veritas | art/simonicus
THE DANCE: please click collage or here to go to my art blog and view in Lightbox
click on individual images to enlarge | slides here
I FIRST SPENT a lot of time in company with Josefina de Vasconcellos‘ Jesus 35 years ago as I was in the early stages of preparing for the priesthood. He gazes out across green fields towards Lakeland Fells and Ullswater, one of the most beautiful lakes in England’s glorious Lake District. He’s still the Jesus I know best, the one who gazes with compassion upon a Creation He’s willing to give absolutely everything to, a giving, a compassion and a perpetual gazing that encompasses every child, woman and man upon earth. This Jesus doesn’t belong to Christians. This Jesus belongs to everyone and everyone belongs to Him. This Jesus is an image of the God who is high above, beyond and deep, within and beneath every single one of the world’s religious traditions. This Jesus says to all humankind “Today you will be with me in Paradise”. This Jesus inspired Teresa of Avila’s
Christ has no body now on earth but ours;
no feet with which to run to proclaim good news;
no hands with which to reach out
to touch, to heal and to bless;
no ears with which to hear the cries of the poor;
no eyes with which to look out with compassion
upon this world, but ours.
Bodies, hands, feet, eyes and ears – to carry the watchful souls that are to stay close to their Source and eventually be at One. Compassion. The work of the anointed – of every shade and hue, of every nationality and tradition. The work of Christ now.
click on images below to enlarge | slides here
STATUE OF OUR LADY AND CHILD
This statue was carved out of a log of holly by Alfons Lug, a Munich wood-carver, who, with some 400 other German Prisoners of War was quartered at Greystoke Castle from the Autumn of 1945 to April 1946.
His only tools were a pocket-knife and a small chisel, but he was repatriated shortly before the work was finished. It was completed by Fritz Hofmann, a joiner from Thuringia. The colouring was done by Hans Viesel, a master painter from Baden.
This text is inscribed in calligraphy at Greystoke Parish Church
Orthopraxy in much of Buddhism and Hinduism
Orthopraxy is usually distinguished from orthodoxy. Orthodoxy refers to doctrinal correctness, whereas orthopraxy refers to right practice. What we see in many of the Eastern religions is not an emphasis upon verbal orthodoxy, but instead upon practices and lifestyles that, if you do them (not think about them, but do them), end up changing your consciousness.
This was summed up in the Eighth Core Principle of the Center for Action and Contemplation: We don’t think ourselves into a new way of living; we live ourselves into a new way of thinking. I hope that can be a central building block of the Living School.
And – joyfully – today I’ve been chestily croaking ALLELUIA! upon reading today’s thoughts about the witness of art
Unique witness of mythology, poetry, and art
My earliest recordings often included mythological stories, poetry, or art to make the point. Many people are more right-brained learners than left-brained. When you bring in a story, or a poem, or refer to a piece of art, you can see people’s interest triple: “Wow, I’m with you!” Whereas, if you stay on the verbal level all the time, their eyes glaze over, they lose interest, they lose fascination and identification with the message.
I don’t think Western preachers and teachers have really understood the importance of art in general. Until people can “catch” the message with an inner image, it usually does not go deep. We’ve also been afraid of myths that weren’t Christian. In fact, we were afraid of the very word “myth.” We thought it meant something that wasn’t true when, in fact, it’s something that’s always true—if it’s a true myth. This will be a very important substratum of the Living School curriculum.
One of the things I most love and admire about Richard Rohr is his generosity of heart, mind, soul and body. He’s open to seeing the Divine all around us, open to contemplation and to receiving the Wisdom from traditions other – though as he shows us, not always so very “other” – from his own. I love that Fr Richard balances the importance of both orthodoxy and orthopraxy; that he both thinks deeply and feels profoundly. That, it seems to me, is what the call of Jesus Christ – and of other great spiritual masters and teachers – is really all about. As Richard has it, “living ourselves into a new way of thinking”. That’s something all of us can do, all of the time, with or without particular religious frameworks – though many, in the living, will thrive in the kind of religious environment that seeks – as the word religion intends (from Latin religare - ”to reconnect, to bind together”) – to bind up the whole.
