As we begin our journey together, I would like to explain my method and motive in writing these meditations. This book is actually the companion to my first book, titled My Dancing Day: Reflections of the Incarnation in Art and Music, and it is my intent to continue developing the picture of Jesus that was begun in the pages of those reflections.
If you have not read my first book, no matter, as the story of Jesus is unfolded to us gently every year throughout the liturgical calendar. Whether or not you are currently steeped in these kinds of traditional observations, God’s story of love keeps giving birth to new life all around you. It is my hope that this book of reflections will refresh and prepare you for the annual celebrations we hold dear.
Regardless of where you currently place yourself in his story, a reading of Jesus’ life is like a reoccurring melody that centers itself on a particular note of the scale. Because of our many church traditions, this note will be different for each of us, and yet it is in finding our way back to the original resonance of Jesus’ melody that we make progress in our imitation of Christ. These meditations are written to work as an aid to your greater reflections, helping you to wade into the water at your most comfortable point and to immerse yourself in the art and music depicting Jesus’ life.
So how do we get from a picture of Jesus as a child, innocent and playful, to an image of Jesus, the full-grown man?
Further, how do we imagine him as someone who lived as the Son of God, and died so that he might give us life?
Knowing that his life and ministry ultimately lead to the cross sometimes causes us to look away from Jesus’ life in its entirety and to focus on the more palatable parts of the story. For myself, I had endeavored to hold on to the attractive, warm, and comfortable parts of his story to the exclusion of the rest, and in doing so I had become like a child myself, trying to hold the light of his story tightly in the palm of my hand. Eager to protect the beauty of my understanding, I began to form a fist around it, presenting a hardness toward anything that risked an opening or change of my view of him.
Always mindful of our ways, God in his wisdom will allow the opening of our hands and our hearts with life-changing events that seem quite difficult to understand at times. It is in these moments that we can feel off-balance as we suddenly realize the fire inside us has died… and that, like a lost child, we have forgotten our way.
These are the times that we can find our deepest connection to God if we remember to turn and really look at the wholeness of Jesus’ life and ministry.
This book seeks to bring these events into closer perspective by using paintings and music as our source of inspiration.
Within these pages, I have carefully crafted meditations that will bring new insight into a cross-section of episodes in the life of Christ. In this way, you will be practicing a process others have termed visio divina, which means “divine seeing,” and what I like to refer to as “praying a painting.” Using art, and music, as a vehicle to deeper spirituality is a time-honored method practiced worldwide. As we follow in that tradition, these meditations encourage you to awaken your senses to the reading from scripture so that you may connect to the story emotionally. This kind of prayerful listening, regularly practiced, will facilitate hearing God’s message in a uniquely personal way as we travel through some of the treasured stories recorded in the gospels. Through prayerful readings of scripture and directed journal exercises, you will find your individual song. When we dare to see our own scars clearly in the wounds of Jesus, we learn to rise up, as he did, and give birth to new life one extraordinary day at a time.
“Come,… and you will see.” (John 1:39, NIV) as we begin this journey of transformation toward a greater understanding of the heart of God by looking into the face of Jesus and learning to sing a joyful new song.