Waiting When There is No Hope An Advent Reflection by Christine Sine

The Visitation by James B Janknegt www.BCArtFarm.org

The Visitation by James B Janknegt http://www.BCArtFarm.org

Each year my good friend Mark Pierson sends me a copy of his Advent reflections written for the spiritual nurture of World Vision NZ staff. This year he chose the art of James Janknegt whose powerful contemporary images of the Christmas story formed a wonderful focus for my own visio divina meditations each week. This is a prayer tool I discovered while researching my book Return to Our Senses. I find it to be particularly helpful at this season.

Most of my meditations around my Advent theme, Let Us Wait As Children Wait, have revolved around joy, promise, hope, expectation. However, as I contemplated The Visitation I was struck by this fresh image of children waiting that I had not really considered before, the two unborn infants waiting in the loving embrace of the womb, waiting in darkness, waiting in uncertainty, waiting to change the world.

Their waiting must have been filled with a great deal of background anxiety, however. One would be born to an unmarried mother who could easily have been rejected and outcast by her family. The other would be born to a woman past her childbearing age, a wait in seclusion, perhaps because of her embarrassment at this unexpected blessing. Both of them waiting to be born into a turbulent and violent world that would eventually kill them both.

In Janknegt’s painting, the potential of Jesus and John waiting in the womb is obvious – one will become a king, the other a messenger. How many children born today wait for a future in which they will never fulfill their full potential I wondered? For how many is their time in the womb a waiting for an uncertain and vulnerable future?  Perhaps their mothers are drug addicts or refugees born into a world that wants to keep them out of sight. Maybe their families live on the edge of starvation and they are waiting to be born only to die before their first birthday. Some wait for a life of abuse and abandonment, others for a life of suffering and pain.

The waiting of the unborn should be a joy filled season of hope and expectation, that is what we most like to focus on at this season. How I wonder, can I make that hope and promise made possible through the child whose birth we await, become a reality for some of those vulnerable ones at the margins for whom waiting holds so little hope.



Visio Divina – Praying with Art

The Last Supper - John August Swanson

The Last Supper - John August Swanson http://www.johnaugustswanson.com

Praying with Art or Visio Divina as it is increasingly called is a form of prayer that is becoming increasingly popular and in a world that is as visually oriented as ours, an intentional way of praying with images is needed now more than ever.  After reading yesterday’s post, my friend Tom Cashman commented:

In my Spiritual Formation classes over the last 2-3 years, in addition to more traditional Lection Divina I’ve also been using forms of Visio Divina.  This isn’t new, beginning with Benedict in the 6th century is floweried with the Orthodox iconographers.

Tom’s words sent me on a google search for more information on a form of prayer that I honestly know little about, even though I have often used religious art as a focus for meditation.

I found this article by Tom Mooney particularly helpful and love the images from John August Swanson, an artist that I have not encountered before but whose images drew me into a wonderful rich and refreshing encounter with the gospel stories.  Mooney explains:

Visio Divina (Latin for “divine seeing”) is a method for praying with images or other media. While the Orthodox tradition has long practiced praying with images through icons, the western church, and Protestantism in particular, is less comfortable with this type of prayer. But as a cursory glance through scripture will show, images have been an important part of God’s way of communicating. Ezekiel’s vision of dry bones, and Peter’s dream on the rooftop in Acts 10, are just two instances of how images and prayer are vitally connected.  Read the entire article

I also discovered this excellent resource for Bible study: Seeing the Word: Picture the Beauty of God’s Word, developed by Saint John’s School of Theology Seminary and Liturgical Press.  Seeing the Word offers guided reflections  on particular Scripture texts, using images from the acclaimed The Saint John’s Bible,

This video is a useful tool that helps to explain the process of Visio Divina

This Bible that reminds me of the Book of Kells and other illuminated gospels which are another wonderful tool for Visio Divina.

