Continuing the series on the worship space of St. Barnabas, Glen Ellyn, IL where I have been the rector since January, 2000.
The Lion’s Head
Just inside the main doors, on the wall to the right, is a lion’s head. The lion is the classic symbol for St. Mark and is a reminder that St. Mark, Glen Ellyn was instrumental in the founding of St. Barnabas. Around the lion’s head is a reference to Acts 15:36-39 which refers to Mark’s companionship with Barnabas in mission. It recognizes that our congregation is part of a web of other congregations and that to be a Christian is to be part of a larger community and a longer story.It also calls to mind Revelation 5:5, "Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed.”
The lion will make many at St. Barnabas think of C. S. Lewis’ Aslan.
Eight Days a Week
One of the distinctive and pervasive symbols in the worship space at St. Barnabas is the number eight. Eight walls enclose the space and the octagon recurs in other places. For Christians, eight has symbolized the conviction that new creation has begun through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Because it is the day of resurrection, Sunday became understood as not just the first day of the week, but also as the first day of the New Creation. As such, Sunday became known as the “eighth day”. In an early Christian text that was not included in the Bible, we read,
. . . when giving rest to all things, I shall make a beginning of the eighth day, that is, a beginning of another world. Wherefore, also, we keep the eighth day with joyfulness, the day also on which Jesus rose again from the dead.
– Epistle of Barnabas, 15:8 (c. 100 A.D.)
Thus, worship on Sunday is a present invitation to enter into the new creation in Christ (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17). It is also a call to live in expectation of the new creation promised by God and inaugurated by Jesus. (cf. Isaiah 65:17-19, 22-25; Revelation 21:1-5)
The Baptismal Font, designed by liturgical artist, Richard Caemmerer, is one of three focal points, the other two being the altar and the pulpit. It is octagonal, symbolizing that through baptism we enter the eighth day and the beginning of the new creation.
However, the base of the font is a cross, reminding us that the Church’s one foundation is the cross of Jesus and in baptism we are summoned to take up our cross and follow him.
The baptismal font is placed at the center of the entrance to the worship space. This reminds us that “Holy Baptism is the sacrament by which God adopts us as his children and makes us members of Christ's Body, the Church, and inheritors of the kingdom of God” (BCP, p. 858). In the water of Baptism “we are buried with Christ in his death. By it we share in his resurrection. Through it we are reborn by the Holy Spirit” (BCP, p.306). It is therefore customary to dip a finger or two in the water and cross oneself when entering or leaving as a reminder of our own baptism
The Paschal Candle stands near the Baptismal Font, except during Easter season when it is near the Altar. Paschal, derived from the Jewish Passover, is the classic term for Easter. The candle is lit when there is a baptism and reminds us that in baptism we have new life through the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Light of the world. May the light of Christ gloriously rising dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds.