Glencairn Abbey Cards

Featured card of the day: Angel Choir

Today’s featured card is the Angel Choir (C15). It is another of Sr Paula’s very early designs, the whole frame being filled with detail.

Angels, Scripture says, are “ministering spirits, sent out to serve.” They are messengers; they receive a message from God and bring it to some person or people. After an angel had spoken to the shepherds near Bethlehem and told them of the birth of the Saviour, “at once with the angel there was a great throng of the hosts of heaven, praising God with the words Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace for those he favours.” In this scene we catch a glimpse of some of that great throng.

It is a scene full of energy and movement! All the lines are flowing, swirling, moving. The arrangement of the three angel faces is such that as our eyes follow from one to the other, we who look at the card are drawn into that circle of exuberance and flow.

The three are playing different stringed and wind instruments: trumpet, lyre and harp, all mentioned in the psalms as instruments used to praise God.  At least one angel is singing with full voice. They are putting all their hearts and energy and intensity into their music-making: every bit of their “body” is concentrated; their arms and fingers are extended, reaching out as far as they can, just as their message reaches out with urgency to the universe.

There is no doubt that these figures are “up in the sky” – there are stars not just above their heads, but also all around them; the angels are in the stars.

The three figures do not face each other, they are looking outwards, in different directions. Their message is directed outwards, for the whole world to hear.

Angels are neither male nor female. In depicting these figures with long hair and without beards, Sr Paula was following an artistic tradition of rendering angels not as male, but as androgynous. Their wings are large, strong and forceful – even folded up, they are bursting out beyond the border of the card itself!

Printing technology at the time this card was designed meant that only a limited number of colours could be used. Everything here is rendered in green and gold. The angel’s robes are green and white, but not uniform; each one is unique. (And are those little green shamrocks on the harp?)

The greeting inside the card is in both English and Irish, and puts into words the message that the angels are delivering:

- Glory to God in the highest! Christ the Saviour is born!

- Glóir do Dhia ’sna hárda! Go raibh síocháin Dé inár measc.

You can find this card here.

Tomorrow we will feature another card.

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