Pass Me Not (Artful Devotion)

The Good Samaritan by Marko Rupnik
Fr. Marko Ivan Rupnik (Slovenian, 1954–), The Good Samaritan (detail), 2010. Mosaic. Church of Saint Eusebius (Chiesa parrocchiale di Sant’Eusebio), Cinisello Balsamo, Milan.

“He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3)

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SONG: “Pass Me Not” | Words by Fanny J. Crosby, 1868 | Music by William H. Doane, 1870 | Performed by Joe and Nichole Kurtz on The Harp Family Hymnbook, Vol. II, 2017


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

To view all the Revised Common Lectionary scripture readings for the Fifth Sunday of Epiphany, cycle B, click here.

Now I’ve Seen It All (Artful Devotion)

Simeon in the Temple by Rembrandt
Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606–1669), Simeon in the Temple, 1669. Oil on canvas, 98.5 × 79.5 cm. Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, Sweden.

Candlemas, celebrated every year on February 2, commemorates the presentation of Jesus at the temple forty days after his birth, according to Jewish custom (Luke 2:22–40). While there, the Holy Family encountered Simeon, an elderly man, “righteous and devout,” who was “waiting for the consolation of Israel.” Though weak and tired with age, he was told by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before laying eyes on the messiah of his people, and he banked on that promise. When the Spirit led him to the temple that day, he beheld the baby Jesus and knew instantly that this was the One he had been waiting for—and not only him, but the whole world. He took the child in his arms and sang this canticle, known in church tradition as the “Nunc dimittis” (“Now you dismiss . . .”):

Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation
that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel. (vv. 28–32)

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SONG: “Until My Dying Day Has Come” by Carl-Eric Tangen, from Incarnation Hymns (2008)

 

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Probably Rembrandt’s last painting, Simeon in the Temple was found unfinished on an easel in his studio when he died. It depicts this enlightening moment from Luke 2, in which Simeon recognizes the Christ and exults—quietly, gratefully—in his salvation. The woman in the shadows, thought to be a later addition by another’s hand, is probably the prophetess Anna, though some suppose her to be Mary.


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

To view all the Revised Common Lectionary scripture readings for the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, cycle B, click here.

Roundup: RIP Edwin Hawkins; why Christians should read poetry (and who to read); new Reconciliation Window; global song in white churches

Grammy-winning gospel pioneer Edwin Hawkins dies at 74: African American gospel musician, pianist, choir master, composer, and arranger Edwin Hawkins passed away on January 15. He’s best known for his 1967 R&B arrangement of the eighteenth-century hymn “Oh Happy Day,” which became an unexpected international hit and Grammy winner and is now a gospel standard. [HT: Global Christian Worship]

“Oh Happy Day” was one of eight arrangements Hawkins put together for his Northern California State Youth Choir, made up of forty-six singers ages 17 to 25, to record, planning to sell the album to finance a trip to a church youth conference in Washington, DC. They recorded the songs live at Hawkins’s church, the Ephesian Church of God in Christ in Berkeley, California, on a primitive two-track recorder. After hearing the self-published record, Buddah Records signed the group, helping to launch “Oh Happy Day” to the top of the pop charts in the US, UK, France, Germany, and the Netherlands and bringing attention to lead vocalist Dorothy Combs Morrison, 22. At the time, denomination officials did not approve of Christian singers crossing over into secular markets, and they refused to let Hawkins use the name of the choir on the Buddah reissue—hence the “Edwin Hawkins Singers” were born.

Check out the Christianity Today article “How ‘Oh Happy Day’ Gave Gospel a New Beat,” and this clip of the show-stopping performance of the song in the movie Sister Act 2, featuring a young Ryan Toby.

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“Ten poets every pastor should know” by Kolby Kerr (+ Part 2): “Preachers need poetry if for no other reason than to be reminded of the palpable weight of language,” writes Kolby Kerr for LeaderWorks, whose vision is “to provide the tools, training, and support to strengthen the church and its leaders to fulfill their God-given mission.” I love this ten-poet “mixtape” Kerr has put together as an entry point for those who have told him they want to “get into poetry.” An ordained minister with a BA in English and an MFA in creative writing, he offers a wise disclaimer: “I point you toward these poets so that you would read them, not strip mine their work for a quick sermon illustration. Before any of this shows up in your preaching, heed Thomas Cranmer: read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest.” [HT: David Taylor]

I recently wrote about one of Kerr’s recommendations, Richard Wilbur, here.

