December 25, 2008

Ghost of a Garden

The garden at midnight,
in the season of this writing,
has been found as a gossamer thing
just as the waning moon
cleared the eastern mountain
to plow through the stars.

Taking away the material
substance of the garden
and leaving it an ethereal thing.
The real garden gone –
only the soul of the garden real.

The garden at midnight
brought to memory a visitor
who once came to the garden altar
and knelt and prayed there.

She exclaimed . . .

“When the Mission’s last picture is painted,
when all now living have passed
from work to reward,
when the garden altar and walls
have crumbled
and cockleburs grow on the ruin –
let us ask God
to let us come back some Christmas
to the ghost of this garden
for a glorious midnight Mass.”

On that recent midnight,
there was only a ghost of the garden.
And in the ghost garden midnight Mass
at the garden altar
at some point in eternity,
it seemed as rational as immortal life.

Perhaps it is childish
to dwell on that Mass,
even in fancy,
but it is a sweet and lovely vision.
A bit of heaven once of earth,
come back to earth again.

All the acolytes
the Mission ever had,
all who were ever numbered
with the Mission
or the Greater Congregation.

All the children,
assembled with the angels
in the Mission garden.

All to whom faith was natural
and all to whom faith was a struggle,
no longer needing a creed
in the light of mutual knowing.

Every voice lifted in heavenly paeans.
The ghosts of all the candle flames
that ever graced the Mission altars,
the ghosts of all the incense ever offered.

Perhaps behind the garden altar,
where now stands a statue of Holy Mary,
she might really come and stand
with the ghosts of all the roses.

And she might actually hold in her arms
no less than the eternal Christmas Child.
While all the stars of the heavens
gathered of their will for her diadem,
pale in His blinding glory.

George W. Jones
From the book "Life's Journey".

Photo by Dan Hardison
Hickory Nut Gorge, Western North Carolina

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December 20, 2008

The Christ Child's Lullaby

My love my treasured one are you
My sweet and lovely son are you
You are my love my darling you
Unworthy I of you

Your mild and gentle eyes proclaim
The loving heart with which you came
A tender helpless tiny babe
With boundless gifts of grace

King of kings most holy one
God a son eternal one
You are my God and helpless son
My ruler of mankind

Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia

— Traditional lyrics from the Hebrides Islands,
Scotland, as sung by Sheena Wellington

Image by Dan Hardison
Digitally Enhanced Photograph
(Used for my 2008 Christmas card)

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View Christmas cards of the past

December 12, 2008

The Parthenon Nativity Scene

There are always wonderful memories of Christmases past even though time has rendered the details a little less clear. Some are traditions that were celebrated at Christmas year after year. There are many from Middle Tennessee that will recall visiting the Nativity Scene at the Parthenon in Centennial Park in Nashville.

The Nativity Scene at the Parthenon was first installed for Christmas 1954. Donated by Fred Harvey of Harvey's Department Store in Nashville, it was 280 feet long, 75 feet deep and filled with colorful lights. The scene could be viewed by driving around the Parthenon along the park road. The Nativity Scene was a regular feature every Christmas through 1967 when age and disrepair forced the Christmas tradition to end.

The Parthenon – a full-scale replica of the ancient Parthenon in Athens, Greece – was built as the Fine Arts Building for the Tennessee Centennial Exposition of 1897. The exposition celebrated 100 years of Tennessee's statehood. Centennial Park with the Parthenon as its centerpiece was created in 1902 from the 200 acres that served as the Centennial grounds. On December 31, 2001, a celebration was held to mark the completion of the Parthenon's seven-year restoration.

It has been many years since the Nativity scene at the Parthenon was a welcomed visit, but it will remain a memory to be cherished.

— Dan Hardison

Image: 8 3/4" panoramic postcard of the Nativity scene at the Parthenon, Nashville, Tennessee, c. 1950s.

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December 1, 2008

Exhibition: "Light of the World"

"One thought again, as so often in the deep moments of life, how ritual of our faith fulfilled that joyous command: Let there be light!"
— From a letter, author unknown.

Light plays a significant role in our spiritual lives, but especially so during the Christmas season. Lighting the candles of the Advent Wreath leads the way to Christmas Day and the birth of the "Light of the World."

The above image is included in the online exhibition "Light of the World" for The Episcopal Church and Visual Arts (ECVA). Visit to view the exhibition.

— Dan Hardison

Image "Let There Be Light"
Digitally Enhanced Photograph
By Dan Hardison