Monthly Archives: December 2015

New Snow and Sun in Spokane

Snow and Sunshine

I woke up to freshly fallen snow and a blue sunny sky this morning.   It put me in such a happy mood.  I don’t know why that particular combination is so pleasing to the eye, but the blue sky and white snow on bare trees and evergreens is so beautiful to me.  It gives me hope and energy. I’m even smiling as I write this. It’s true that we have had many recent dreary overcast days here in Spokane which makes today all that much more spectacular, but I think it’s more than that.  I’m sure there’s a good explanation for the joy resulting from blue skies and snow.  What do you think?

Today reminds me of one of my favorite Christmas carols not because the words speak of sunshine and snow, but because it was a day much like today when my friend, Mary Ann, first sang this song for me when we were in college.  I never had heard it before, and it quickly became one of my favorites. The poem is by the English poet Christina Rossetti written sometime before 1872 in response to a request from a magazine for a Christmas poem and set to music in the early 1900’s. I’ve put the first and last verses in bold print to represent the words Mary Ann sang.

In the Bleak Midwinter by Christina Rossetti

In the bleak mid-winter 
  Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, 
  Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, 
  Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
  Long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty,
Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air,
But only His mother
In her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give Him, 
  Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
  I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
  I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him, 
  Give my heart.

I’m not much of a piano player, but I play this song. In fact, it’s the only Christmas song I play.  Come to think of it, it’s the only song I can play except for Bach’s Minuet in G.  Do you have a favorite Christmas carol?  In the comments I’d love to hear which Christmas carol is your favorite and why, or why you think snow and sunshine is such a mood lifter.

The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist

St. John’s Cathedral – Spokane, Washington

The cathedral of St. John the Evangelist is one of Spokane, Washington’s architectural jewels. Located on Grand Boulevard above the hospitals, St. John’s towers majestically over the neighboring landscape on Spokane’s south hill, and is visible from many parts of the city including I-90.  An Episcopal cathedral, it’s the Spokane Diocese which includes Eastern Washington and the Idaho Panhandle.

The massive stone exterior is only a hint of the grandeur of what lies inside.  The first time I walked into the cathedral, my eyes were immediately drawn up to the beautiful stone detail and lace work tracery in the upper stained glass windows and the huge California redwood beams supporting the tall ceiling. The stained glass windows are breathtaking on the inside, especially on a sunny day.  Beautiful symbolic details are throughout the interior. In addition, thousands of pipes from the famous Skinner organ are in eye-catching groups in the cathedral.  There also is a carillon with forty-nine cast bells with a range of four octaves. The biggest bell weighing 5,000 pounds has the nickname, Big John. The carillon can be heard daily in nearby areas, and in the summer people enjoy picnics on the cathedral lawns while listening to the concerts.

Construction for St. John’s started in 1925 and is the only cathedral this side of the Mississippi designed in the style of a thirteenth century English gothic cathedral. It also has French influenced detail and is the brainchild of Spokane’s famous architect, Harold Whitehouse, who also was a member of the congregation. Donors are still needed to finish the last of the massive stained glass windows.

In the Middle Ages and early Renaissance, when literacy was low, stained glass windows and mosaics told Bible stories as well as local history. In that same tradition, even though literacy is much higher, stained glass windows still tell the same stories. If you go on a tour of St. John’s, you will learn the meanings of the windows depicting  biblical stories and local history.

The northwest pillar by the organ has a fascinating  cornerstone containing inserted stones – one each from the Mount of Olives, the ancient Glastonbury Abbey in the United Kingdom, the first Episcopal church in Jamestown, Virginia, and the former All Saints Cathedral in Spokane.

The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist - Cornerstone

Cornerstone

In addition to volunteers offering tours,  there are many concerts throughout the year hosted by the cathedral.  One of my favorite Christmas memories was attending a Christmas Eve service at St. John’s and experiencing the beauty of the organ and choir in the majestic cathedral setting. The atmosphere was enchanting, and I felt as if transported to Europe.

Have you been to St. John’s?  What is your favorite memory?