Glencairn Abbey Cards

Featured card of the day: Glad Tidings

Today’s featured card is another illustrated capital, Glad Tidings (C14).

This is a card full of joy and festivity and fun!

“Behold,” said the angel of the Lord to the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks at night near Bethlehem, “I bring you glad tidings of great joy for all the people: this day a Saviour has been born for you” (Lk 2:10-11). The words “glad tidings” which Sr Paula chose to illustrate here may also be translated as “good news”.

The three angels here are making music, dancing, sliding, delighting and rejoicing! Compared to the angels from the angel choir (card C15), these are more childlike, lighthearted, even giddy. The enormous “G” is used like a playground climbing-frame: one angel sits inside it, blowing a trumpet for all the world to hear; another slides down the outside with arms and feet outstretched (“Look, no hands!”); the third has just landed – we know this from the streaming robe and its ribbon – to balance lightly with a foot on top of the letter “l” and a hand on the “G”, peeping at the trumpet-player.

There is no one focal point here. Unlike the designs where all the lines lead to the newborn infant, here the relationship between the three angels draws our eyes constantly around in a circle, from the top of the arc of the “G” down to the lower curve, then back up the straight line to the next intersection, and up through that angel’s wings back to the top of the letter again. The angels are not an end in themselves. Movement is also established by the ripple of the angels’ robes and the fluttering of their wings.

Though they are rather similar-looking, the angels are all individual, indicated by the different design of their robes.

The angels (again like those in the other angel card) are located among the stars. Stars are above them and around them, and also below them where they act as the dots on the letters “i” and “j”. In the lettering too we find the cross symbol, both in the two letters “t” and as the punctuation mark at the end.

Is the number three significant? There were three angels also on the other card… is it a hint at the three angels who appeared to Abraham at his tent in the form of travelers, to whom he offered hospitality (Genesis 18)? They are sometimes understood as a foreshadowing of the revelation of God as Trinity, three persons in one.

And should we read anything into Sr Paula’s depiction of the angels as having black skin? It might be nice to think of this as a gesture of inclusivity, or a denial of the traditional association of sin and darkness, goodness and light; but perhaps it is simply dictated by the constraints on the number of colours that printing technology could handle when this card was first issued (probably the late 1960s or early 1970s). Recall too that the figures in the Holy Night card have navy blue skin…

This is a card to enjoy and to bring cheer wherever it is displayed.

On the inside the card bears the text from Luke 2:10-11 quoted above, and the joyful greeting “Happy Christmas!”

It is available only in English.

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