A whole day outside

by Blue Heron

A whole day outside in the yard; moving gravel, transplanting flowers, recutting the border of a garden. Around noontime, my back was trying to get a word in edgewise about maybe taking it easy. I was having too much fun to give heed. So after lunch I mowed half the lawn, moved rocks, washed the deck. I have no regrets, even though I move about slowly in the evening hours.

The newly opened leaves in June unravel in such delicate greens. The vegetables planted in tidy rows, standing tall and reaching into the sunlight. First fruits are still more than a month away, but if I didn’t know better, I would say they look happy as they await a future harvest.

What a wonder that green things can take in the light form the sun and convert it to food. is it any wonder that I make the analogy to Jesus the Son as the only real source of my own nourishment? If I could just plant myself each morning, in the awareness of His presence. Just take it in like sunlight, instead of running around with anxiety trying to “make food” on my own; fill in spaces that only He can satisfy.

Evening is approaching, birds are swooping around the yard, singing some final evening choruses. A chipmunk sprints across the yard with his tail straight up in the air. Oh God, may my mouth open with your praise at this close of the day. May I exhale with thankful heart, having inhaled the joys of Your creation.

Sacred Seeing: The Last Supper

A few years ago, the Community of Jesus published a little book, Sacred Seeing: Praying with the Frescoes in the Church of the Transfiguration. As we approached the New Year, it seemed like a good opportunity to share this simple guide to praying with the art here in the church, especially for those of you who aren’t able to come and see it for yourselves. Over the next several weeks, we will be sharing the meditations from the book. We hope that it helps to enrich your prayer life in 2017!

The Last Supper

TheLastSupper

Spend a few moments looking at the fresco image.
Write down any first impressions you have.
What questions does this image raise for you?

Read the Scripture: Matthew 26:20-29
20 When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve;21 and while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” 22 And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, “Surely not I, Lord?” 23 He answered, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.” 25 Judas, who betrayed him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” He replied, “You have said so.”

The Institution of the Lord’s Supper

26 While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; 28 for this is my blood of the[b]covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

Some thoughts and questions to ponder
The scripture reference for this image records two major events taking place at the table in the Upper Room – the betrayal and the institution of the Lord’s Supper. How does the fresco express them both?

If you were to imagine yourself as one of these disciples, which one would it be? Why?

Judas is unmistakable in this image. How does the artist depicted the characteristics of his betrayal? What details does he include? What message do you draw from this?

In the Gospel, Jesus refers to everyone at the table sharing from the same dish. Why is this significant?

What does this image tell you about the Eucharist?

The brilliant light around Jesus – radiating from Jesus – is not unlike the light that shone at the Transfiguration. How are these two events related and what does this say about every celebration of the Eucharist?

 

Prayer
Which side of the table in my sitting on today, Lord?
I want to be close by your side,
but if these men didn’t have the strength to stay with you,
how can I?
I can at least sit with you today,
in the wash of your light,
even if I am afraid my choices may someday betray you…
will someday betray you.
I can at least come to the Meal.
Whenever you serve it, I can come.
And I will keep on coming, Lord,
until your side of the table
becomes the only place for me to sit.

O sacrum convivium
O sacred banquet!
In which Christ is received,
the memory of his passion is renewed,
the mind is filled with grace,
and a pledge a future glory to us is given.
Alleluia.
– Thomas Aquinas

A Word from the Tradition
With complete confidence let us all partake of the body and blood of Christ. For in the type of bread his body is given to you, and in the type of wine his blood, that by partaking of the body and blood of Christ you may become one body and one blood with him. Thus, when his body and blood or imparted to our bodies, we become Christ bears. As the blessed Peter himself said: we become partakers of the divine nature. (2 Peter 1:4)
– From instructions to the Newly Baptized, Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 313–386)

Image: © The Lord’s Supper by Silvestro Pistolesi at the Church of the Transfiguration

