Advent, Day 21: Make a Womb

LOOK: Advent by Gerda Smelik

Smelik, Gerda_Advent
Gerda Smelik (Dutch, 1964–), Advent, 2006. Acrylic, oil paint, gold leaf, paper, wood chips, sand, glue, and photographs on canvas, 160 × 160 cm.

Dutch artist Gerda Smelik says about this mixed media piece:

Advent, a period of reflection and expectation, is portrayed by a globe with a fetus inside. The dark colours stand for the brokenness of life; the light around the fetus and the rays of gold around the globe already announce a better world. When you look at the painting up close, you discover that the suffering of the world is depicted by means of portraits of people in danger and distress.

LISTEN: “O Come, O Come, O Hidden Spring of Light” | Words by Malcolm Guite, 2011 | Music by Joshua Stamper, on PRIMEMOVER, 2021

Make a womb of all this wounded world
Make a womb of all this wounded world
And make a womb of all this wounded world

Come to be born, to bear us to our birth
Make these rags of time our swaddling bands
O hidden spring of light
Come to us Wisdom, come unspoken Name
Come Root, and Key, and King, and holy Flame
O quickened little wick so tightly curled
Be folded with us into time and place
Unfold for us the mystery of grace

Make a womb of all this wounded world
Make a womb of all this wounded world
And make a womb of all this wounded world

This jazz composition by Joshua Stamper, featuring vocalist Kristin Slipp, rearranges lines from Malcolm Guite’s sonnet “O Emmanuel,” which appears in Waiting on the Word: A Poem a Day for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany. (I shared the poem here, and another compelling Advent musical composition by Stamper here.)

“O Come, O Come, O Hidden Spring of Light” is from Stamper’s PRIMEMOVER, a double album of experimental jazz and classical chamber works commissioned by Resurrection Philadelphia from 2015 to 2021 for services marking holy days and seasons in the church calendar: Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, Easter, Pentecost, and Advent.

PRIMEMOVER is “a meditation on the Divine benediction over our corporeal world,” Stamper writes. “The hovering One . . . has bounded into our wounded world and unbound us from our own trajectory. . . . The abstract is made concrete.”

And, he continues, “It might just be the only record out there featuring everyone from members of the Dirty Projectors to Marilynne Robinson to Beyoncé-collaborators to the former Archbishop of Canterbury to avant-classical violin players from the Czech Republic.”

I love to see churches commissioning smart, exploratory, unconventional music like this!

2 thoughts on “Advent, Day 21: Make a Womb

  1. “ From the beginning till now the entire creation, as we know, has been groaning in one great act of giving birth; and not only creation, but all of us who possess the first-fruits of the Spirit, we too groan inwardly as we wait for our bodies to be set free “ Saint Paul to the Romans Ch.,8:22-27. I love the painting and it says so much about the meaning of Advent, especially for me as I wait not just for my spirit to be healed but also my body.Well done Victoria.

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  2. How could I who live at the intersection of theology and art, a retired Episcopal priest, not have known Malcolm Guite? Your column is water for my parched soul (and I do not remember how it came into my life only recently).

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