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“The Splash of Words: Believing in Poetry” by Mark Oakley: “Poetry is what we reach for when we are falling in love, when we are grieving and when we search the great mysteries. It’s easy to think the language of faith is in creeds, sermons and certainties, but Mark Oakley says that it is poetry that is the person of faith’s native language. In this talk he will invite us on an adventure into poetry’s power to startle, challenge and reframe our vision: like throwing a pebble into water, the words of a poem cause a splash whose ripples can, if we let them, transform the way we see the world, ourselves, and God.”

I mentioned Mark Oakley in a previous roundup. This lecture, given at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London in November 2016, is based on Oakley’s latest book The Splash of Words, which he says he wrote as a way of celebrating the truth that God is in this world. The first half of the video comprises his talk; the second half, Q&A. I was so enthralled by what he had to say that I immediately bought a copy of the book. It contains a twenty-two-page introduction on the value of poetry, but its bulk consists of twenty-nine poems, carefully selected, with commentary. Love it!

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New stained-glass window by Thomas Denny: My friend Paul Neeley tipped me off to this new Reconciliation Window by contemporary stained-glass artist Tom Denny, whose distinctive style, characterized by blazing color, is achieved by acid etching and silver staining. Installed at St. John’s Church in Tralee, County Kerry, Ireland, in October 2017, the window depicts, in its central light, the Return of the Prodigal Son. The right panel shows Jesus reading from the book of Isaiah, and the left panel shows John the Baptist, the church’s patron saint. Throughout are names and vignettes from Traelee’s history and landscape. Bloggers Finola Finlay and Robert Harris have just visited St. John’s and have taken many beautiful detail shots of the window; have a look! For more on Denny, see the recently published book Glory, Azure and Gold: The Stained-Glass Windows of Thomas Denny or the article “Walking Man: The Art of Thomas Denny” from issue 86 of Image journal.

Reconciliation Window by Thomas Denny
Thomas Denny (British, 1956–), Reconciliation Window, 2017. Stained glass, 5 × 3 m. St. John’s Church, Tralee, County Kerry, Ireland.

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“Appropriation or Activism? Reflections on ‘Global Song’” by Marissa Glynias Moore: This article was posted this week in the Multicultural Worship Leaders Network Facebook group I’m a part of, addressing a question I’ve pondered a lot. A doctoral candidate in ethnomusicology at Yale University, Moore is wrapping up her dissertation on the use of “global songs” in the worship services of white, North American mainline Protestant congregations. She recounts her initial skepticism:

Within my first weeks at Battell [the University Church in Yale], I began to notice a shift in congregational repertoire compared to that of my college church. We rarely sang the hymns that had become dear to me; instead, we were more likely to be singing an Alleluia from Peru or a South African anti-apartheid “freedom song.” While I was curious about this unfamiliar genre of congregational music, the practice itself made me decidedly uncomfortable as I looked around the space: why were we, a bunch of predominantly white American college and graduate students, singing world music? Did we have the right to sing this music? Hadn’t my training as an ethnomusicologist prepared me to vehemently critique such a practice as a manifestation of appropriation?

But as her research developed she has been led to see that singing global song can actually be a gesture of hospitality and solidarity. (Update, 9/4/18: Listen to Moore on episode 24 of Sarah Bereza’s Music and the Church podcast, “Global Song and the Universal Church.”)

Torn-Down Kingdom (Artful Devotion)

Christ Exorcising the Evil Spirit by James Ensor
James Ensor (Belgian, 1860–1949), Christ Exorcising the Evil Spirit, 1921. Color lithograph from the portfolio Scènes de la vie du Christ (Scenes from the Life of Christ).

And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.

—Mark 1:23–28

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SONG: “Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down” | Traditional, performed by Willie Nelson on Country Music (2010)

This spiritual was first recorded and released by Blind Joe Taggart in 1931. An alternative version, “Satan, We’re Gonna Tear Your Kingdom Down,” is #485 in the African American Heritage Hymnal.

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Haste to me, Lord, when this fool-heart of mine
Begins to gnaw itself with selfish craving;
Or, like a foul thing scarcely worth the saving,
Swoln up with wrath, desireth vengeance fine.
Haste, Lord, to help, when reason favours wrong;
Haste when thy soul, the high-born thing divine,
Is torn by passion’s raving, maniac throng.

