filled world if we don’t take pains to prevent it from happening.
It is now spring—the glorious season of renewal and rebirth. All around us, trees and fields are donning their brilliant green cloaks, the young are taking their first steps, and what once lay dormant has come back into being. The world is ripe with the beauty of God. May we see it in all its richness and allow it to fill and ornament every corner of our souls.
Read Barbara Crooker’s poem “The Book of Kells: Chi Rho,” in the April 2015 issue of In Touch Magazine.