Official Website for CJS Hayward: An Orthodox Author’s Showcase, Library, Museum, and Labyrinth

Read some of the verbal icons:

  1. Read “The Angelic Letters,” then:
  2. Read “Doxology,” then:
  3. If you want to tackle a challenge, read this site’s climactic work: The Consolation of Theology.

Keep exploring the labyrinth… for as long as you want.

In terms of what’s here, basically, Orthodox theology and creative works. It’s a showcase of things I’ve created, and if you’d like to know what compliment I treasure most, it came as a bit of a surprise.

There was one Orthodox forum, where there was a place for new members to announce themselves, and one young woman posted a note saying she was a triplet, she added, “I’m totaly blind from birth, and by the way feel free to ask me any question you can,” and by the way, asking questions of her wasn’t being rude; asking questions was how she dealt with an elephant in the room to get people comfortable instead of worrying about how they might accidentally hurt her. So she wrote, “Ask anything you want,” and a couple of other things. And I pounced. I had a long-established website even then, and I had never been able to get an accessibility critique from a blind visitor. I’m sure that I had blind visitors, but I was never able to find out how to make the website better for blind visitors.

And so I asked her for an accessibility critique, then forgot a few days later that I had asked it. Two to three weeks later, I was completely blindsided by an email.

First thing that was going on: she sent it through my online contact form. The reason that is significant is that online contact forms tend to be really rough on blind visitors. I had a replacement for CAPTCHA that was easy-peasy for her to deal with, and so she deliberately contacted me by that form, even though my email address was on that page.

Second thing: I wanted to populate my to-do list with things to do to be more generous to blind visitors. She told me something I wasn’t expecting. She told me, “Your site is already accessible,” and didn’t give any room for improvement, and in my career, that’s one of two times that something was right on the first try. Usually, you make something, you find out what’s wrong, you fix what’s wrong, and then it’s OK. This was accessible, even though I had never gotten an accessibility critique from a prior blind visitor.

And the third thing she told me was, “You write verbal icons.” Now what’s that about?

Protestants have some history of being iconoclasts, some of them at least. In the Orthodox Church—and I’m really trying to avoid getting into something that’s much deeper than I know—in the Orthodox Church, icons are called “windows of Heaven,” and there’s a historical note here that’s worth mentioning. In the Middle Ages, people made stained glass windows because they were adorning their cathedrals with the best that was available. Glass was prohibitively expensive to make. The reason for this is that they didn’t have steel furnaces like we use more recently; they had wooden furnaces, and the wood would burn at a significantly cooler temperature than glass would melt. So this doesn’t make it impossible to make glass, or shape it or whatever, but it does mean that it takes a lot of effort and a lot of resources. And so people who were making stained glass windows were making it out of some of the most costly materials they had.

In the Orthodox Church, and today I might add by contrast, a window—if you go to buy a window in a hardware store, the window separates what’s inside and what’s outside. You may have home windows that open, but you have precious few windows that cannot close, and in the Middle Ages, and in much Orthodox history, an icon wasn’t the part that separates the inside from the outside; it was the opening, an opening that wind could blow through, air, πνευμ&alpha (pneuma). It was an opening that birds could fly through, maybe animals. It was a meetingplace between inside and outside. It was a place you could meet and lean out a little bit. And in this leaning out a little bit, we have something of the understanding of an icon. In the Orthodox Tradition, if you’re looking at an icon, it’s a portal at least as much as we would call a window today. It’s a portal where inside and outside meet, and it is not a dividing glass between inside and out. Icons are portals, and windows of Heaven, where the faithful who know them come, and they look at an icon of the Transfiguration, and they are there on the mountain.

There is loose use of what we have in the West for some artistic conventions, but where there’s perspective, the perspective is an inverse perspective. The perspective is not something that reaches back and vanishes some point behind, the inverse perspective places the vanishing point behind you because you are in the picture.

And there is much more to be said and to be known about icons as windows of Heaven. I have just unpacked a bit of one image and given a history lesson.

But the most treasured remark by far that I’ve gotten from a visitor has been that I write verbal icons, and this is when I have been compared to C.S. Lewis and some others, and sometimes been compared favorably to C.S. Lewis.

So there you have it in a nutshell; this site is meant to provide windows of Heaven; it’s meant to provide my creative works, and I hope you might find something to the glory of God. Thank you.