The Scribe

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Ign special itin edi g C t ion reat ivit y


The Newsletter of the Heritage Edition —

The Fine Art Edition of The Saint John’s Bible

Igniting Creativity As he worked on The Saint John’s Bible and sought inspiration, Donald Jackson often visited the British Library, the British Museum and other museums. It makes perfect sense. The rich history and treasured collections in these esteemed museums have inspired artists for centuries. The masterpiece of art that Mr. Jackson conceived and directed, The Saint John’s Bible, is now igniting the creativity of writers, designers, musicians, liturgists and artists across a broad spectrum of media. The theme of this issue of The Scribe — Igniting Creativity — is tied directly to one of the core values of The Saint John’s Bible: fostering the arts. As expressed on the project’s website (, “Saint John’s intends for it (this Bible) to be a source of artistic vitality both inside and outside the Saint John’s community.”

“[The Saint John’s Bible] is spreading ripples everywhere. I just stand back and say, ‘My goodness!’” — Donald Jackson

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The Art of Worship

Rev. Doyt Conn celebrates the Eucharist during Advent with the Gospel of Matthew Frontispiece on display.

“As parishioners line up for Eucharist at the altar, standing and waiting their turn for the Eucharist, they pass by the Bible on the stand in the chancel. People frequently pause, struck by the beauty and intimacy of encountering the images so directly, deepening their spiritual experience as they prepare to engage in the Eucharist.” — Rev. Doyt Conn, Rector

The Saint John’s Bible came to Epiphany Parish in Seattle, as things do in the Kingdom of God, through a friend visiting from out of town. During one of his visits, he told me about the Bible. Not long after this conversation I, along with my parish colleagues, had the chance to see the Heritage Edition. We were captivated by the beauty of its illuminations, the power of its story, and the symbolism of its size. Shortly thereafter, we made the commitment to enter into “A Year With The Saint John’s Bible.” One of the first parish events was a visit by Father Eric Hollas, OSB from Saint John’s Abbey and University. He taught a powerful class on “The Artist as Preacher,” orienting us to the power of the images for our spiritual journey. The weekend included reaching out to other faith communities and institutions, including many artists and theologians in the Seattle area, inviting them to come view The Saint John’s Bible. For me, the most important thing that happens with The Saint John’s Bible at Epiphany happens each Sunday morning. As an Episcopal church, we are attentive to liturgy, and, as such, we create a balance between the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Table. The Liturgy of the Table, marked by the Eucharist, carries with it the powerful symbol of bread and wine, as the body and blood of Christ. Our Liturgy of the Word carried less dramatic symbolism, until now. The Saint John’s Bible is big and it is beautiful, and it is ancient. These three attributes of The Saint John’s Bible add gravitas to our Liturgy of the Word. At Epiphany, the Bible resides on a stand in the middle of the chancel. Two acolytes carry it during the Gospel procession to the top of the chancel steps. It takes two. I love this. It symbolizes both how we wrestle with the Word of God, and how this is better done in community. After the Gospel is read, the volume goes back on its stand in the chancel, where it remains open to one of the stunning illuminations. During the Liturgy of the Table, our children sit in the front of the church and often gaze upon the Bible. Printed books are fast disappearing in the lives of our children. The libraries they will know in their lifetime will live on the backlit screens of their iPads. The Saint John’s Bible, in its beauty, grabs their imagination and invites them to consider their connection to all the people who claim heritage with The Book. It is ancient and it is relevant all at once. The

Igniting Creativity

ABOVE Rev. Kate Wesch, Priest Associate, reads the Gospel from the Gospels and Acts volume. RIGHT A volume of the Heritage Edition of The Saint John’s Bible is prominently displayed in the chancel of Epiphany Parish Church in Seattle, Washington. Photo by Diane Carlisle.

