Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Burning Bush

A sketch of the famous tower by
Rembrandt (who is buried in the church)
is the Westerkerk logo. A right click will
take you to their website.
The very nice gentleman at the souvenir shop in the Westerkerk explained that the church's origins were Calvinist but that after the merger in 2004 of three of Holland's Protestant sects it became a progressive congregation within the communion of the Protestant Church of the Netherlands. He, rather shyly I thought, invited us to morning worship with the comment that the service would be in Dutch but he was sure the hymns would speak to us and we were welcome to take communion with as part of their congregation.

His invitation was hardly out of place when you consider the church's location. Next door is the Anne Frank House, in the church courtyard stands a statue of its little neighbour who wrote of the comfort its bells brought her and from the green space behind it the Homomonument reaches its pink triangle out to touch the waters of the canal. And within is one of the most eloquent and elegant symbols of ecumenicism I have ever seen: Hans 't Mannetje's The Burning Bush.

Created at the suggestion of Fokkelien Oosterwijkm, the church's minister, it was unveiled on December 9, 2007. Taking as its inspiration a passage that is common to the Torah, Christian Bible and the Koran it also draws on the age old tradition of lighting a candle as a way of bringing our wishes, prayers, cares and joys to the Devine. As anyone who has read my blog over the years knows the lighting of a candle has always been my way of remember people I love and care for, their and my wishes, prayers, cares and joys.  During my four years in Italy it was my common, sometimes daily, practice to drop into a church and take a few minutes to light a candle - I'm not sure if it did any good but if nothing else it brought a little light into a patch of darkness. When Laurent and I were married five years ago one of the things we did was to light a candle to represent all of our friends and loved ones who could not be there on that day.   For us that small flame embodied all those we loved, past and present. 

A stylized bush made up of clusters of leaves enclosing candle cups, Hans 't Mannetje's brass sculpture
is a reminder of the commonality of many of the faiths that often seem to stress only their differences.

't Mannetje's magnificent brass monument reminds us that in Judaism, Christianity and Islam the story of Moses and his encounter with his God is common to all three.
Torah תּוֹרָה / Bible
And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.” So when the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then He said, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.” Moreover He said, “I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God.
Koran القرآن
Has the story of Moses reached Thee? Behold he saw a fire: So he said to his family, "Tarry ye: I perceive a fire; perhaps I can bring you some burning brand therefrom, or find some guidance at the fire." But when he came to the fire, a voice was heard: "O Moses! "Verily I am thy Lord! Therefore (in My presence) Put off thy shoes: thou art In the sacred valley Tuwa. "I have chosen thee: Listen, then, to the inspiration (Sent to thee). "Verily, I am God: There is no god but I: So serve thou Me (only), And establish regular prayer For celebrating My praise." But when he came to the valley a voice was heard from the right bank of the valley, from a tree in hallowed ground: "Oh Moses. I am Allah, the Lord of the Worlds."

So this morning I lit a candle and placing it into one of the hundreds of cups that make up the Burning Bush  and I remember all my loved ones - their wishes, prayers, cares and joys and for a few minutes a small patch of darkness was illuminated.

10 June -1829: The first Boat Race between the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge takes place.

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Debra She Who Seeks said...

It's fitting (on several levels) that one point of the Homomonument points towards Anne Frank's House. Apparently her unexpurgated diary shows her nascent same sex longings, which her father cut out of the published version which he edited. This has only been revealed recently in the years since he died.


such a lovely little bush.

David said...

Calm sea and prosperous voyage to you in the next stages of your travels - ah, St Petersburg at the time of the White Nights! Just hope the weather's better than here (rain for days).