Last November at our church, my husband and I participated in a short study exploring the creation of The Saint John's Bible. If you are not familiar with this illuminated Bible, you really must visit the website to truly appreciate the epic proportions of this undertaking.
As described on their site, this is the first completely handwritten and illuminated Bible to have been commissioned by a Benedictine Abbey since the invention of the printing press. The Saint John's Bible is a work of art and a work of theology. The project began as collaboration in 1998 when a team of artists coordinated by master calligrapher and artistic director, Donald Jackson, in Wales and a team of scholars in Central Minnesota brought together the ancient techniques of calligraphy and illumination with an ecumenical Christian approach to the Bible rooted in Benedictine spirituality. The result is a living document and a monumental achievement.
In attending this study, we both were astounded by the magnitude of this project. We were captivated as we listened to Daniel Jackson describe and demonstrate the process of creatingThe Saint John's Bible. Two scenes from the DVD in particular stood out for me: one of Donald Jackson creating a new quill pen with his "pen" knife (all of the calligraphy was accomplished by using quill pens on calf-skin vellum); and the other of a close-up scene, where he punctures an egg yolk to be used in the process of mixing ink so as to give a shiny finish to the illumination he is creating.
We also saw the affect on those who have seen the finished product and are thankful to have shared in this experience with them. One lady in our class was a retired art teacher who had given up her interest in calligraphy, only to be inspired to start again after attending the classes. Another class member was inspired to encourage us all to consider donating a volume of the bible to our church, so that entire congregation could appreciate the miracle of this undertaking. (Our pastor owns the complete set of the seven volumes: Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible), Historical Books, Psalms, Wisdom Books, Prophets, Gospels & Acts, and Letters & Revelations. He brought them to class so we could pass them around and discuss the illuminations.)
As the study wrapped up, and I listened to Jackson talk about how his life as an artist started -- by painting window signs for businesses, to becoming the "Queen's Calligrapher", to the remarkable journey he has taken during the creation of this illuminated Bible -- it occurred to me how sometimes we give very little credit to our God-given talents and abilities. In Donald Jackson's case, he had dreamed of illuminating a whole Bible ever since he was a teenager, and it was largely due to his inspiration that this project was conceived. Thinking about the profound impact that this decade-long project had on those involved in its creation made me realize that we must never underestimate the power of dreams, inspiration and talent, even at a very early age.
Think on this verse: "But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded." (2 Chronicles 15:7) Have you been trying to follow a dream but haven't seen any results yet? Have you considered giving up? What keeps you going?