My friend Mimi is a generous contemplative - Between Night And Day; as is the marvellous Rebecca Koo - Heads or Tails; and Bill Wooten’s - The Present Moment brings a wonderful word from Thomas Merton – and a stunning photo; Francesca Zelnick is as special as her Today’s Special; David Herbert is one of my diocesan friends and I love his latest post (and we share affection for Parker Palmer); and Rachael Elizabeth’s been having a good time doing Christology and incense-sampling ( ! ) in Durham; James Fielden – always showing us “The Way Home” – meditates exquisitely upon Time; Ginny at “Chasing the Perfect Moment” writes about Re-creation; Ria Gandhi has been wondering about who and what’s Beautiful and has flagged up one answer here; Jenni has been Watching the Symphony here.
What are we looking at in all these human “works of art”. What do I see as I reflect upon the colours, upon the wide spectrum that arches over the whole of my life?
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus
Holy, Holy, Holy
Multi-coloured and blessed sanctity – God’s art: whether we’re always aware of it – or not …
Swimming in the Mystery of God – please click photos to enlarge
TODAY WE CELEBRATED our Church’s Dedication Sunday. Wonderfully talented people have decorated the parish church on this day for 102 years – with flowers hand-picked from their own gardens. This year, having hosted Angels in 2010 and Windsails in 2011 (see Lumière below) our Lantern Tower is graced by the gently swimming presence of some of the most magnificent fish I’ve ever seen.
“We swim in the Mystery of God as fish swim in the sea”, said theologian Karl Rahner SJ – in an attempt to communicate the profound faith statement that human beings need no more consider themselves separate from God than we could consider ourselves separate from the air that we breathe. We’re all in this together: God, and everything created by God.
I often share Rahner’s little tale of the elderly, statesmanlike fish gliding past two tiddlers one morning. “Morning boys!” he greeted them. “How’s the water?” The tiddlers ignored him and – flicking their little tails – swam on. A little time later one looked at the other and asked “what’s water?”
Oliver John joined in the swimming with smiling enthusiasm as he was baptised this morning beneath and surrounded by the meanderings of many colourful creatures. And all present dedicated themselves anew to the works of Love in the coming year.
Meanwhile, General Synod prepares for major debate upon the morrow in York. Bishop Nick Baines of Bradford writes of Frustration and Joy here – pointing us (for which, hearty thanks) to an audio link to Archbishop Rowan’s fabulous sermon at the Synod Eucharist this morning. How glad I am, for him, that the good Archbishop will swim ere long in the quieter waters of Cambridge. How certain I am, however, that we’ll miss his gentle touch more than any of us have been able hitherto to imagine.
Still, he encourages us to swim on …
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability Acts 2
MY COLLEAGUE David Stoter and I chatted for ten minutes after yesterday’s three consecutive celebrations of the Eucharist here. “The whole place is buzzing” today, David said. And it was. Bramhall Parish Church is never exactly a sleepy-sort-of-a-church but yesterday, indeed throughout the weekend, the place was “buzzing”.
A lot of good things have been happening and more are converging. David and I both articulated that we “don’t quite really know why”. And I’ve been pondering that thought since, delighted about the “not knowing” … and in the early hours of this morning something “clicked”. It’s Pentecost next Sunday, I thought, half asleep, and was jolted awake. It’s Pentecost next week … and we’re not in control. The outpouring of the very life and breath of God is what’s continually changing us here, “from glory into glory, till in Heaven we take our place”.
