Lent, Day 31

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. . . . Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

—John 6:35, 49–51

LOOK: Painting by Pablo Sanaguano

Painting by Pablo Sanaguano
Painting by Pablo Sanaguano (Ecuadorian, 1964–), 2021

LISTEN: “Jesus, Bread of Life” by Audrey Assad and Fernando Ortega, feat. Diana Gameros, on Neighbor Songs by The Porter’s Gate, 2019

This song was written for the Porter’s Gate album Neighbor Songs, which released in 2019. Diana Gameros, a member of the collective, sings on the recording and plays guitar. Here she is a year later, singing the song with Minna Choi for a City Church San Francisco [previously] virtual worship service.

Jesus, bread of life
Manna from heaven
Broken for the world
Offered up for every man

The feast of angels becomes food for the weary
And hungry hearts are filled
When you open up your hand
When you open up your hand

O Lord, come fill us with your love
This table laid for us
There is more than enough
Jesus, bread of life

Sister, take what you need
Anything I own
There is no famine here
Jesus’ love will multiply

Brother, what’s mine is yours
You are not alone
There is no shortage here
Jesus’ love satisfies
Jesus’ love satisfies

O Lord, come fill us with your love
This table laid for us
There is more than enough
Jesus, bread of life

[Related post: “Open Your Mouth (Artful Devotion)”]

Lent, Day 23

LOOK: Mola from the San Blas Islands

Christ on the Cross (mola)
Christ Nailed to the Cross, mola (reverse appliqué panel) from the San Blas Islands, late 20th century. Bowden Collections.

The Kuna (also spelled Guna or Cuna) Indians live on the San Blas archipelago off the east coast of Panama, a cluster of some 378 islands in the Caribbean Sea. They are politically autonomous, and much of their traditional culture is intact.

Since the late nineteenth century, Kuna women have been making what are called molas, reverse appliqué panels made in pairs for the front and back of women’s blouses. As mola collector Jane Gruver describes, “several layers of cloth are stacked together and the design is made by cutting through the different layers of fabric to expose the desired color. Once the specific shape is achieved, the area is stitched around. Sometimes embroidery and applique are also used to add detail.” This colorful, wearable textile art is an integral part of Kuna culture.

The earliest molas featured geometric designs, which the Kunas translated from their customary body painting designs, but now a vast variety of representational subjects are common, including animals, plants, domestic scenes, political satire, dragons, mermaids, superheroes, spacecraft—and biblical stories!

The first Christian missionary to the San Blas Islands was Annie Coope, a single woman from the United States who arrived in the first decade of the 1900s and established a school on the island of Nirgana in 1913. A significant number of the Kuna embraced Christianity, such that there are now churches on thirty of the islands, as well as eighteen Kuna churches in and around Panama City, according to Wycliffe. A Kuna translation of the New Testament was published in 1995, at the behest of Kuna pastor Lino Smith Arango, and a Kuna Old Testament was completed in 2014.

The mola above shows two men hammering nails into Christ’s palms as two mourning figures—presumably John and Mary—stand behind. This piece is from the collection of Sandra and Bob Bowden in Chatham, Massachusetts, who are among today’s major collectors of modern biblical art. It is one of forty molas in the traveling exhibition Eden to Eternity: Molas from the San Blas Islands, available for rental for a nominal fee.

LISTEN: “Nailed” by Nicholas Andrew Barber, on Stations (2020)

They nailed you to your cross
Yes, they nailed you to your cross
Like you said they would
Like you said they would

And they drove those nails through your hands
And they drove those nails through your feet
Like a criminal
Like a criminal

O the pain you must have felt
O the pain you must have felt
O the agony
O the agony

Behold the precious Lamb of God
Behold the precious Lamb of God
Nailed to the cross
Nailed to the cross

Lent, Day 17

LOOK: Head of Christ by Fernando Botero

Botero, Fernando_Head of Christ
Fernando Botero (Colombian, 1932–), Cabeza de Cristo (Head of Christ), 1976. Oil on canvas, 185 × 179 cm. Museo de Antioquia, Medellín, Colombia.

Colombian painter and sculptor Fernando Botero is South America’s best-known artist. He is influenced by the Old Masters, which he studied in his twenties in Madrid, Paris, and Florence, and by the Mexican muralists. But his style—marked by plump, often childlike figures—is distinctively his own and has even been given the name “Boterismo.”

Throughout his career he has remained adamant that he does not paint “fat people” or “chubbies.” What he paints, he insists, is exaggerated volumes that highlight the body’s natural shape and the “sensuality of form.” In addition to religious subjects, he also paints Latin American street scenes, domestic life, nudes, and political portraits.

At age eighty-nine, Botero continues to be active as an artist, living and working between Paris, New York, and Tuscany.

LISTEN: “Legend (The Crown of Roses),” Op. 54, No. 5, by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, 1883/89 | Based on a text by Richard Henry Stoddard, 1856 | Performed by the University of Pretoria Camerata, dir. Michael Barrett, on Written in the Stars, 2021

When Jesus Christ was yet a child
He had a garden small and wild,
Wherein he cherished roses fair,
And wove them into garlands there.

Now once, as summer-time drew nigh,
There came a troop of children by,
And seeing roses on the tree,
With shouts they plucked them merrily.

“Do you bind roses in your hair?”
They cried, in scorn, to Jesus there.
The Boy said humbly: “Take, I pray,
All but the naked thorns away.”

Then of the thorns they made a crown,
And with rough fingers pressed it down.
Till on his forehead fair and young
Red drops of blood like roses sprung.

In 1877 Tchaikovsky found a Russian poem by Aleksey Pleshcheyev published in a journal; it was a translation of the English-language poem “Roses and Thorns” (1856) by American poet Richard Henry Stoddard, an allegory of the Crucifixion. It’s about the boy Jesus who tends a rose garden and dreamily weaves together crowns from the branches’ yield. One day a bunch of rowdy children comes by and carelessly yanks the flowers off the trees, scoffing at Jesus for being soft, a flower lover. In a spirit of gentleness, he tells them they may have the flowers, but to leave the thorns. Continuing their derision, the children bend the bare, thorny stems into a crown and press it into Jesus’s head. From his flesh then bloom “roses” of blood.

Tchaikovsky first set the Russian poem to music in 1883, arranging it for solo voice and piano and publishing it as part of his Sixteen Songs for Children, Opus 54. In 1884 he arranged it for solo voice and orchestra, and in 1889 for unaccompanied choir.

When English-language choirs sing the song, instead of using Stoddard’s original text, they typically use a 1913 adaptation by British poet Geoffrey Dearmer—which I believe is the superior version. See a side-by-side presentation of the song’s textual history.