Creation of icons based on the Book of Revelation

Posts tagged “theology

The Conversion of Paul

Running to the door of higher consciousness

So I run straight towards the goal in order to win the prize, which is God’s call through Christ Jesus to the life above.

All of us who are spiritually mature should have this same attitude. But if some of you have a different attitude, God will make this clear to you.

Philippians 3 v14-15

Becoming an artist was a struggle. It was always inside me but I found it hard to just put a mark on a piece of paper or a canvas. There was a time when a composition I had in my head would take months to realise and then I would look at it and be filled with horror at the inadequacy of my work and the lack of skill.  But this is the artist’s disease, we are always dissatisfied with what we do to some extent.  The trick is to learn to let that negativity go and move on to the next piece.

The image above is a very old painting, not expertly rendered but I love it because it sums up my driving force in life.  The original painting I had been working had filled me with despair – I had spent months on something only to squeeze paint directly onto the canvas and scrape it all off with a palette knife.  This was the moment of enlightenment.  The residual image imprinted on the canvas was of a figure in motion moving towards an area of light.  Immediately I saw it I started working with more oil paint directly onto the canvas and with a knife, sculpted the image as it appear above.  It took no more than half an hour.

I had my epiphany.

From that moment on I knew that if I was serious about becoming an artist I needed to work at it daily even if it was only half an hour.  Not doing it for months and weeks was no longer an option.  To see it as an adventure.  To follow where it led.  I had to be diligent and industrious, go to classes, learn more skills and develop, little by little.  Most of all it was to be a joyful experience.

That latter was not so easy as, in myself, I felt this overwhelming weight, like I was walking through thick black molasses every time I wanted to do some work.  It was the strangest and most unpleasant feeling but my inner determination and my lady running to her door of higher consciousness, as I called the painting above, gave me the inspiration and energy to overcome this weight.

I adore St. Paul. Not everyone does.  Not everyone agrees with some of the things he says.  But he is my boy and I love him for what he went through and suffered yet continued to do the Work.  He was one person but he became another.  His old life was transfigured into a new life, through Christ, and the skills he had before and used for worldly matters and for persecution of the church, were utilised anew with the same zeal for Christ in a different way.

My work as an artist developed and is still developing.  It is transforming in itself into new things and new ways and new opportunities.  The underlying force is transfiguration of the soul and the image above is synonymous with the process.  We pass through doors or spheres of consciousness and each time it is a tricky passage but once through the door we have a new world to explore.

Paul left behind the past and focussed on what he was doing in the present.  He kept his mind on the goal.  Union with Christ and doing, through Christ within. When this happens it is incredible what one person can do; there is an energy and lightness to everything.  A feeling of giving of the self not for others’ approval but solely for Christ, to serve Him.  The Work – that is the work that Christ wills us to do is more important than any other consideration. It is a joy because we know it will happen whether we mess up or not.  God’s Plan is relentless and He weaves in our idiosyncracies and mistakes, as an artist uses the mistake to create something new and something better than they had thought of originally.

So God bless St. Paul for his total commitment, even after imprisonment and many beatings and near drownings.  He kept his focus on the goal.  May we all learn to do the same to bring something brighter into creation.

Pax et bonum

Healing the leper with St. Francis

This morning was the first morning in six months where I felt I could relax a little. I had time to breathe and potter around and go back to bed with tea and breakfast and read some.  A large double commission is now delivered – and I will blog about this after the dedication and blessing – and a few other smaller ones are also complete and delivered.  What I have ahead is pressing but for today I am taking some space to just be as I found myself beginning to show signs of exhaustion last week.  For a practicing Christian this means they are doing things from their own strength and not depending on God.  The only solution is not to run to the GP for drugs, but to get back to regular scripture and prayer and contemplation. I had let this slip in the past few weeks as the deadline approached and I was working most days through to three and four in the morning.

So after my Franciscan Office where I demanded a few things of the Boss, such as a return of my energy and my joy, which He is always willing to give though today on the prerequisite I follow His direction and not my own and endeavour to return to this way of being as a habit, I sat down to read some of Il Fiorette of St Francis.

Today I went back over the story of his healing of a bad tempered leper.  This uncouth man was in the lazar house and bedevilling the monks who were assiduously trying their best to help him but he drove them to such despair that they went to St. Francis who was around at the time.  He went in and wished the poor man peace but the response was one of anger, “How can I be at peace when God has given me this stinking body and constant pain?”  St Francis listened quietly and asked him what the man would have him do. The man wanted St. Francis to wash him, to wash the smell off his body.

So St. Francis washed as another brother poured water over the rotten flesh and  the leprosy began to be cured. The man, seeing what was taking place, broke down in tears of remorse and cried for his previous bad behaviour.  He cried for two weeks in repentance and after St. Francis had left the monastery to travel the man later died from another illness.  However,  his soul sought out St. Francis and blessed him for all he had done to save his soul which was now on its way to the Kingdom.