I remember smiling, twenty years or more ago, when I heard a friend speaking about her church family
“Oh! we do get ourselves in a pickle. We pray “Lord, renew us, set our hearts on fire” even whilst we’re anxiously trying to channel the Holy Spirit through the control centre – you know, the Church Council. And She will insist on listing where She wills! The Holy Spirit’s constantly dishing out gifts to every Tom, Dick and Harriet – and each in their own language! The Holy Spirit’s absolutely no better behaved than Jesus was when it comes to our rules …”
But churches come alive when we loosen our grip a bit. Green shoots are appearing all over the place in and around St Michael & All Angels Bramhall. The fullness of the Life of God has been engaging with growth action planning since before Adam was a lad – and without a great deal of help from us whole new worlds are constantly springing into being. We’re caught up in the act of co-creating with God, of course, but we do well to remember that it takes us a while to catch up with the sheer energy of God; it takes us a while to reckon with the fact that the Holy Spirit’s gift is patently intended for EVERYBODY – inside and outside churches and other religious bodies; it takes us a while to reckon with the Spirit’s gifts in people we think decidedly unqualified. And therein lies the Source of my greatest comfort and consolation as a Christian disciple and a parish priest. The universe is buzzing anyway. And I’m not controlling it. As the late, great Welsh priest and poet R S Thomas put it so well in his Pilgrimages, God is
… such a fast
God, always before us and
leaving as we arrive.
We’d exhaust our little energies if we tried to keep running after God. And there’s no need. Pentecost illustrates for us that the gifts are generously dispersed anyway. God “keeps up with” us. So I can rest a little easier. I can encourage my fellow pilgrims to rest a little easier too. For all the evidence before my eyes is that the fire of God’s love draws no distinction between divers peoples. To each is given their own language and life “as the Spirit [gives] them ability”. The saving work has been done. It’s ours to celebrate that fact. All we need to do is open the doors of our hearts, homes and churches as widely as possible, eyes wide open to the beauty, grace and potential in human persons, making sure that everyone knows that all people are invited to the Feast of Life – in precisely those hearts, homes and churches, always.
From time to time, of course, we become irritated. Overwhelmed. Anxious to get a grip on the reigns again, to take control. I’m too easily irritated by those (especially so called “Christian”) people who are apparently quite certain that if only all humanity would follow their particular religious traditions then the world’s ills would disappear. But Pentecostal fire is ever intent on warming such irritations out of our systems. The more irritated we become the more persistent the “calling in the night” that suggests (have you noticed?) that we
enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for you Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him - Matthew 6, v 6-8
I OFTEN SPEAK about life’s being, for me, a colour-full affair. I’ve read on several occasions that some blind people can “see” in their dreams. This doesn’t surprise me.
adoration and awe,
dying, fear, joy,
Magnificat, meditation, mediation,
passion, poetry, prayer and prose,
sadness, sleepiness, silence, song
- any and all forms of worship – often translate for me into vivid and fluid colour. The movement is gentle and healing. And thankfully, for a minimalist like me, the colour sometimes involves shades of plain and lovely uncluttered white. Neither the movement nor the colours are loud or aggressive or overwhelming. But they are bright. And each represents someone, some emotion, or some thing. A bit of time spent with “Alleluia” above may reveal some faces and one or two particular spaces …
In common with many artists, pray-ers and writers I think of our ultimate Heaven as fullness of life expressed in colours hitherto beyond our wildest seeing and dreams, but utterly reminiscent, too, of experiences we’ve known throughout our incarnate lives, here, in “this world”. Our hymn book contains a (much too long) version of the Ascensiontide “Hail the day that sees him rise”. Printed service orders (our Sunday usage) allow for discreet pruning. Not so when we use the hymn book, as we did on Thursday. So lots and lots of alleluias! For me though the words sometimes become the means of transport to a different level of seeing and / or hearing.
This “Alleluia” developed whilst humming “Hail the day” on and off over a period of about 48 hours. Sometimes these paintings start out with canvas or paper, paint and brush, and are photographed and digitally developed later. For this one the “medium” has been entirely my miracle iPad with BoxWave stylus. Have a great Sunday-after-Ascension. And may your Alleluias be colour-full and joyful.
I’D NOT SEEN this year’s Britain’s Got Talent until my friend Hilary drew my attention to Charlotte and Jonathan, after a Eucharistic celebration in which Rachael Elizabeth – herself extra-ordinarily connected with her hearers – encouraged us to pay attention to the Dominical command to “love one another”.