Turning towards heaven

by Faithful Finch
This year I had the opportunity to live with and care for one of our Community members as she was dying. As she turned her face more and more towards heaven, I saw some simple but profound changes in her and am realizing as I process this experience that I have much to learn from her.
I noticed three big changes, and I think they are interrelated. The first change is that she became so grateful for the smallest things. There was a sincere “thank you” for any kindness or help that was shown. The second change is she found beauty in the ordinary. Obviously, there is beauty everywhere if we take the time to find it, and appreciate it. It was overwhelming to listen and look when she found beauty in the blue of the sky or in a fish jumping in a lake.
The third change was most incredible. I watched her change from a woman of apprehension and concerns into someone at peace who trusted God and those caring for her. She knew God’s love.
I believe as I turn my face towards His heavenly light, I can make the choices of being grateful and finding beauty, so in turn, I can trust Him in His love.
Belle's rose marks her seat in chapter order in the Church of the Transfiguration at the Community of Jesus

Simple Beauty

by Sr. Spero

In a world called to beauty, we who have been given responsibility for creation are also responsible for the beauty of the world, of our own lives, and of each other’s lives.
—Enzo Bianchi, Echoes of the Word, Paraclete Press

 
Reading this quote from Enzo Bianchi, I immediately thought of a vegetable garden in San Gimignano, Italy. The vegetables were as you would expect—tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant—but the layout of the garden, and the obvious care given to each plant, made it a work of art. No wonder—the garden was tended by several monks of the Boze Community, which was founded by Enzo Bianchi.  A simple vegetable garden expressed beauty to all who passed by. And I suspect it also reflected the beauty and simplicity of their lives.

AerialGarden

Lumen Christi: Easter Encounters with Art

As Christians, the pursuit of beauty in all of its forms is ever before us. While the world’s definition of beauty – a wrinkle-free, almost inhuman imitation of so-called “perfection” – almost always leads to self-abasement and discouragement, true beauty as we seek it only leads to a further knowledge of God’s love for us, to a clearer and brighter reflection of who He is, and to a deeper desire to become co-creators of beauty with him in all the quotidian elements of our lives.

Gabriele Wilpers, an internationally celebrated painter and sculptor from Essen, Germany, knows all about this calling toward beauty, and all of the risks and rewards that accompany that vocation. After training as a photographer, between 1973 and 1978 Gabriele Wilpers studied free painting at the Folkwang Hochschule in Essen, Germany. Since then she has lived and worked in Essen as a freelance visual artist. In recent years she has taken first prize in competitions for art in the public domain, and she has designed entire church interiors for several parishes in the archidocese of Freiburg im Breisgau. Wilpers uses a variety of artistic methods in her artwork – painting, installation objects, film, and architectural glass – to reflect and describe the human existence. Her interventions in an existing space, which can be both sacred and profane in nature, question the context in which modern man lives today.

Back in July of 2005, Ms. Wilpers was invited by the Munster Chapter of the Catholic Women’s Organization to contribute to the 1200th anniversary of the diocese of Munster. The discovery of a medieval thimble, excavated from the ruins of the Uberwasser Convent, inspired Ms. Wilpers to create an installation for the nearby Uberwasser Gothic church. Entitled “As Numerous as the Stars in the Sky” Ms. Wilpers’ installation was comprised of thousands of thimbles gathered from the women of the diocese, and became a sort of memorial to the myriad, nameless women of Munster through the ages, who faithfully lived out their vocations. Upon entering the church, the viewer’s gaze was immediately drawn upward to a sparkling, starry canopy made up of these now almost meaningless, outdated objects, each suspended from different colored threads, and given new meaning by Ms. Wilpers for this occasion. As one journalist put it, “Each individual thimble—the protector of sensitive fingertips—hence becomes a symbol of that which women have experienced and achieved. They become centuries-old witnesses to female stories and histories, trigger many associations in connection with women’s lives and, taken out of their original context, artfully perform their story-telling role. The sparkling firmament speaks of the hard work of women, of suffering and poverty, but also of joy, and inside the church represents a symbolic space for the histories of uncounted women in the diocese.”[1]

Ms. Wilpers’ installation in the Munster Church was only temporary, but her art has found many other permanent homes, one of which is the Church of the Transfiguration in Orleans, Massachusetts on Cape Cod. Gabriele Wilpers designed the glass sculpture on the West Wall of the Church of the Transfiguration, connecting the oculus window and lintel (over the main doors) in a seamless design portraying Christ’s Transfiguration. In Wilpers‘ studio at Essen and at the Derix Glasstudios in Taunusstein, Germany, she and glass fabricators collaborated on the modern abstract sculpture. The sculpture features sixty-four individually cast glass panels covered with gold-leaf paint, which was partially removed with an acid wash.The varying intensity of the gold and the pattern of ridges and valleys evoke elements of the reflected light from sunsets over the Cape Cod sand flats and combine to gather, reflect, and refract light, becoming a glistening and shimmering wall of Transfiguration splendor.

