Prayer and Spiritual Art

The artwork you find in many Bibles, which can include the stylized capitalized letters at the beginning of a chapter to full page designs, are called Illuminations.  Many of the Illuminations were meant to tell a story from the Bible and most had very deep meaning.  Other spiritual artwork developed over the course of history also tells stories from the Bible, from such things as Celtic high crosses in Ireland to paintings by Michelangelo and Rembrandt. 

In our Oremus program, the workbook last week included Rembrandt’s painting, The Return of the Prodigal Son.  If you look very closely at that painting, you will notice something intentional in the father’s embrace.  The left hand, very masculine, is placed on his son’s shoulder in a typical male embrace.  The right hand is a more slender, feminine hand, placed across the son’s back in an embrace similar to a mother’s embrace.  The father in the painting represents our heavenly Father.  Notice the brother’s hands – they are crossed in such a way that they show displeasure.  In the upper left corner of the painting we see a very faint female figure – probably the mother of the prodigal son.  Behind the father is a servant and seated next to him is what appears to be a rich nobleman, possibly a financial advisor to the family.  What does this piece of artwork say to you in recalling the story of the prodigal son?  Talk to God about the feelings this painting evokes.

Praying with spiritual art is another form of prayer we can incorporate into our lives to bring us closer to God.  To learn more about this prayer form, we invite you to attend a free presentation on what we are calling “Visio Divina” on Monday, February 9, 2015, from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Ss. Edward & Isidore Church.  We will be using the Creation Illumination from the St. John’s Bible as our inspiration.  The St. John’s Bible is the only handwritten and illustrated Bible commissioned by a Benedictine Abbey in modern times.  Our presenter for the evening will be Timothy Johnston, director of liturgy in campus ministry at Marquette University.  Mr. Johnston has written a reflection for the Illuminating Ministry, a journal, Volume III, on the topic of community based upon the Pentecost illumination in the St. John’s Bible from Acts 2:42-47.  All are welcome to join us for this inspirational evening of prayer and song.