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A Bible and dental floss
by Linda Lane
2008-07-06 09:45:38
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We donated a 123-year- old Bible, its rusted metal clasps being held together with dental floss, to the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe church in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The Bible was originally used in a Protestant church in Oklahoma, USA, from a private family there, and a 92-year-old Seattle woman gave it to a friend who gave it immediately to me in West Seattle. The elderly lady has family but no one is Christian.

As soon as it came into my possession I felt, despite the fine Gothic illustrations, unusually fine binding with metal claps and so forth, that it was to be returned to a church on the West Coast. Armed with the Web I went shopping for the right church. Someone paid a lot of money for this Bible, and it should have a proper home, restoration, and care. It was too fragile, too fine, and too valuable when restored to be in my collection: I couldn't keep it, shouldn't and didn't.

Searching in Google Image Search over fast Internet connection on "Churches + West Coast" when I saw a photo of the Catholic Church in Puerto Vallarta with its crown of angels - I knew that was the place. Flying from Seattle to Guadalajara Mexico, I took the large old heavy Bible wrapped up in a clean white sheet in my suitcase. I stayed for a week with friends for my first visit to Mexico - Guadalajara is an old city and very beautiful - people took their time making beautiful architecture from stone.
From there with one of my friends I took a cosy and posh regular night bus from Guadalajara to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and rolled it in the suitcase down the long walkway from the oldest hotel in the city Rosita, to the church, several blocks away. May is the hottest month in Mexico and it was all three: May, Mexico and HOT.

The friend with me was resistant to entering the Catholic Church as she is a different religion however I persuaded her that I needed her help - which I did as it turned out because I do not speak Spanish. After holding Mass the prime priest's handler agreed that the lead priest would speak to us about the treasure we wished to donate.

However he just zipped right by us without a glance. So we asked again. The kindest sweetheart of a priest with just the kindest eyes accepted the treasure which he said could be repaired. As a priest, he has seen it all in Puerto Vallarta. He was delighted to have it, and treated it with great respect and reverence. He thanked us profusely as my friend translated.
The bible was photographed on a sheet from our hotel room, laid out on a plastic table on the deck right next to the sea. With the wind blowing I had to swiftly shoot the images and not many turned out.

The right to freedom of religion is sacred. Freedom of religion means any religion. But you gotta believe in it.

Click here to see the full exhibition of Linda Lane's photos.

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Emanuel Paparella2008-07-06 15:20:02
Intriguing story; for indeed, there are two ways at looking at the same Bible: with the eyes of a bibliophile and with the eyes of faith. Could you be synthesizing the two, Linda?

As several art critics have intimated (Collingwood and Benjamin, for example), the mass reproducible work of art, a la Andy Warhol, does not reside in the physical material through which it reveals itself but in the mind and original intention of the artist. Similarly, there is only one Bible and it resides in the Cosmic Mind or designer, of the Author or the One who inspired it and not in the material on which it was written (the cosmos)and not even in the minds of the ones who actually physically wrote it. When the medieval monks were transcribing rare manuscripts from Greek and Latin (thus preserving the best of Western Civilization) they knew full well that they were not the authors of the message they were transcribing but merely the messengers reproducing the message of the authors and that those messages would be forever lost unless transcribed. Theirs neverthless was a work of love and reverence. Cultural philistines and those who have an ax to grind against religion and against the Author of it (Psalm 14 calls them fool in say in their heart there is no Author and it is all meaningless and purposeless), often enough confuse message and messenger. It’s all there by the way, in Umberto Eco’s “The Name of the Rose.”

Linda Lane2008-07-06 20:12:20
The Name of the Rose is one of my favorite books.

Understood, thank you Paparella!

Emanuel Paparella2008-07-06 20:23:42
Thank you for sharing a great story about a great message and story.

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