Book of Kells images

Illumination from the Book of Kells

One book I have read recently that delves into Vision Divina in a very helpful way is Contemplative Vision: A Guide to Christian Art and Prayer by Juliet Benner.  She very instructively combines the knowledge of a trained artist with that of a spiritual director to show people how to meditate on art that depicts passages of scripture.

Another great tool for this form of prayer is the use of Christian images from different cultures.  I first wrote about this some years ago in a blog post entitled Imaging Jesus and even produced a youtube video to go with it.  One of my earliest so it is a little funky now but I still thought that you might enjoy it.

This is obviously a small beginning in exploring this form of prayer.  I would love to hear your thoughts and comments.



Jesus Has Risen a New Creation Has Begun

On Good Friday I posted a litany entitled When Good Friday and Earth Day Converge. I hated having to finish with the Cross rather than the resurrection so have adapted it here as an Easter season litany – and it does end with the resurrection Hallelujah Christ is risen, he is risen indeed

He Qi - The Risen Lord

God all of created life is groaning waiting for the future God has prepared for us,
We hope for the day on which all you have made will be rescued from death and decay,
We wait for the redemption of our bodies and the restoration of our world.

In my opinion whatever we may have to go through now is less than nothing compared with the magnificent future God has planned for us. The whole creation is on tiptoe to see the wonderful sight of the sons of God coming into their own. The world of creation cannot as yet see reality, not because it chooses to be blind, but because in God’s purpose it has been so limited – yet it has been given hope. And the hope is that in the end the whole of created life will be rescued from the tyranny of change and decay, and have its share in that magnificent liberty which can only belong to the children of God!

It is plain to anyone with eyes to see that at the present time all created life groans in a sort of universal travail. And it is plain, too, that we who have a foretaste of the Spirit are in a state of painful tension, while we wait for that redemption of our bodies which will mean that at last we have realised our full sonship in him. We were saved by this hope, but in our moments of impatience let us remember that hope always means waiting for something that we haven’t yet got. But if we hope for something we cannot see, then we must settle down to wait for it in patience. (Romans 8:18 – 25 (Phillips Translation)

God in this season of hope and promise bless the earth rich and fertile with life
God in this season of planting and growth, bless the seed we plant and nurture
As it falls into the ground to grow may we remember your body broken for us

Unless a seed is planted in the soil and dies it remains alone
But its death will produce many new seeds,
a plentiful harvest of new lives (Jn 12:24 NLT)

God as we sprinkle our gardens with the water that gives life,
May we remember lands that are parched and those that are flooded,
May we remember Christ that your life blood was poured out for us,
You were hung upon a tree and crucified,
So that together with all your creation we might be liberated into freedom.

Open up O heavens and pour out your righteousness
Let the earth open wide
So salvation and righteousness can sprout up together (Is 45:8 NLT)

As we watch for the first sprouts of new creation
We remember your resurrection promise,
A new world is breaking into ours with abundance and wholeness

Look I am making all things new…
On each side of the river grew a tree of life
Bearing twelve crops of fruit with a fresh crop each month
The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations (Rev 21:5; 22:2 NLT)

Jesus our hope lies not in your death but in your resurrection,
Not in your dying but in your rising again,
We wait in hope for your promise to be fulfilled,
Death is conquered, resurrection has begun,
May your healing be revealed in our bodies,
May your healing power be seen throughout the earth,
May we all participate together in the coming of a new heaven and a new earth.

Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in. She saw two white-robed angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. “Dear woman, why are you crying?” the angels asked her.  “Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”  She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. 15 “Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?”   She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”  “Mary!” Jesus said.  She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”).  “Don’t cling to me,” Jesus said, “for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”  Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord!” Then she gave them his message.  (John 20: 11 – 18 NLT)

Hallelujah, Christ is risen
You who are the gardener of the new creation,
Cultivate the new seeds that have sprung into life,
Bring growth, bring blossom, bring fruit,
May your new creation flourish in us, through us around us,
So that all the world may say together,
Christ is risen he is indeed Hallelujah.


