Monday, December 26, 2011

Explanation of the Clues


This year is the 400th anniversary of the publication of the 1611 King James Bible, and I have chosen to render the selected verse using the spelling from that original printing.

Beginning with Luke 1:39, and extending through Luke 1:56, we read of Mary, pregnant with Jesus, visiting her cousin (or relative) Elizabeth, who in turn is pregnant with John the Baptist. This set of verses, Luke 1:39-56 is sometimes known as The Visitation. After their initial greeting, accompanied by John the Baptist leaping in Elizabeth's womb, Mary speaks or sings words of praise in Luke 1:46-55, a discourse which is labeled "Mary's Song," even in the 1611 King James Bible. The selected verse, Luke 1:51, is considered the core or central verse of Mary's Song.

Mary's Song has been an important part of of various church liturgies since the Middle Ages, when it would have been sung or read in Latin. The opening words of Mary's Song, "My soule doth magnifie the Lord," [1611 King James], when translated into Latin are "Magnificat anima mea Dominum."  As a result of the opening word in Latin, Magnificat, the entire set of verses, Luke 1:46-55, Mary's Song, has become known as the Magnificat.

To this day, the Magnificat is one of the two canticles sung by the choir during Evensong in the Church of England.  The Magnificat is sung after the first lesson (from the Old Testament or the Apocrypha), while the Song of Simeon, the Nunc Dimittis, is sung after the second lesson (from the New Testament).  (The Nunc Dimittis is the name given to Luke 2:29-32, namely the words or song of the old man Simeon as he holds the infant Jesus in the Temple.  The opening words of the Song of Simeon are, "Lord now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word," [1611 King James] and when translated into Latin are, "Nunc dimittis servum tuum Domine, secundum verbum tuum in pace."  Again, as a result of the opening words, "Nunc dimittis," the entire set of verses, Luke 2:29-32 is known as the Nunc Dimittis.)

An excellent exegesis of Luke 1:46-55, the Magnificat, can be found in Samuel Terrien's book, The Magnificat. He particularly emphasizes that Luke 1:51 is the core verse of the Magnificat.

Explanation of the Clues:

* At the center of the tableau is the Christ Child, as depicted in Botticelli's Madonna of the Magnificat, here portrayed on a round ornament being held by one arm of the two-armed magnifying glass. The Christ Child is pointing to the text of the Magnificat in the open book.

* The second arm of the magnifying glass holds the full text of the answer to Christmas Mystery 2011, namely, Luke 1:51 in the original Greek of the New Testament.

* Arrayed in the middle of the tableau are three cat puzzles with magnifying glasses trained on each of them.  This is a whimsical take on the word "Magnificat." On the left is a cat puzzle box hand carved in India from shesham wood and purchased at Nance Galleries here in Evansville, Indiana.  In the middle are five cats that go into a square puzzle holder, which were crafted by Jerry Krider of Columbia City, Indiana.  Finally on the right is a cat puzzle for a young child. The one cat followed by the five cats and then the one cat were meant to signify the 1:51 in Luke 1:51.

* Just above the child's cat puzzle on the right are the soprano and organ parts from Charles Villiers Stanford's Magnificat in C, for the words, "He hath shewed strength with his arm: he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts."  Stanford also wrote accompanying music for the Nunc Dimittis, and together with this Magnificat are known as "Stanford in C."  This latter point was made by superimposing a large C around a photo of the chapel at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.

* Just above the cat puzzles, LUKE is spelled out with wooden letter blocks to clearly point the reader to the Gospel according to Luke.  The illuminated blocks, as well as the "Old English" font used for the poem in the printed letter accompanying the jigsaw puzzle was intended to hint at the older (1611) version of the Bible verse.

* At the top of the tableau are three depictions of the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth.  On the left is a reproduction of a Greek Orthodox icon from Thessaloniki, Macedonia, Greece.  This is a reminder that the New Testament was originally written in Greek.  On the upper right is a reprint of Rembrandt's "The Visitation." It is considered one of the most significant possessions of the Detroit Institute of Arts.   In the center is a photo of a terra cotta, pen and ink likeness of the meeting of Mary and Elizabeth, called The Visitation owned by the Indianapolis Museum of Art.  The artist is Anthony Joseph Lauck.  The 21 inch statue is presently not on view.

* Beneath is a photo of Queen Elizabeth II and the President of the Republic of Ireland, Mary McAleese, on the first day of the Queen's historic visit to the Republic of Ireland this past May.  This meeting of a more contemporary "Mary and Elizabeth" is a clue to direct the reader to the proper part of Luke's gospel.

* Just below the photo of the present British sovereign is a depiction of her predecessor from 400 years earlier, King James I ( also King James VI of Scotland).  In 1604 King James I commissioned a new Bible translation and the completed work was issued in 1611.  King James I looks out over the tableau, hoping the reader will correctly use his translation for the chosen verse.

* The lower part of the tableau is dominated by a puzzle of American painter Charles Wysocki's "Bach's Magnificat  in D Minor."  Wysocki is best known for his depictions of Americana, but was said to be inspired to produce this painting by an upcoming visit to England, as well as his own family of six cats. (The musical setting of the Magnificat by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach is sometimes identified as the Magnificat in D Minor.  Carl Philipp Emanuel was musically the most successful of Johann Sebastian Bach's sons.)

* Tucked underneath the upper left and upper right of the puzzle I have placed sheet music of Johann Sebastian Bach's Magnificat in D Major for the beginning of Luke 1:51 and the end of Luke 1:51.  Because it was to be sung on Christmas Day, the lyrics are in Latin, rather than the usual German. Youtube videos of performances of Bach's Magnificat in D Major abound.  A video for Luke 1:51 is here.

* In the lower left is a box of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda, with its iconic strong arm holding the hammer.  This was an obvious allusion to "Hee hath shewed strength with his arme," in Luke 1:51.

* Above the box of baking soda is the word "PSYOPS."  In his analysis of Luke 1:51 in The Magnificat, Samuel Terrien makes the point that "he hath scattered the proud, in the imagination of their hearts," represents an initiation of psychological warfare.  I represented this idea by using the abbreviation of  "psychological operations."

* The clock on the lower right is at precisely 4:11, which for a 24-hour clock, or military time, would be 16:11 if it were  4:11 p.m.  This was an intentional allusion to turning the clock back to the 1611 King James Bible.

* The five letters of the word "proud" are scattered around the tableau.  These are letters copied from a facsimile edition of the 1611 King James Bible, and are an obvious allusion to "Hee hath scattered the proud," in Luke 1:51.

* And the red herring?  That was the Santa Claus, of course.

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