Sadly, the original board I had made wasn't made with the correct struts on the back, and it warped. So, I had another board made up which has set things back a little. However, the board was ready by the end of the week, and on Thursday I spent the day routing it and sanding it. On Monday I must collect the icon exhibition from Tolworth, but Tuesday should see me back to the board, gluing the gauze and then applying the layers of gesso, polishing it ready for the application of the gold leaf.
This part of the process is very much akin to the preparation which the priest makes of the elements of bread and wine and of the altar for the consecration. In the eastern rite these preparations are substantial, the Offertory procession impressive in comparison to our western emasculated efforts.In the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom, which pre-dates the Missal of Paul V by 1,000 yrs, the Offertory and Preparation of the gifts is something really celebrated by the whole assembly, not something done by the priest isolated at the side of the altar or on the altar steps. Rather the priests conducts a number of prayers and rituals on a side table, but then a grand procession brings the chalice and paten, with the bread and wine ready to be consecrated, among the people. They in turn bow profoundly, and as the priest passes he often touches the bowed heads with the sacred vessels. This is real lay participation!
The preparation of the board is thus something much more significant than we might initially have thought. It is about purifying, setting aside, dedicating, creating a blank space on which the Holy One can be manifested and come among his people. It is akin to the spiritual opening of those seeking re-birth as the New Man, the surrender of the whole person to the will of God,the desire for all that is Good through which God can become part of our very selves and our world.
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