Duke Chapel in Christmas Dress

I darkened the doorstep of the Duke Chapel today expectant to see greenery, poinsettias, and bows. Sure enough, I saw greenery, poinsettias, and bows.


A peek into the nave from the narthex revealed masses of poinsettias near the front (chancel).


A panoramic view of the nave: Duke Chapel is a “cross-shaped church” with a long isle down the middle and perpendicular sections near the front that are called transepts. In this photo, the nativity is on the back wall of the left transept and is framed in pine garland.


My favorite ‘ornament’ was the Advent wreath. For those unfamiliar with the Advent wreath (suspended from the ceiling in this picture), it is comprised of five candles. Four of the candles (often purplish in color) are lit one each week leading up to Christmas. The white candle in the middle is the Christ Candle, which is usually lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.


The circular evergreen upon which the candles rest represents the eternity of God.

Also on display in the Duke Chapel until December 30th is a collection of nine paintings by Robyn Sand Anderson that explores the visual interpretation of scared choral music.

Via Dolorosa

Tomorrow, (Sunday, March 29th), marks the beginning of Holy Week—a time of heightened reflection as Easter approaches. (My post from this time last year describes the events of Holy Week, in case you are interested.)

Some churches hang “Stations of the Cross” during this season as visual reminders of Jesus’ steps as He was led out of Jerusalem to be crucified. Each station portrays an event from the time Jesus was convicted to when He was laid in the tomb.

Stations of the Cross are often made of wood, metal, or stone and are placed one after the other on the walls of a church’s nave so that worshippers can “walk with the Savior” through the last moments of His ministry on earth. This “path” is traditionally referred to (in Latin) as Via Dolorosa, which translated means “Way of Sorrow,” “Way of Suffering,” or “Way of Grief.”

The stations can range in number from nine to fifteen. Why such a range? Some versions incorporate legendary, extra-biblical events, such as Jesus falling multiple times or a woman (Veronica) wiping His face. This is where being (or becoming!) familiar with the eyewitness accounts recorded in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) comes in handy.

Duke Chapel in Durham, North Carolina, hangs Stations of the Cross in its vaulted nave. Haitian artist John Sylvestri created these relief sculptures—fourteen in all—from recycled oil drums.


In the vaulted nave of Duke Chapel, Stations of the Cross hang beneath the stained glass windows. (Durham, NC)

For several years now, I’ve walked the Stations. Although Duke Chapel’s collection uses the aforementioned “creative” (a.k.a. extra-biblical) license, I don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater—when I come to one of those, I simply move on to the next station.


Station 12 depicts Jesus dying on the cross.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. — I Peter 2:24 (ESV)


Station 14, Jesus is laid in the tomb.

Walking the Stations of the Cross does not in and of itself confer special blessings, but the “journey” can be spiritually edifying. Reflecting on these last moments of Jesus’ life and ministry on earth might raise the question, “Why did He walk this way?”

The short answer—and the response upon which each of our lives personally hang—is this: Every one of us fails to keep God’s Law (i.e. the Ten Commandments) perfectly. I fail. (Translated: I sin.) Respectfully, so do you. We need a sinless Savior. Jesus was—and is, and always will be—that perfect solution. (He is fully God, but He is also fully man.) He suffered and died the death that each one of us deserves. He sacrificed His life so that we could live forever. Believe that, and we will. Believe that, and we will fall on our knees, repentant, begging God our Creator to forgive us of our sins. And He will.

Holy Week is a good time to reflect, prayerfully and thankfully, on Jesus Christ’s suffering on our behalf. Come Easter Sunday, sorrow will be turned to joy in celebration of the risen Savior.

Blessings to you during this Holy Week.

Duke Gardens in a Dusting of Snow

This evening, Durham was sprinkled with a dusting of snow—a welcome alternative to the ice that North Carolina received earlier this week. The trees were blanketed in a white powder. It was stunning. …And that was just the scene near the loading dock behind my building at work. I could only imagine what the Duke Gardens looked like!

It was nearly dusk and all I had was my trusty iPhone camera, but I headed to the Gardens anyway. The gates were open and there were plenty of people milling around, so I felt safe.

I headed toward the red bridge in the Asiatic Arboretum, where less than a week ago I saw a Japanese apricot tree in bloom. Today, I found the Japanese apricot covered in snow, with only a faint hint of its pink splendor showing. It was difficult to tease out the color with my iPhone camera and the increasingly poor light, so I caught this shot of a fellow shutterbug instead:red_bridge_snow I wanted to honor the Gardens’ visiting hours so I made my way back to the parking lot, passing through the Kathleen W. Moss Garden and pausing for this photo:Moss_garden_Snow Back at the parking area, I was enchanted by the twiggy arbor of the Doris Duke Center Gardens. (Just beyond and to the left is the Virtue Peace Pond that I’ve blogged about a time or two.)Doris_Duke_arbor_snow On my way out, I stopped by the Gothic Gate—that’s the Gardens’ main gate, which leads into the historic Rose Garden. If you stand in just the right spot, you can see Duke Chapel jutting majestically through the trees. Add a sunset and you get something like this:Gothic_Gate_sundown_DukeChapel

Duke Chapel: Getting Dressed for Christmas


Duke Chapel at Christmas

Earlier this week, I stepped into Duke Chapel for the first time in many weeks and witnessed it getting dressed for Christmas. U-Haul storage boxes were stacked behind the last pews, a testament to the festive work that was well underway.

Reportedly, the decorating process takes about two days, and I was glimpsing Day 1 of the efforts. Even as a work in progress, the Chapel was gorgeous.

Here are some of the pictures that I took:


Pine wreaths adorned the entrance of the Chapel.


The narthex bore reminders of the Messiah—an annual Duke University tradition.


The gates of the Memorial Chapel, to the left of the chancel, were decorated with pine wreaths. — Duke Chapel; Durham, NC


The Advent Wreath, pictured here in the foreground, originated as a Lutheran tradition; however, many Christian denominations today use it as a symbol depicting the four weeks leading up to Christmas.


The pipe organ created a beautiful backdrop for the Advent Wreath. (Photo taken from the front of the nave looking back toward the narthex.) — Duke Chapel (Durham, NC)


The Duke Chapel nativity is handmade and beautifully illuminated year after year.

Duke Chapel will be “in full dress” for the annual Candlelight Open House on Thursday, December 18th, from 12 noon to 2pm.