Sunday, November 3, 2019

The Mass, the Communion of Saints, and a Benhilton Parishioner



(Click to enlarge)

This picture of the Mass being celebrated is very much of its time. It was painted by former All Saints’ Benhilton parishioner Thomas Noyes Lewis (1862-1946), at the heart of whose work is the sense of the veil being lifted in the Eucharist so that we might “see” what is really going on ... that is, that we are not IMITATING here on earth the worship we imagine to be going on in heaven, but that we are actually JOINED TO IT by the power of the Holy Spirit and the mystery of the outward and visible signs appointed by the Lord himself. 

Well do I remember having acquired in my early teens Through the Veil: Communion Book, published in 1930 by The Faith Press. As the title suggests, its purpose was to help Anglo-Catholic laypeople of that era (and down to the 1960s!) grasp more fully within the Communion of Saints our participation in the heavenly worship. The Mass book was, of course, in Cranmerian language, and sumptuously illustrated by Noyes Lewis, whose well-known painting The Place of Meeting, published as a print shortly after World War I, had a very wide circulation throughout the Anglo-Catholic world. (I’ve seen it in sacristies, vestries, vicarages, and even diocesan offices the world over!) In fact, as an artist, Noyes Lewis was most noted for work on religious - particularly Catholic - themes. He produced a great many illustrations for Sunday School albums. He worked with The Faith Press for many years until about 1932 producing several series of picture cards, including the Scout Promise. He then created The Gospel Stamps for The Plaistow Press. A set of his Stations of the Cross is at St Giles’ Church, Matlock (go HERE). 

As we at All Saints’ Benhilton keep our Patronal Festival today, it is appropriate to acknowledge the contribution of Thomas Noyes Lewis in helping so many Anglicans around the world embrace a truly Catholic understanding of the Mass. 

An original painting of his - a Madonna and Child - hangs in our choir vestry in memory of his wife who predeceased him. Father Marcus Donovan, Vicar from 1945 to 1961, in his History of the Church and Parish of All Saints’ Benhilton, writes of the period just before World War I: 

“Gradually the church was being adorned. A frontal for the High Altar was designed by the well-known artist, Mr. Noyes Lewis, and embroidered by the indefatigable Miss Ridout ... Mr. Noyes Lewis was for many years a worshipper at Benhilton and used to serve at the altar. He died in 1946; the last communication we had from him was in that year, when he presented the church with the Stations of the Cross which he had designed.”

Here is the Elevation of the Host by Noyes Lewis, from Through the Veil: Communion Book:


(Click to enlarge)




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