Advent, Day 8

LOOK: Prophet I by Charles White

White, Charles_Prophet I
Charles White (American, 1918–1979), Prophet I, 1975. Color lithograph on white wove paper, 68.7 × 94.2 cm. Art Institute of Chicago.

Isaiah is the definitive Old Testament prophet of Advent, as he anticipates more than any other the coming of the Messiah and the renewal he will usher in. In chapter 35 he foresees deserts flowing with water and vegetative abundance: “the wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose” (v. 1).

Perhaps the modern Black artist Charles White had this scripture in mind when he created the lithograph Prophet I. It shows a robed man, who appears to be blind, gazing up at a pink rose suspended in the sky. (The blind prophet with keen inner sight is a common trope in ancient mythology.) On the cross-hatched wall he stands against are four eyes, which White said are there because the prophet sees more than the rest of us.

LISTEN: “Morning Dawn,” a Shaker hymn from New Lebanon, New York, 19th century | Performed by The Rose Ensemble on And Glory Shone Around: Early American Carols, Country Dances, Southern Harmony Hymns, and Shaker Spiritual Songs (2014)

Zion shall arise and blossom like the rose
Her glorious light shine forth to the islands afar
As when the Star of Bethlehem arose

Hail, all hail the coming day!
Hail, all hail the coming day!

The wilderness shall bloom, hills and valleys rejoice
Woodlands sing for joy, and the barren desert smile
To hear the Savior’s voice

Hail, all hail the coming day!
Hail, all hail the coming day!

Thus saith the Lord, it shall yet come to pass
Many people and strong nations shall come to Jerusalem
To seek and to pray before the Lord

Hail, all hail the coming day!
Hail, all hail the coming day!

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