Awake and Sober (Artful Devotion)

Nepsis by John R. P. Russell
John R. P. Russell (American, 1980–), Nepsis, 2006. Acrylic on wooden door, 80 × 24 in.

The day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.

But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night.

But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.

—1 Thessalonians 5:2b–10

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MUSIC: “Riding Light” | Composed and performed by Joshua Roman

The cello composition “Riding Light” was commissioned in 2013 by Grace Cathedral in San Francisco to complement an installation by artist-in-residence Anne Patterson. This video captures a performance from May 2017, filmed in the Crypt chapel beneath the Church of the Intercession in Manhattan. The venue is home to the “Crypt Sessions” concert series organized by Unison Media, a company that seeks new ways to present and promote classical music.

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John R. P. Russell, a Byzantine Catholic priest and artist, on his painting Nepsis:

Nepsis means “watchfulness” and it is a spiritually aware state of being ever vigilant against temptation and attacks of the enemy. It is both a means to the end of theosis and a trait of those who have become one with God. This posture of the figure in this painting is taken from paintings of monks in the church of St. Mercurius in Old Cairo, Egypt. I think of the halo, which has obliterated even the face of the figure, as representing the divinity with which the person is united and the lower part of the figure’s body as representing the passions against which the person is struggling.


This post belongs to the weekly series Artful Devotion. If you can’t view the music player in your e-mail or RSS reader, try opening the post in your browser.

To view all the Revised Common Lectionary scripture readings for Proper 28, cycle A, click here.

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