Fair freshness of the God-breathed spirit air,
Pass through my soul, and make it strong to love;
Wither with gracious cold what demons dare
Shoot from my hell into my world above;
Let them drop down, like leaves the sun doth sear,
And flutter far into the inane and bare,
Leaving my middle-earth calm, wise, and clear.

—George MacDonald, from A Book of Strife in the Form of the Diary of an Old Soul (1880)


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

To view all the Revised Common Lectionary scripture readings for the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany, cycle B, click here.

Birth and death in Lavinia Fontana’s Holy Family painting

Renaissance artists often employed foreshadowing as a theological device in their paintings of Christ’s infancy to remind viewers that Jesus came not just to live a perfect life but to die an atoning death on behalf of sinners. Over all the joy and celebration of the Nativity looms the dark cloud of Crucifixion.

Holy Family with Saints Margaret and Francis by Lavinia Fontana (1552–1614)—one of the first professional female artists to achieve international fame—is one such work that’s embedded with signs of future death: a sarcophagus-like crib resting on an altar-like slab; Mary’s elevation of the body of Christ in a manner that recalls the priest’s raising of the host during the Eucharist; Francis’s cradling of a crucifix in his left elbow pit; and a curtain opening into darkness.

A year earlier, Fontana’s firstborn child died, so her bereavement may have partially inspired the painting.

Holy Family with Saints by Lavinia Fontana
Lavinia Fontana (Italian, 1552–1614), Holy Family with Saints Margaret and Francis, 1578. Oil on canvas, 127 × 104.1 cm (50 × 41 in.). Davis Museum, Wellesley College, Wellesley, Massachusetts.

[ZOOM IN]

The following commentary by Margaret A. Samu is taken from the 2001 exhibition catalog Divine Mirrors: The Virgin Mary in the Visual Arts (pp. 197–98):

In her Holy Family with Saints, Lavinia Fontana presents the Madonna in an intimate domestic scene. Mary tenderly places the infant Christ in a cradle as Joseph stands behind her; opposite them, Saints Margaret and Francis bow their heads in worship. At first glance, the painting appears to celebrate both Christ’s divine birth and the human joy of motherhood, yet its iconographical elements speak also of Christ’s death.

Fontana is widely considered to be the first professional woman artist, as she received numerous commissions for portraits and large-scale religious paintings and actually supported her family by her work. She painted the Holy Family just as her career was beginning to flourish. As an assertion of her arrival as an artist, the painting prominently bears her signature and the date: LAVINIA FONTANA DE ZAPPIS FACIEBAT MDLXXVIII. This signature not only allows us to date the painting with ease but also reveals something of the confidence of this artist, who signs her work like a master so early in her career. Unknown to Italian scholars before the 1990s, this painting has gained prominence in two recent exhibitions.

Like other artists of her period, Fontana responds to the artistic decrees of the Counter-Reformation by turning away from the excesses of the Mannerist style in which she had been trained. Instead, she uses linear perspective and foreshortening to create a realistic sense of spatial recession that clearly defines the setting. In addition, she gives her figures the modest dress and pious decorum that are appropriate to the painting’s religious subject matter. By creating a balanced, nearly symmetrical composition with strong upward diagonals, she emphasizes the centrality of Christ to the devotional image. The linking of her figures by gazes and graceful gestures shows that, like other Bolognese artists, she was influenced by the work of the High Renaissance artist Correggio. In order to succeed as a woman artist in a male-dominated art world, Fontana had to adhere scrupulously to the newly defined doctrines of the Church that arose out of the 1545–1562 Ecumenical Council of Trent.

The artistic verisimilitude of the painting would have made its iconography all the easier for contemporary viewers to read. Saint Margaret is recognizable by her attribute, the dragon that accompanies her. According to legend, she became the patron saint of women in childbirth after using her cross to deliver herself unharmed from the belly of the dragon that had swallowed her as a test of her Christian faith; she then asked women to call upon her for the safe delivery of their children. Bathed in a beatific light, Mary and Saint Margaret are fully absorbed in the present moment, worshipping and caring for the child who raises his plump hand in a babyish sign of blessing. Standing in shadowy gloom, the male saints appear unaware of the scene of maternal bliss before them. Somberly contemplating the crucifix, they are occupied not with the present, the infant Christ, but with his coming death on the cross. To emphasize the point, Saint Francis reveals the stigmata on his hands, miraculous signs of his communion with Christ’s suffering.