beauty and the size have a visceral impact on their sense of the importance of this book in their lives. As parishioners line up for Eucharist at the altar, standing and waiting their turn for the Eucharist, they pass by the Bible on the stand in the chancel. People frequently pause, struck by the beauty and intimacy of encountering the images so directly, deepening their spiritual experience as they prepare to engage in the Eucharist. The hope for Epiphany is that the entire seven-volume set of the Heritage Edition remains in our midst and continues to serve as a sturdy symbol of who we are and what we stand for, both in our liturgy and our study life. They have become friends to the parish, which is no surprise given how they initially came to be at Epiphany. Consider my witness a recommendation from a friend to invite The Saint John’s Bible to your institution as well. Rev. Doyt Conn is the Rector of Epiphany Parish Church in Seattle, Washington.

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Capturing the Light of The Saint John’s Bible Buck Holzemer is an award winning photographer based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His recent entry, “Horseracing,” was voted Best of Show at the 2013 International Photography Awards in New York City. In shooting The Saint John’s Bible Heritage Edition, Holzemer’s objective was to capture the reflection of light off of multiple surfaces at multiple angles. He also worked to capture the three-dimensional feel of the cotton pages. “It was a real honor to work on a project involving so many amazing artists and craftsmen. Trying to capture all the nuances of texture, color and the light effects from the gold illuminations was a difficult technical task. In the end we used a combination of many different images combined together to construct each photograph. I think it worked out quite well but would highly recommend experiencing The Saint John’s Bible in person to fully appreciate what a work of timeless art it really is,” said Holzemer.

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Igniting Photography

Photos by Buck Holzemer.

Igniting Photography continues on pages 6-7

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Igniting Photography

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Photos by Buck Holzemer.

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Igniting Poetry

The Bible in Verse Edgar Allan Poe wrote, “Poetry is the rhythmical creation of beauty in words.” Because rhythm is a critical element in the art of calligraphy, Poe’s ‘rhythmical creation’ is especially apropos for poems about the The Saint John’s Bible. The following poems are wonderful examples of the ways in which The Saint John’s Bible ignites creativity. The first was written by Patrick Hicks. Mr. Hicks, a graduate of Saint John’s University (Collegeville, Minnesota), is the author of five poetry collections and his first novel, The Commandment of Lubizec, was recently published by Steerforth/Random House. In 2015, Schaffner Press will publish his short story collection, The Collector of Names. Royal Rhodes, the Donald L. Rogan Professor of Religious Studies at Kenyon College, wrote the poem titled Illuminating the Word. Dr. Rhodes’ current research and writing projects include a book on popular literary and visual images of the papacy (The Ultimate Pope), and a manuscript on the images of monks and nuns in popular fiction in the modern period (Disordering Love).

Upon Seeing The Saint John’s Bible Words sprout from a prairie of vellum, painted dragonflies hum near pools of color. The first handwritten bible in over 500 years, I imagine quills fluttering through air, their nibs busy with meaning, illuminating the word. Commissioned by modern monks, nestled in the woods of central Minnesota, our Book of Kells is surrounded by metal round-towers full of corn. Written in English, unafraid to open its spine to other faiths, these pages shimmer with light, seduce the eye. Whispering in “Psalms” are painted sonograms of chanted prayer — Muslim, Lakota, Buddhist, Jew, Taoist, Greek Orthodox, Sufi, and Gyume — they bob upon an ocean of words, vowel-swollen, air moves through us all. The ink from these songs will remain long after our own lungs have deflated.

