On the 50th Anniversary of C.S. Lewis’s Death

IMG_0087_1I was only ten years old when Lewis, then 64, died at his home outside Oxford in November of 1963, the same day and just an hour before President Kennedy was killed by a sniper’s bullet in Dallas, Texas. On a sabbatical trip to Oxford in the summer of 2002, my appreciation for Lewis’s life story and the legacy of his published works greatly intensified.

During my stay in Oxford, I had an opportunity to visit some of Lewis’s favorite places, from pubs such as the Eagle and Child and the Trout on the River Thames to Addison’s Walk behind Magdalen College, the Bodlien Library, and the University Church.  Oxford is a beautiful and captivating city.  The cloistered colleges of medieval style buildings, are adorned with gargoyles and spires, cobblestone walks and vast green courtyards trimmed to perfection.

But the place where I most felt Jack’s unique spirit, was at his home four miles east of Oxford in Headington Quarry, known as “the Kilns” where he lived from 1930, until his death in 1963. Going through the house was nothing less than a spiritual experience for me.  At one point in the tour, I had a few minutes alone in Lewis’s bedroom and was taken by a black and white photograph of him that hangs over a fireplace. I remember looking at him in that photo, quill pen in his right hand and cigarette in his left, and feeling the spirit and person of Jack Lewis taking greater intensity in that moment, as if a window through time was open. I was able to photograph the picture at close range with my camera. In the picture, you can see a dim reflection of the left side of my face which was caught by the light on the glass frame of the photograph, like a mirror (just above his hand).  The picture is something that I will treasure because it captures an encounter, albeit in two separate dimensions of space and time, that I’ll never forget. I am sure countless pilgrims to Oxford and “the Kilns” have shared similar experiences.

Today, November 22, 2013, is a powerful day of remembrance of two iconic figures who continue to fire our intellect and imagination toward higher aspirations of faith, compassion, and service to the world.  May they rest in peace and rise in glory.

P.S.  The New York Times reports that C.S. Lewis will receive the honor of a memorial stone in the floor of Poets’ Corner, a portion of Westminster Abbey’s South Transept commemorating today’s anniversary.


Preludio from Lute Suite BWV997 Johann Sebastian Bach – Ricardo Gallén, guitar

GallenRicardo Gallén has recorded the Complete Lute Works by J.S. Bach transcribed for guitar.  I have enjoyed his approach to phrasing, observing the choice of his fingers, and the lines he chooses to emphasize in these recordings.  Of real interest to me is the guitar he uses here – a copy of Fabricatore circa 1820 made by the Luthier Arnoldo García.  It has a delicate color, more Lute-like in nature to me.

In the booklet that accompanies the CD, Gallén offers this descriptive paragraph that expresses a contemplative approach I hear in his playing:

[Bach’s] music transcends the borders of style and taste, carrying its essence to listeners and leaving no audience untouched. Perhaps it is the rhythm of his music, full of syncopations and direction changes, or the feeling of improvisation that permeates it. Or perhaps it is his rhetoric that transports us toward a kind of mystic communication with the transcendental and the unattainable, converting the mundane into the divine, cleansing our body and saving our souls, as the writer E.M. Cioran put it.

The following video was filmed by Paco Montañés and José Hidalgo in the courtyard of Casa-Museo Palacete La Hilandera in Alcalá la Real, Jaén in July 2013. Recording in one take, no editing.


Welcome to Ora et Exerceo

DPP_0024.JPG-Iona-Abbey-candlesWelcome to Ora et Exerceo, a website exploring the relationship between prayerful awareness and musical practice. My name is Rick Lord and I recently served as the Rector of Church of the Holy Comforter in Vienna, Virginia.  I had the privilege of serving this vibrant Episcopal parish since the summer of 1994 and am now retired or “re-wired” and self-employed.

This blog is something of an online journal for me. While I tend to write primarily about matters related to personal faith, wholistic spirituality, and missional leadership, I have in recent years discovered a renewed passion for the study of the classical guitar (I majored in guitar performance as an undergraduate). What’s different about my recent efforts with the classical guitar is that I have come to appreciate the time I spend in practice as a musical form of contemplative prayer and that has been a rewarding and somewhat surprising discovery.

In 1999 Pope John Paul II composed a Letter to Artists and dedicated it “To all who are passionately dedicated  to the search for new “epiphanies” of beauty so that through their creative work as artists they may offer these as gifts to the world.”  In this Letter, he reminds us that the object of all great art is beauty, and beauty makes us nostalgic for God. Whether we consider ourselves people of faith or not, the arts arouse in us what he describes as a ‘universal desire for redemption.’

So in the days ahead, I plan to explore the intriguing relationship between art and beauty, transcendence and nostalgia, prayer and practice and other things that keep human life distinctively human.  From time to time I’ll be posting video projects from my guitar studies on the portfolio page, and some recent sermons as well. I hope that you may find some inklings of beauty through these pages and that you might share a few with me along the way.

Thanks for stopping by,