Wednesday, October 5, 2011 – Arriving at the church, I entered and went straight to the window at the back of the sanctuary. I examined the ship and its setting in detail. The bottom of the lower window panel had a bible verse, styled in Old English lettering, like an illuminated manuscript: “TRUST HIM AND HE WILL HELP YOU STEER A STRAIGHT COURSE AND SET YOUR HOPE ON HIM: ECCLUS 2:6.”
I stepped away from the window and walked down the left side of the sanctuary to visit my favorite series of windows, a triptych depicting a bucolic scene of heaven and earth. I studied the bible verses at the bottom of the left and right panels, also styled in Old English lettering: “THE EARTH IS THE LORD’S, AND THE FULLNESS THEREOF” and “THE WORLD, AND THEY THAT DWELL THEREIN.” (shown at the top of this page) I sensed a connection between the two windows that merited some investigation and decided to return home to do some research.
Comparing the Ecclesiastes verse from the Providence window to the verse in my Standard Bible, I was surprised to find the two versions were completely different. In my bible I read: “2:6 I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees.” It was followed by “2:7 I bought male and female slaves, and had slaves who were born in my house.”
The Rhode Island General Assembly purchased the sloop “Katy” in 1775 from John Brown, a wealthy merchant, slave trader and statesman, who lived in Providence. The “Katy” was commissioned to serve the Continental Army against the British and renamed USS “Providence.” It was one of first ships to form the U.S. Navy.
It struck me as a twist of irony, that the U.S.S. Providence served as a merchant vessel of a slave trader, only to be rededicated to the fight for freedom from the enslaving rule of England. The alternate verse drew my attention to this fact. I searched online and found a third version of the same verse, originally written about 200 years before Christ. “Believe God, and he will recover thee: and direct thy way, and trust in him. Keep his fear, and grow old therein.”
Keep his fear? Grow old therein? Puzzled by the turn of phrase, I thought about the words beneath the triptych window, “Dwell therein.” THEREIN. The words tumbled around inside my mind and my heart, settling into a different order. HIS FEAR… THE EARTH… THE WORLD… HIS SPHERE? And storied windows richly dight.
KEEP HIS SPHERE, AND GROW OLD THEREIN.
Take good care of this planet, and live a long life. Had I discovered a pun that had been intentionally laid there by angels overtime for someone to find… or had I created the pun of my own mind?
A pun is a literary device where a word is or similar sounding words are used in a manner to suggest two or more possible meanings. This is generally done to the effect of creating humor or irony, and make the reader have an “ah-ha!” moment.
Inspired by a cryptic triptych, I had stumbled upon the wide discrepancies in biblical verse and connected the bits of information, like the pieces of a puzzle. Deeply intrigued, I sought more information from an ecclesiastical expert. Read more