Tuesday, October 5, 2010
the pict cross
On the wall of the St. Machar's Cathedral in Aberdeen is a block of stone held by four black spikes.On the face of the stone is what is described as a pict cross dated 580 A.D.The stone was found in a dyke in 1923,somewhere in the city ,and was turned over to King's College who loaned it to the Cathedral.
I couldn't stop staring at it.This carving was done over 1400 years ago and is still here.How many things can that be said about? What tools were used to make the smooth grooves?How many years was it hidden in that dyke as just another piece of stone? Was the artist a believer or had he been commissioned?I think it is still here because it was a labor of love.
I visualize approaching the artist as he worked.Long stringy hair hides his eyes.He is in his late 30s and probably will not live past his 40s but at this moment he is strong and very focused on gently hammering the stone.His muscles ripple and he is thin and wiry.I sit on a log next to him and try to speak.He turns and his face shows puzzlement.The Pict language he speaks will die out and I have no way to communicate.He sees my laptop and I want to tell him that I am e-mailing my family in America.He would think ,"What is America?"It would be 1200 years before the United States will exist.How to explain 9-11? Tall, glass buildings;airplanes flown by Saudis ? This man has never seen a book.His concerns are getting enough peat or wood for a winter fire,food for his family and finishing his cross.
What did that cross mean to the man? Over 500 years,on foot, boat, horse, the gospel had been carried from the Middle East to Scotland.And its symbol was now being carved by this simple man.What was his understanding of its meaning ?How different or similiar is the faith that we share?So many questions.
I love old things.The Book of Kells in Dublin was transcribed in beautiful color in 800 A.D.It is in Dublin at Trinity College and you may view it for two seconds before you are urged to move on because of the crowds.My family Bible, which was given by my grandfather to my grandmother in 1890,rests on my table.My great-grandfather sent letters home from his ships during the the Civil War dated 1860 through 1865.I have had them laminated to keep them intact for another 500 years.Things that last.