Yet the light and dark areas of the painting do not create an absolute division between present and future concerns. Saint Francis is also associated with Christ’s birth: credited with creating the first Nativity scene in an Italian grotto in the thirteenth century, he cradles the tiny crucifix in his arm like a mother holding a child. Mary, on the other hand, does not cradle the child near her but places him in a sarcophagus-like crib on a sacrificial altar table. She lifts his body like a priest raising the Host—the transubstantiated body of Christ—in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist.

Fontana’s inextricable merging of these signs of the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ may reflect her contemplation of the recent birth and subsequent death of her own first-born child in the year before she painted the Holy Family. As she depicts this theme of great personal significance, Fontana also establishes a connection between the divine and earthly planes: a holy subject takes on the real, everyday quality of a domestic scene, while an everyday scene of motherhood is lifted to a sacred level.

Let Jesus Lead You (Artful Devotion)

Promised Land by Maximino Cerezo Barredo
Mural by Maximino Cerezo Barredo (Spanish, 1932–)

“Follow me.” (Mark 1:17)

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SONG: “He’s a Mighty Good Leader” (Let Jesus Lead You) | Traditional, performed by Skip James, 1931

“Let Jesus Lead You” was recorded by numerous gospel quartets and bluesmen in the late 1920s and 1930s, the most influential rendition being Nehemiah “Skip” James’s, a pioneering slide guitarist and sometime preacher from Mississippi. Other versions I like, from later, include the Detroiters (1951), Marion Williams & the Stars of Faith (1962), the Morning Star Gospel Singers (1963), and Josh Harmony (2011).

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“There” by Robert B. Shaw

There where the lion dines on straw
and walks at ease with dogs and men,
and a boy’s idling fingers draw
the unfanged adder out of his den;
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
there is our home. Then lead us there.

(Read the full poem at poetryfoundation.org.)


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

To view all the Revised Common Lectionary scripture readings for the Third Sunday after Epiphany, cycle B, click here.

Roundup: Modern Bible illumination; hula; First Nations baptism design; father-daughter waltz; Tamayo and Parker

ESV Illuminated Bible spread

NEW BOOK: ESV Illuminated Bible (2017): In October Crossway released a new Bible illuminated by Seattle-based designer and lettering artist Dana Tanamachi. Printed in two-color (the illuminations are in gold ink), this volume contains one full-page illustration, custom icon, and illuminated drop cap for each book of the Bible, plus hundreds of hand-lettered Bible verses throughout the margins. There are no human figures in any of the illuminations; most consist of flora and fauna—olives, figs, pomegranates, peacocks, lions, lilies, deer, cedar, and so on—derived from the given book. Be sure to check out the book-opener illustration index, and the short video below, in which Tanamachi introduces herself, talks through her process, and explains some of her artistic choices:

“God loves beauty, so we wanted to honor him through this project with something that was beautiful,” says Josh Dennis, Crossway’s senior vice president of creative. “For this edition we really want people to engage with it, so there’s a lot of negative space and wide margins for people to write in it and to do their own Bible journaling.”

This publication comes six years after the release of Makoto Fujimura’s Four Holy Gospels, another illumination project. Fujimura’s is an oversize book with a $150 price point, containing original abstract paintings reproduced in full color alongside the first four books of the New Testament. By contrast, the ESV Illuminated Bible is more wieldy—it has a 6½ × 9 trim size—and less costly ($45), and it contains all sixty-six books. The aesthetic is also much different, as Tanamachi’s influences include art nouveau, the arts and crafts movement, and designers like William Morris and Koloman Moser. [HT: David Taylor]

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CHRISTIAN HULA: “‘O ‘Oe ‘Io” (You Are God): Though reduced to tourist entertainment in some places, Hawaiian hula dancing, in its traditional context, is a form of teaching and worship. Because of its associations with polytheism, the early missionaries denounced it as sinful. Over the last half-century or so, however, most missionaries have changed their stance toward this and other traditional forms of artistic expression—not only in Hawaii, but in whatever their host culture—seeing how such forms can offer more authentic ways for the people to connect to and worship the Christian God.

