Paxtonvic’s Blog

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The Light of The World

I jumped ahead in my last post  to St Swithin who is  commenorated  in the Church’s  year on July 15th.

Today, July 14th, John Keble the tractarian poet is remembered. Some young kids in Oxford in the late 1960’s might have gone messing around in the parks and meadows  ( well, I did do some of that) on the week-ends, but invariably myself and a mate or two would go round the colleges which were open in those days. One of our favouriate haunts was Keble College and the chapel there houses the most beautiful painting by the artist Holam Hunt. We used to just sit and gaze at it –  and the painting is deeply  etched in my mind.


You have to sit and look at it for real to enter into the   uniqueness of it – and I always remember an old priest saying to me that there is no handle on the door Christ is beside – he is knocking on the door but it has to be opened from the inside. He knocks on our hearts and we have to respond to his call – he can’t do that for us.

Heres is some description of the painting:

This painting, which hangs in the Side-Chapel, is the original by Holman Hunt painted in 1853 and first hung in the Royal Academy in 1854.

The artist began the picture when he was a little over 21 years old, but it was not until he was 29 that he finished it. One of the reasons for this length of time was his desire to perfect the dawn, and this he did not succeed in doing until he took the picture with him to the Middle East and found the perfect dawn outside Bethlehem. When he was nearly 70 years old, he painted a replica which hangs in St Paul’s Cathedral, London. The replica is very much larger than the original, but the colouring and details are not so perfect.

The picture was given to the College by Mrs Thomas Combe, who was a great admirer of the Pre-Raphaelites and bought as many of their pictures as she could. She later gave most of them to the Ashmolean Museum, and this one she presented to Keble through her husband who was head of the University Press at that time.

There are two lights shown in the picture. The lantern is the light of conscience and the light around the head is the light of salvation with the door representing the human soul, which cannot be opened from the outside. There is no handle on the door, and the rusty nails and hinges overgrown with ivy denote that the door has never been opened and that the figure of Christ is asking for permission to enter. The bright light over the figure is the morning star, the dawn of the new day, and the autumn weeds and fallen fruit represent the autumn of life. The writing under the picture, which is rather hard to read, is taken from Revelation 3 ‘Behold I stand at the door and knock. If any man hear my voice and open the door I will come in to him and will sup with him and he with me.’

Time to head off for a PCC meeting. PCCs have been going since c 1919 – replacing the more ancient vestry meetings. I wonder who, in this country, has served the longest on a PCC???

July 14, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

1 Comment »

  1. You brought England and Oxford alive for me once again.
    I have never, ever, never replied to a blog; indeed I do not believe this will reach you.

    But for the moment you have revived cherished memories of England and Oxford (was it the White Horse where we sloshed the night away singing those Communist songs and life was so distant).

    Bless you for bringing beautiful memories back.

    A.Y.Gerol MD

    Comment by Yale Gerol | August 17, 2009 | Reply

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