After pricing and setting up yesterday — a round of thankful applause goes to friends Blair, Brian, Christie, Daniel, and James for their assistance in this department! — we’re convinced this will be one of the more interesting sales of recent years. We have a particularly extensive and varied selection of knitted goods, and of jewelry, in addition to original art works, unique imports, and an extraordinary table of ceramics. So we encourage everyone who can to come by and browse. And buy, too — since proceeds from the sale benefit the Women’s Center and help fund our ongoing program.
This year, it will actually be possible for shoppers to use their credit cards, if they wish, in a limited way. [We hasten to add that we advocate shopping responsibly!] The Women’s Center’s online site is ready to sell credits good for the purchase of merchandise at the sale. Credits come in $5.00 units, with a 1% handling fee (so, a purchase of $5.05 will buy $5.00 of merchandise at the sale). The credits are non-refundable, however, so we encourage potential users to SHOP FIRST, and buy only the credits they will need. This arrangement is clearly not for everyone, but we thought it might permit some folks to take advantage of the sale who might otherwise not be able to do so.
December 10 is not only the date of the Women’s Center’s Fall Arts and Crafts Sale, however. It is also — admittedly thanks to some advance consultation of the calendar — the date of the Seminary’s annual Lessons and Carols service, followed by Apples for Advent. And this year, due only to the grace of that same calendar, it is also the anniversary of the adoption by the United Nations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“The arts,” it turns out, is a thread of thematic connection between these three seemingly coincidental celebrations. Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says “Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.” Moreover, “Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he [sic] is the author.” That is, the vision of the arts painted by the Declaration of Human Rights is that of a realm of freedom and engagement, within which people may fashion something for their individual or collective benefit. The vision of the arts as beneficial is one that makes us smile.
The annual Lessons and Carols service, too, pulses with the life of the arts — in text, in music, in song and symbol. In the juxtaposition of Biblical words and musical phrases, the mutual reflection of prose and psalmody, this community every year calls to mind and celebrates the profound beauty of the season of advent and the mysterious grace of the incarnation.
It is questionable, in fact, whether that profundity, mystery and grace can speak to us at all except through forms that strive for beauty of expression — that is, through the arts. It is these very forms that recall us to awe in the face of felicitous communions, whether of color or sound or shape, and to delight in those felicities. It is these forms, in the final analysis, that teach us the experience of grace.
When it comes to the ancient distinction between “art” and “craft,” the Women’s Center’s Fall Arts and Crafts Sale probably falls more on the side of the humble crafts than the exalted arts. And yet . . . the humble guise of common things — wool, for instance, or wax or clay — is not finally an obstacle to the experience of grace made possible by spirited form, and the mindful transformation of materials to which it testifies. The experience of grace is, in part, the sudden appreciation of something — however homely its origin — as wonderful, delightful, perfect in its own incomparable way, in the full awareness that it could have been otherwise, and that its particular, gracious way of being comes to us as a gift.