Palm Sunday Prayer

Palm Sunday draws near and my thoughts are focused on Jesus entry into Jerusalem and the even more amazing entry into our hearts.  I prayers this morning were inspired by these reflections and my growing passion to follow Jesus with all my heart and soul and being.

Let us enter the city with God today

Let us sing hosanna to our king

To the son of God riding on a donkey

With shepherds and prostitutes,

With the blind and the leper

With the abandoned and oppressed

Let us shout for joy at Christ’s coming

And follow the One who welcomes the sinner and dines with the outcast

Let us touch and see as God draws near

Riding in Triumph towards the Cross

Jan Hynes, Entering the city

More of Jan Hynes Holy week images here

How Do We View God?

I am busily getting ready for my last day here at WorldView and reflecting on how we all view God.  I think that there is no better way to see how others view God than to look at the art with which we depict God.  I know that I have done something like this before on my blog but then I find that repetition never hurts.  In fact no matter how many times we repeat an exercise there is still something more to learn about God.

Two websites I would heartily recommend that help us do that.

Matt Stone’s blog – as I have mentioned before Matt has the best collection of multicultural Christian art I have come across.  Matt even has some alien Christian art which I first laughed at but then realized that this too represents many people’s view of God.

Another site that has a rich collection of more traditional art in an A – Z catalogue is textweek.com This site also has other resources that connect to the weekly lectionary readings.

Here are some of my favourites which give very different views of Christian faith.  I suggest that you spend some time reflecting on these and what you can learn about God and Jesus as you meditate on them.  Would love to hear what your reflections teach you.

Jesus washes feet

Jesus washes feet

Adbusters cover

Tibebe Terffa Ethiopia


Latin tiles 001-1

jesus heals blindman

Varghese - calming the storm

Jesus heals paralized man

More on the Spirituality of Knitting

Evidently even the Virgin Mary thought that knitting was spiritual.  Here is an abbey altar piece known as “The Visit of the Angels” painted in the late 1300s.

Mary Knitting

Imaging Jesus

What is the image that comes to your mind when you think of the face of Jesus? I love to explore images of Jesus from different cultures. I find that looking at Jesus from a Chinese, African or Latin American perspective often reveals new aspects of who Jesus is to me.  if you are looking for a great array of images of Christ from different cultures I heartily recommend Matt Stone’s blog Glocal Christianity

Supper at Emmaus - He Qi

Supper at Emmaus - by one of my favourite artists He Qi http://www.heqigallery.com/

Some of my favourites images come from the art of Chinese artist He Qi. He Qi first encountered Jesus while painting a replica of Madonna during the political unrest of Maos time. In the daytime he painted Chairman Mao and at night he painted Raphaels Madonna, allowing her peaceful eyes to touch his heart. Since then he draws only scenes from the Bible and seeks to incorporate Christian art into his Chinese culture, changing the image of Christianity from a foreign art to a familiar sight. As the first man to get his PhD in religious images after the communist regime fell, He Qi has studied in China and in America. Currently one of the most popular artists in Asia, He Qi’s amazing use of bright colors and stories tell of a Truth that could change the east.

Pentecost - Jesus MafaI also love the art painted by a Cameroonian organization called Jesus Mafa. In 1973, Christian communities in Cameroon (Africa) longed for a visual representation of their Jesus. As a group, they staged important scenes of Jesus life which were then painted by a French artist, captivating the African spirit. Their colorful representations have been sold around the world and continue to touch people of all nationalities, showing a mix of the simplicity and profound spirituality with which Jesus changed lives.

Overseas Ministries Study Center hosts artists from around the world for a year long artist in residency programme. Their art can be viewed on the OMSC website

Today while reading Will Samson’s blog I came across another interesting set of images of the faces of Jesus on the Rejesus website.

This image is from the Shroud of Turin it is one of the more controversial images of Jesus