In the video below, Moani Sitch and ‘Anela Gueco perform a hula noho (“seated hula”) at the 2006 Urbana student missions conference sponsored by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. It’s to the Christian hymn “‘O ‘Oe ‘Io” (You Are God), originally written in Maori by Luke Kaa Morgan but translated into Hawaiian by Moses Kaho‘okele Crabbe. The sacred name for Creator God—‘Io—is the same in both languages. The lyrics are below. [HT: Global Christian Worship]

‘O ‘oe ‘Io, e makuna lani (You are God, Heavenly Father)
‘O ‘oe ‘Io, ka waiola (You are God, the Living Water)
‘O ‘oe ‘Io, e kumu ola (You are God, the Source of Life)
Ka mea hana i na mea apau (The one who has made all things)
E ku‘u Haku (My Lord)
Ka mauna ki‘eki‘e (Who is the Highest Mountain)
‘O ‘oe ‘Io (You are God)

For a fantastic religious history of Hawaii, see this PDF booklet published by Aloha Ke Akua (“God Is Love”) Ministries. Among the many things I learned is that Hawaiians regard the arrival of Christian missionaries as the fulfillment of their elders’ prophecies that the one true God would one day return to the islands.

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FROM THE ARCHIVES: “Jesus as Chief: ‘Baptism Mural’ by Tony Hunt”: First Nations artist Tony Hunt Sr. died last month, just two months after his son Tony Hunt Jr., also a renowned carver. Read about Hunt Sr.’s inculturated serigraph of Christ’s baptism at my old blog, The Jesus Question—part of a seven-part series I did on Christian art of the Pacific Northwest Coast. Based on a carved and painted design he made for the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, it shows John the Baptist as a Kwakwaka’wakw shaman in Native dress and with ceremonial rattle, installing Jesus as chief. The Father is manifest as Sun and the Spirit as Thunderbird.   Continue reading “Roundup: Modern Bible illumination; hula; First Nations baptism design; father-daughter waltz; Tamayo and Parker”

Listening (Artful Devotion)

I'm Listening by Ginger Slonaker
Ginger Slonaker (American), I’m Listening, 2009. Mixed media on paper, 7 × 6 in.

. . . if he calls you, you shall say, “Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.” . . . (1 Samuel 3:9)

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SONG: “Reverently, Quietly” | Words and music by Clara W. McMaster, 1959 | Arranged for solo piano and performed by Paul Cardall, on Primary Worship, 2005

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Lord, teach me to listen. The times are noisy and my ears are weary with the thousand raucous sounds which continuously assault them. Give me the spirit of the boy Samuel when he said to Thee, “Speak, for thy servant heareth.” Let me hear Thee speaking in my heart. Let me get used to the sound of Thy voice, that its tones may be familiar when the sounds of earth die away and the only sound will be the music of Thy speaking voice. Amen.

—A. W. Tozer, from The Pursuit of God


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

To view all the Revised Common Lectionary scripture readings for the Second Sunday after Epiphany, cycle B, click here.

Contemporary icons of the Baptism of Christ

Today, January 6, is the feast of Epiphany (“manifestation,” “revelation,” “shining forth”)—also referred to as Theophany (“revelation of God”), or the Feast of Lights. While the Western church commemorates the visit of the Magi on this day, focusing on God’s revelation to the world through the birth of Christ, the Eastern church commemorates Jesus’s baptism, focusing on the Father and Spirit’s affirmation of the Son’s divinity at the beginning of his public ministry. Matthew 3:13–17 gives us the account:

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Below is a selection of contemporary Theophany icons from Ukraine, Russia, Poland, Greece, and Romania. All but one of them bear a semicircle at the top, which signifies the “opening of the heavens” and the voice of God reaching down; in Ioan and Camelia Popa’s, God’s hand is even visible. (Representation of the Father is forbidden by tradition, though a hand is generally acceptable because the Bible itself uses anthropomorphic expressions like “God’s hand” and “God’s mighty arm.”) A dove descends from this aperture, a literalization of the Gospel writers’ simile.

On the shores of the Jordan stand one or more angels at the service of their Lord. Their hands are covered by their own cloaks as a sign of reverence—or in some representations, they hold garments to drape over Christ when he emerges from the water. (Early icons of Jesus’s baptism show him completely naked, emphasizing his self-emptying; now, however, it’s more common to see him in a loincloth.)

In Lyuba Yatskiv’s and the Popas’ icons—the most traditional of this bunch—there is an allegorical figure in the river by Christ’s feet, pouring out water from a jug. This man is a personification of the Jordan River, which miraculously dried up, temporarily, to allow the ancient Israelites to cross over into the Promised Land (Joshua 3:15–17). Some icons, though none pictured here, include a second allegorical figure, (Red) Sea, who is turning away, parting (see Psalm 114:3).

In George Kordis’s icon, instead of Jordan at Christ’s feet, there’s a serpent being crushed, a reference to Psalm 74:13: “You divided the sea by your might; you broke the heads of the sea monsters on the waters.” Visually, this recalls the Eastern church’s Resurrection icon, which depicts Christ breaking down the doors of hell, flattening Satan.