I don’t mind telling you that I’ve just howled my eyes out! The connection that Rachael spoke of this morning is so completely and patently present in these two young singers. The odds of pre-judging criticism weighed heavily against them – and for all their youth, they knew it, too. But there’s a mind-blowing, awe-inspiring Grace in the connection between these two, and each brings out the phenomenal charism of the other. Millions have been following the series and will have seen this film before. I’d bet my bottom dollar that no-one will mind watching this one again.
I saw connection and majesty in the Black Dyke Band on Thursday. Now I’ve watched, over and over again, the connection between these two, the power of the encouraging glance, loyalty, mutual admiration, giving and giving some more until it hurts – and then some more still, so that the hurt gives way to joy and glory. This piece of film brings me – literally – to my knees with admiration and awe, and it stretches my heart and lungs to near bursting point. Each “sees” the other – and whenever and with whomsoever that happens we see a glimpse of Heaven. And, as Rachael suggested, in the ultimate fullness of life it’ll be confirmed, irrevocably, that “we’re family”. Let this be our prayer.
The fabulous Ashleigh and Pudsey won this particular competition and I loved their act – and the “connection” between them, too. The singing duo were “runners up”. But I don’t think I’ll ever forget young Charlotte and Jonathan. I’m profoundly struck by the thought that as the Holy Spirit animates God’s Creation by her self-giving, as the loving spirit and anointing grace of Mary Magdalene animated Jesus the Anointed, so Charlotte animates and draws out the song-in-the-soul of Jonathan – though she could easily and blessedly have revelled only in her own. I salute this strong and tender young woman. I am touched to the core by the beauty that each magnifies in the other. There’s deep, deep majesty in them; a paradoxical enormity and littleness about their self-giving humility, a greatness about their gifts – of music and of character.
Deep, deep, deep grace. How does one say a fitting “thank you” for that?
BANK HOLIDAY weekend affords a happy extension to “left brain time.” There are always more books I want to read, more paintings I want to paint, more photographs I want to make, more writing to be done, more poems to unfold, more prayer to be celebrated, more people to share some time and stories with, more songs to be sung, more colours to be marvelled at, more silence to be revelled in – than time ordinarily allows. And that very fact is cause for thanksgiving! Life is indeed a rich tapestry. The signs of the reign, the joy of God, are all around me. And I’m immensely thankful for the connections that blogging makes possible with people all around the world.
Today’s artwork is inspired, in Eastertide, by Mary Magdalene, beloved apostle of Jesus, first witness to new life in the Resurrection, loyal provider of intimate and loving support and sustenance, someone generous, open-hearted and giving, someone who just “knew” instinctively, what Jesus’ mission on earth was about, someone released, by God’s goodness, from the kind of prison every one of us finds ourselves in from time to time.
All human persons are “bedevilled” by “Legion” the perpetually underlying and taunting belief that somehow we’re failing to make the grade, we’re unlovable, bigger and better “failures” than anyone else, destined to be “alone”, faithless, heartbroken, misunderstood, wretched. All human persons yearn for the kind of release that Jesus’ love and acceptance brought about in Mary’s life; for the kind of release that she brought about in his.
Mary Magdalene: someone cruelly maligned and abused by religious patriarchy and misogyny across the centuries, but all the while someone I’ve admired and looked to as an icon of life’s richness and fullness, of life’s goodness and generosity, of life’s being – under the vivifying reign of God – a beautifully, colourfully, gorgeously dressed dance with our Creator.
Sydney Carter described Jesus as The Lord of the Dance. In my heart I think of Mary of Magdala as Jesus’ dance-partner and she is clothed, dressed, like the environment all around and about her, in colour and glory. And theirs is a partnership, theirs is a dance that, far from being exclusive and excluding, invites you and I to join. “Shall we dance?”, Mary asks. “And shall we sing?”, asks the Lord of the Dance. And sometimes the colours blur a little in the swirling. And sometimes they’re blended by our tears …
Have you seen the wonder of it? Have you seen Mary’s dress?