Advent, Day 19: Healing Wings

LOOK: Ronde au Soleil (Sun Circle) by Pablo Picasso

Picasso, Pablo_Sun Circle
Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881–1973), Ronde au Soleil (Sun Circle), 1959. Color lithograph on Arches wove paper, 19 1/2 × 17 1/2 in. (49.5 × 44.5 cm).

In this color lithograph, writes the Masterworks Fine Art gallery in San Francisco,

figures frolic happily in a circle, reminiscent of the sardana, a traditional Catalonian dance that appears in Picasso’s body of work. Some figures clutch flowers in their hands, others hold hands, signifying the strong bonds that can exist between people, and many also throw their hands over their heads with joy. Flowers fill the center of the circle as well, as if those dancing have been tossing them into the middle. None of the people are detailed with any facial features, but Picasso has done an inspiring job of bringing intense feeling through simple lines. The dancers abound with feeling, from their joyfully moving feet, to their hands opened wide towards the sky. Above the circle of youths is a glowing yellow sun, emblazoned with the outline of a white dove . . . [that] encapsulates the feeling of the dancers – both the hope that bursts forth from them, and also the freedom that the hope implies.

LISTEN: “But for You Who Fear My Name” by Lenny Smith, 1975 | Arranged and performed by The Welcome Wagon on Welcome to The Welcome Wagon, 2008

But for you who fear my name
The sun of righteousness will rise
With healing in his wings
And you shall go forth again
And skip about like calves
Coming from their stalls at last

You shall be my very own
On the day that I
Caused you to be my special home
I shall spare you as a man
Has compassion on his son
Who does the best he can

Written in God’s voice by way of the prophet Malachi, this song is by Leonard Earl Smith Jr. of Philadelphia; it appears on his 2000 album Deep Calls to Deep with the title “But For You.” Vito and Monique Aiuto, who comprise the Brooklyn-based duo The Welcome Wagon, recorded their own homespun arrangement, replete with stomps and claps, for their 2008 debut album Welcome to The Welcome Wagon.

The song is based on Malachi 4:2 and 3:17:

But for you who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. . . .

They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, my special possession on the day when I act, and I will spare them as parents spare their children who serve them.

“Fear” in the song’s first verse is used in the archaic sense of to give reverence to or to be in awe of. God records the names of those who fear him in a “book of remembrance,” states Malachi 3:16.

I love the image in Malachi of baby cows being released from their pens to frolic freely in the fields, to skip and to play, which are likened in their joy to God’s redeemed on the last day when the “sun of righteousness” arises on them at last—when they are liberated.

The English language makes possible a wordplay on “sun” that is not in the original Hebrew, such that we can identify the bright solar orb with God’s Son, Jesus, who sheds his light upon us. (Get it? Sun/Son.) The “wings” of the sun are its rays.

You may recognize this poetic image from “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing”:

Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings, risen with healing in His wings.

The second verse of “But for You Who Fear My Name” opens by celebrating how God has made his home among us—in the flesh in the person of Jesus, and then by sending his Spirit to reside in those who believe. Malachi is referring specifically to Israel as God’s people, his treasured possession, but the New Testament writers apply those epithets more broadly to the new people God was forming through the work of Christ—that is, the church (e.g., 1 Pet. 2:4–10).

The song then references God’s parental mercy and grace in fully embracing us children who want to please him but who fail so many times.

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