Back to Yatskiv and Popa. In these two there is an axe lying next to a tree, alluding to the sermon by John the Baptist that immediately preceded this episode, in which he proclaimed, “Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matthew 3:10).

Epiphany calls us to worshipfully behold the shining forth of Jesus as messiah and as the second person of the Trinity. To orient yourself to the Orthodox celebration of today’s feast, here are two liturgical hymns, the Troparion and the Kontakion, that will be sung congregationally:

When Thou, O Lord, wast baptized in the Jordan, worship of the Trinity wast made manifest; for the voice of the Father bore witness to Thee, calling Thee His beloved Son. And the Spirit in the form of a dove confirmed the truth of His word. O Christ our God, Who hath appeared and enlightened the world, glory to Thee.

. . .

On this day Thou hast appeared unto the whole world, and Thy light, O Sovereign Lord, is signed on us who sing Thy praise and chant with knowledge: Thou hast now come, Thou hast appeared, O Thou Light unappproachable.

They offer a perfect lens through which to view the following icons.

Baptism of Christ by Jerzy Nowosielski
Jerzy Nowosielski (Polish, 1923–2011), The Baptism of Jesus Christ in the Jordan, 1964. Oil on canvas, 100 × 80 cm.
Baptism of Christ by Greta Leśko
Greta Leśko (Polish, 1979–), Baptism of Christ. Oil on board, 40 × 30 cm. Private collection.
Baptism of Christ by Greta Lesko
Greta Leśko (Polish, 1979–), Baptism of Christ, 2014. Oil on board, 40 × 40 cm.
Baptism of Christ by Greta Lesko
Two-sided processional cross and ripidions by Greta Leśko (Polish, 1979–), 2011. Mixed media on wood. Cross: 90 cm tall (without shaft); ripidions: 13 cm diameter. Church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in Górowo Iławeckie, Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship, Poland. (See reverse)
Baptism of Christ by Lyuba Yatskiv
Icon by Lyuba Yatskiv (Ukrainian, 1977–)
Baptism of Christ by Ulyana Tomkeyvch
Icon by Ulyana Tomkevych (Ukrainian, 1981–)
Baptism of Christ by Ivanka Demchuk
Ivanka Demchuk (Ukrainian, 1990–), Baptism of Christ, 2015. Mixed media on canvas and wood, 30 × 40 cm.

Continue reading “Contemporary icons of the Baptism of Christ”

“And nations shall come to your light . . .” (Artful Devotion)

Adoration of the Christ Child (India, 17th c)
Adoration of the Christ Child, Mughal India, ca. 1630. Opaque watercolor and gold on paper, 15.6 × 11 cm. Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.

This Saturday, January 6, marks Epiphany, a Christian feast celebrating the manifestation of God incarnate to the peoples of the world, encapsulated in the visit of the Magi to the newborn Christ. In the first lectionary reading I’ve excerpted, Isaiah speaks to Israel, rejoicing that God will one day cause his light of revelation to shine upon them, drawing the nations—a prophecy fulfilled at Christmas; in the second, Paul writes to the church at Ephesus about the glorious expansion of God’s family made possible through Christ, and the unity experienced therein across barriers of race, culture, geography, and so on:

And nations shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your rising. . . .

Then you shall see and be radiant;
your heart shall thrill and exult,
because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you,
the wealth of nations shall come to you. . . .
They shall bring gold and frankincense,
and shall bring good news, the praises of the LORD.

—Isaiah 60:3, 5–6

The mystery of Christ . . . was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed. . . . This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

—Ephesians 3:4–5

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SONG: “Miladuka” (“Thy Nativity”) | Arabic Christmas hymn arranged by David Düsing | Performed by the Robert DeCormier Singers & Ensemble, feat. Sandra Arida, on Children Go Where I Send Thee: A Christmas Celebration Around the World (1996)

“Miladuka” is a Christmas troparion, or liturgical hymn, from the Byzantine church. Its English translation, from the CD liner notes, is as follows:

Thy Nativity, O Christ our God,
Hath given rise to the light of knowledge in the world.
For they that worshipped the stars did learn therefrom to worship thee,
O son of justice,
And to know from the east of the highest
Thou didst come.
O Lord, glory to thee.


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

To view all the Revised Common Lectionary scripture readings for Epiphany, cycle B, click here.