Illustrated by Pauline Baynes, who so beautifully illustrated the original Chronicles of Narnia (which I still have in the hardcover volumes from my childhood.)
This is an absolutely breathtaking book done in a medieval illuminated style. The endpapers are a stylized depiction of heaven earth and hell: a band of blue with angels and stars over a band of green with plants and animals and a woman and a man with a book which in turn is over a band of red with flames and demons. The title page has a lovely medallion of the nativity surrounded by vines and flowers and birds with a figure kneeling in adoration on a vine with a serpent’s head. Young children will love finding all the various birds and animals and people that fly and crawl and swim across the pages.
The images are also rich with theological significance, calling on all the history of Christian iconography and teaching the faith through images. For example, the verse “God of God, Light of Light, Very God of very God” shows a depiction of the Trinity: God the Father, two hands in a sunburst pouring out light on the Son upon whom also descends the Spirit in the form of a dove, all surrounded by coiling vines and a serpent and various birds and beasts and fish.
“Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man”: The picture has a large nativity with adoring shepherds but also has an annunciation with a kneeling Mary with a prayer book, an emphatic angel and a descending dove. And a dog, cat, mouse, peacock, snail, sheep, ox and ass.
A short catalog of other images:
The crucifixion also has medallions of the passion: the judgment of Pilate, the scourging, the burial in the tomb, as well as the cock and the crown of thorns.
A glorious resurrection sequence; traditional images of the four evangelists along with Moses and a prophet.
The Last Judgment with an angel who hold a balance and a sword, more demons and a lovely Tree of Life.
An image of the Eucharist in a medieval oratory (ad orientem), paired with the Last Supper.
Images of baptism of an infant paired with the baptism of Christ and a group kneeling to receive the Eucharist.
The resurrection of the dead and a soul approaching the gate of heaven which opens to his touch.
Although the book was published in 2003, the text is an older language (is this what is still used in Britain?), not the text of the creed that an American child will be familiar with from Sunday mass. However, I find it a much more beautiful language and far more appropriate with the gorgeous illustrations. Definitely a must-add to any library, even if you don’t have children.
I was lucky enough to find a library-bound edition in pristine condition on Amazon, a library in Oregon must have been clearing books out of it’s collection that were too religious or unfortunately never read. Too sad to see a library getting rid of such a beautiful book (to be replaced with dreck no doubt); but our gain.
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