Illuminating the Word (Read at the Feast of the Assumption on March 25, 2014) A book of splendor makes us gather here, beside the Ark and what the hand and mind, guided by our deeper selves — the seer and saint and sinner — shows us, cruel and kind. A book of wonders, science joined with art, views from Hubble, double-helix links, the Eve whose mitochondria impart to us our nature, all that prays and thinks. These narratives in prose and poetry “ the beginning” to whatever end let us look within and truly see. Here is Wisdom! Listen and attend! Quill on vellum, ink, and burnished gold reveal the Word the Spirit tells and told. — Royal W. Rhodes

It is the gospels that catch my breath. Standing before the radiant skeleton of a man who was pinned to a tree, I see all of our golden reflections. These words carry me towards the end, towards that final period, towards that last daub of ink. — Patrick Hicks

Royal W. Rhodes Patrick Hicks

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Igniting Design

Windows of Illumination Marquette University (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) was one of the first institutions to acquire the Heritage Edition and celebrated its arrival during Mission Week in 2011. Today “helping to invoke the spirit of imagination,” illuminations from The Saint John’s Bible designed as stained glass windows provide the “main visual draw” to Zilber Hall’s new chapel. Marquette’s former president, Scott R. Pilarz, S.J., encouraged, “As you visit the space, sit with the vibrant colors and dynamic brush strokes, let these images capture your imagination and draw you more deeply into the life of God.”

Photos by Ben Smidt.

Chapel Wood Becomes Display Case Brother Dietrich Reinhart, OSB, the former president of Saint John’s University, spoke often about the lineage of The Saint John’s Bible and “that conversation between past eras and the present which is so important.” The display case St. Catherine University (St. Paul, Minnesota) created for the Heritage Edition is an excellent example of this dialog between past and present. Using handcrafted woodwork from a kneeler and confessional once used in the university’s historic Our Lady of Victory Chapel, Stan Asbell designed a beautiful home for the Bible. “This project was challenging and fun,” says Asbell, one of three carpenters on staff at St. Catherine’s. “When you reuse wood, there are slight imperfections, like little scratches or nicks, but I think that makes this stand unique and gives it more of an antique look.” Located at the center point of Coeur de Catherine’s fourstory atrium, St. Catherine’s encourages students and staff to visit this sacred space by turning pages and changing volumes on a regular basis. Carpenter Stan Asbell with the display case he designed for St. Catherine University. Photo by Dawn Villella.

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Igniting Music Bringing The Saint John’s Bible to Life Through Music Under the direction of video and projection designer, Nina Dunn, this iconic Anglican church on Trafalgar Square in London created a beautiful celebration of the Word by combining illuminations from The Saint John’s Bible with sacred music by the world-renowned St. Martin-in-the-Fields Choir. Scenes from Creation to the Birth of Christ were projected — and animated — onto St. Martin’s famous east window as the choir performed works by Carson Cooman, Jonathan Dove, James Macmillan, Morton Lauridsen, Benjamin Britten and Eric Whitacre.


“I was very privileged to have the opportunity to work with such beautiful images. Where I would usually create content from scratch, the process here involved deconstructing the imagery and preparing it for both movement and mapping onto the window and surrounding architecture, sometimes expanding it with additional brushstrokes where necessary. It was then set to music using live cued animation. There is a great deal of motion suggested by the artistry within the Bible — in fact it all looks as if it is alive and ready to fly off the pages of the Bible so it felt right to extend this to work with the choral pieces performed.” — Nina Dunn

Photos by Marc Gascoigne.


Non-Profit Org. U.S. Postage PAID Saint John’s Univ.

Saint John’s University Heritage Program PO Box 7222 Collegeville, MN 56321

If you would like to learn more about The Saint John’s Bible Heritage Edition, please contact us by phone at (320) 363-2611, or by email at Our web address is

Igniting Creativity Praying with Imagination Pastoral leaders and catechists visit Saint John’s School of Theology•Seminary each summer to pray with the illuminated word of The Saint John’s Bible and to extend their prayer through bookmaking, calligraphy, painting, and storytelling. The retreat’s morning sessions encourage participants to practice Seeing the Word as they delve deeper into learning the rhythm of visio divina. In the afternoon, participants ground their own spirituality by developing their artistic imagination.

Participants work directly with a master artist to learn new techniques and spiritual art practices.

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