SUMMER COURSES: Arts at Regent: Regent College in Vancouver is offering eight one- or two-week in-person courses on its arts track this summer, including “After Disenchantment” with Joy Marie Clarkson (reading list includes Charles Taylor, James K. A. Smith, Kazuo Ishiguro, etc.), “The Puritan Literary Imagination” (on Paradise Lost and Pilgrim’s Progress) with Johanna Harris, and “The Arts, Empathy, and Spiritual Formation” with Mary McCampbell. Several years ago I took a Regent summer course on worship and the arts and really enjoyed it!
BIBLICAL COMMENTARY: “Ascension Sunday (Year A): Luke 24:44-53 and Acts 1:1-11” by SALT Project: This Sunday marks the risen Jesus’s departure after forty days of dwelling with the community of disciples. While SALT Project’s commentary doesn’t plumb all the meaning of the Ascension, I was struck by its pointing out of the significance of the Mount of Olives (in light of Zechariah’s prophecy and the “choreography” of Palm Sunday) and the resonances with Elijah’s ascent, particularly with Christ’s passing on his mantle to the church.
ASCENSION HYMN: “Alleluia, Sing to Jesus” by William Chatterton Dix, 1866
>> Music by Rowland Hugh Prichard, 1830: The hymn is often paired with the public-domain Welsh tune HYFRYDOL (which I know best from its association with “Jesus, What a Friend for Sinners”). It’s sung here by Ben Lashey and Chris Joyner:
>> Music by Rebecca Almazar and Brian Gurney, 2020: I really love this new tune that Almazar and Gurney wrote for the hymn while they were at New City Fellowship in Manassas, Virginia, which was released on the church’s EP A Liturgy. Gurney is now the director of contemporary worship at The Falls Church Anglican in Falls Church, Virginia. The song is not yet available on CCLI, but in the meantime, he has granted permission for license-free church use; here are the chords.
CALL FOR ENTRIES: 2023 Sacred Art Competition and Exhibition: “Seeking the finest contemporary sacred art for an online juried exhibition hosted by the Catholic Art Institute, with a world-wide audience and the opportunity to sell work, be featured on the Catholic Art Institute website.” The top prize is $2,500. The deadline for submission is November 6, 2023. From what I can tell, participants need not be Catholic, but the artwork(s) should be suitable for devotional and/or liturgical use by Catholics.
PODCAST EPISODE: “Loving Christ Our Mother with Julian of Norwich,” Old Books with Grace, May 17, 2023: This month marks the 650th anniversary of the anchorite Julian of Norwich’s visionary encounter with God, which she recorded in her Showings, the earliest surviving work of literature in English by a woman. In this twenty-minute episode of her podcast, medievalist Grace Hamman, author of the forthcoming Jesus Through Medieval Eyes: Beholding Christ with the Artists, Mystics, and Theologians of the Middle Ages, introduces us to Julian, dwelling especially on one of Julian’s favorite metaphors: that of Christ as mother.
In the fourteenth century, Hamman says, fathers generally loved their children but were less involved in the day-to-day tasks of caring for their physical and emotional needs, whereas mothers were deeply present. Julian wrote about how Christ gave birth to his children on the bed of the cross, how he nurses them from his side, and how he acutely hears and responds to their individual cries. This podcast episode is an excellent summation of a theological idea that may sound odd and unorthodox at first but that is in fact biblically derived, appearing throughout church history, and that grants us fuller insight into who Christ is.
(Related post: “Our Sweet, Travailing Mother Christ”)
BOOK: Mother God by Teresa Kim Pecinovsky, illustrated by Khoa Le: Dovetailing with Hamman’s recent podcast episode is this beautifully unique children’s book that came out last year from Beaming Books. “With lyrical, rhyming text and exquisite illustrations, Mother God introduces readers to a dozen images of God inspired by feminine descriptions from Scripture. Children and adults alike will be in awe of the God who made them as they come to know her as a creative seamstress, generous baker, fierce mother bear, protective mother hen, strong woman in labor, nurturing nursing mother, wise grandmother, and comforting singer of lullabies. This gorgeous picture book welcomes children into a fuller, more diverse understanding of what it means to be made in the image of God.” Born in South Korea, raised in Iowa, and living in Texas, author Teresa Kim Pecinovsky (MDiv, MEd) (pictured below) is a hospice chaplain ordained in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and a former elementary school teacher. Khoa Le is an artist from Vietnam.
Some traditionalists will no doubt have a visceral reaction against the cover and concept—“God reveals himself as Father, not Mother!” they’ll say, or “The Bible uses only masculine pronouns for God”—but it’s important to remember that God is nongendered, although God does contain both the masculine and the feminine (see, e.g., Gen. 1:27). “Father” is a metaphor, same as “mother.” God became incarnate as a male, Jesus, but as Hamman shows (see previous roundup item), Jesus also exhibited some qualities traditionally associated with women and mothers in particular, and therefore we can speak metaphorically of Christ as mother, as we can, too, of the First Person of the Trinity. Having an academic background in literature, I’m very comfortable with (and enthralled by!) metaphor, but I can understand, lamentably, how it trips some people up.
ARTICLE: “Waking Ancient Seeds: Why the Middle Ages Matter” by Matthew J. Milliner, Comment, May 10, 2023: “For the medievals, Jesus is the Rosetta stone of cosmic meaning, with whom all things are aglow in the polyphonic resonance of truth, and without whom the world hurdles into centrifugal disconnection,” writes Matt Milliner, a theologically trained professor of art history at Wheaton College, an evangelical institution in Illinois. “It is our world that has been flattened, lacking the full-orbed splendour of medieval significance and depth.” In this article he contrasts the symbolism and sense of wonder and reverence of the Middle Ages with the deficits of the present, identifying several, sometimes unlikely places in which these “ancient seeds” are sprouting again.