How I love these stories, these Little Flowers of St. Francis and the brothers.  You can take them literally or metaphorically- it does not matter.  What matters is the truth behind them.  What matters is the care St. Francis took over the souls of those with whom he came into contact.  He did not spend his days trying to  help people get on in the world or better themselves.  He had already made his choice for the Kingdom of God, not this world.  He had relinquished everything worldly: wealth, the study of books, possessions, ambition, desire and more.  He kept his prayers, thoughts and mind continually on God and received everything he needed for his life and his work for Christ.

His ability to heal the leper is something we can transpose into our own lives.  We, too can heal our own leprosy and that of others.  We are able to do this if we love enough and believe enough.

It is down to choosing this world or the next, as the aim of our lives.  We choose this one and we become bound to it and the demands of it, the stress, the lack of freedom and the ultimate senselessness which we may see when something happens to change our perspective. This is our leprosy and sometimes we can see it written on people’s faces – there is a sense of needing to impress the right people and to ignore those who we think have little to contribute to where we think we should be going.

If we view others in this way then we have the class system, the pecking order, the haves and have-nots, the underclass and the well-to-do.  It is all illusion.

When we see people as souls then there is a change in attitude.  You see beauty in everyone, no matter who they are, no matter how they treat you, no matter what they have done in life.  St. Francis understood this perfectly.  He could heal the leper because he loved him and was concerned for the man’s soul.  He listened to him without judgement, ministered to him and then healed him. His love and openness saved this man’s soul and helped it on its way.

We have opportunities to help each others souls every single day at every single moment.  When you look down on someone know immediately you have lost an opportunity to heal both yourself and the other.  No matter, try again the next time, and keep trying to love.  Take no notice of what others think of you and your increasing collection of odd friends, you may even learn how to love your own sins and realise they are not so bad after all, in fact they are what make you human and approachable in the first place. There are many hidden consolations in such work, unlooked for blessings you could not even have imagined to exist when you choose to walk this way.

The Kingdom of God rules.

Franciscan Prayers and a tribute to Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The moment I sent an email, over a year ago, inquiring about becoming a Tertiary Franciscan, my spiritual direction and life changed.  I am still at the early novice stages and yet my whole life has been turned upside down and inside out in a way only a follower of beloved St. Francis or Christ could understand.  Though as an iconographer I am not surprised either – we look at all things through converse perspective.  The way of the kingdom is not the way of the world.  It is not.

The hardest part of all is to keep following in the way despite the reactions of people around us and especially family.  I have recently been given a book on becoming a disciple of Christ, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, by my novice guardian.  How timely was this book.  It seems to be my pattern to experience something first before gaining the understanding sometime later.

The experiences of truly following Christ are not for the fainthearted or those who wish to claim allegiance with worldly values and ideals.  Indeed, you cannot choose to follow in this way, you are chosen and it is often subtle at first. With increasing awareness, the veils of mystification are rolled back, and you begin to see the potential of who and what you are and where you are being asked to go.

Bonhoeffer understood this very well, very articulately and his inspired translation of the truth of the Beatitudes is sublime, moving and significant.  I am indebted to this heroic man.  There is still yet more to read, and more to digest.

As with writing an icon there are long stages of preparation, darkness and faults to rectify.  But as the icon nears its completion the development of the beautiful image beaming with uncreated light comes together more rapidly.  Each aspect of attention paid to it, lovingly, prayerfully helps it to unfold the beauty of the prototype in heaven, to bring the essence of that saint closer and closer.  We think we are writing the icon but it is indeed writing us, (see  my last post on Mary).  We are just the instrument of its revelation.

For my icon school this week I finished with a beautiful prayer I found on a Franciscan prayer website and I am sure they will not mind me repeating it here.  What I love about this prayer is how much the saint loves Jesus Christ.  He calls him, addresses him and loves him by name throughout.  You can feel his devotion in every word you utter. I leave it with you and wish all who read and understand this a blessed night.

A Spiritual Communion
By St. Conrad of Parzham

I have come to spend a few moments with Thee, O Jesus, and in spirit I prostrate myself in the dust before Thy Holy Tabernacle to adore Thee, my Lord and God, in deepest humility. Once more a day has come to its close, dear Jesus, another day which brings me nearer to the grave and my beloved heavenly home. Once more, O Jesus, my heart longs for Thee, the true Bread of Life, which contains all sweetness and relish. O my Jesus, mercifully grant me pardon for the faults and ingratitutde of this day, and come to me to refresh my poor heart which longs for Thee. As the heart pants for the waters, as the parched earth longs for the dew of heaven, even so does my poor heart long for Thee, Thou Fount of Life. I love Thee, O Jesus, I hope in Thee, I love Thee, and out of love for Thee I regret sincerely all my sins. May Thy peace and Thy benediction be mine now and always and for all eternity. Amen.


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