This week, artists, art-lovers and all seekers of beauty have an opportunity to encounter and hear from Gabriele Wilpers first-hand here at the Community of Jesus. Lumen Christi: Easter Encounters with Art will be held April 5th through 9th. Ms. Wilpers is joined by Monsignor Timothy Verdon, a renowned Art Historian and prolific author, for this five-day series of illuminating lectures on Easter themes of light, resurrection and rebirth in sacred art. All are invited to come and be inspired by these beautifully illustrated lectures on art and architecture, from the baroque to the contemporary, hosted by the Mount Tabor Ecumenical Centre for Art and Spirituality. In a time when so many Christian women and artists suffer from isolation, lack of support and understanding, and a market-driven secular environment, Lumen Christi: Easter Encounters with Art offers an alternate experience of contemplation and creativity, focusing on the artists‘ vital contribution to the faith conversation. For more information visit www.mounttabor.it or call 508-240-7090.

04 Muenster 2005

02 Thimbles 200505 Muenster 2005All photos courtesy of Herbert Wilpers

[1] Frank Joachim Schmitz, Berichte, Das Munster,

GlassWallMarch 2005

Meant to soar

A month ago today Yoshio Inomata, one of our vowed brothers, entered the paradise chapter of his life. Yoshio is from Japan, so in addition to the usual monastic traditions around the liturgies and proceedings, we knew there would be special touches – flowers in the church, food at the reception – from his homeland. At the graveside, we always have a special time of telling stories and placing flowers as we fill the grave. In the middle of December flowers are rare to be found, so some of us had the idea of having the kids make paper cranes for Yoshio. They did a beautiful job, and we had baskets full of the brightly colored birds they passed around to all of us gathered there. As I watched everyone place their birds in the earth with Yoshio, the antithesis struck me: Yoshio’s soul and spirit were flying to heaven even as his body was placed in the earth, and these birds—meant to soar—buried there with him. I suddenly remembered this poem that another of our members had written years ago. Requiescat in pace, Yoshio!

With hollow bones a bird learns how to fly
Not once despising frame all delicate,
But pushed without the nest his wings to try,
Fast finds the air till flight’s inveterate –
And pauses not to ponder nor to care
How fragile are his limbs amidst his flight,
But boldly lifts his wings against the air
And mounts the wind all ignorant of fright.
And so each day, until he dies, he lives.
He soars aloft, aloud, and all replete,
Content with gifts that his Creator gives,
His weakness making all his life complete.
                Who curses frailty wisdom needs implore,
                For only those whose bones are hollow soar.

Peace Cranes for Yoshio

Fiat Voluntas Tuas

By Faithful Finch

In February, I visited the Donatello exhibit at MOBIA in NYC. Monsignor Timothy Verdon spoke about each sculpture in depth. In addition to the Donatello sculptures, there was Giovanni d’Ambrogio’s “Gabriel of the Annunciation” and the “Virgin Mary of the Annunciation.” I found “Virgin Mary” especially provoking, as Mary appeared to be a young man.

Monsignor Verdon explained that d’Ambrogio had sculpted her this way to communicate that God so loves and respects each and every person, whether man or woman, that if we will say, “yes” as Mary did, He will send His Son to live inside of us. How simple but profound!

Gabriel and Virgin Mary

Feng Shui: Early American Style

By Sr. Nun Other

I’m told by a sister of Chinese heritage that I practice feng shui. And I thought I was merely rearranging furniture! I convinced her to join me, and, as we worked together, I periodically asked, “What’s that called again?” Feng shui, pronounced “fung shway,” the study of the relationship between environment and human life.  It’s composed of two Chinese words, feng (wind) and shui (water), two life sustaining natural elements that flow and circulate throughout the Earth. It is also referred to as the art of placement: how to place furniture, possessions, and yourself within your surroundings to best achieve balance, comfort, and harmony. The wing of the Convent, where my Chinese sister and I live, leans toward early American design. Matters not what your particular decorating taste is. With prayerful consideration, we can create a space of beauty that reflects God’s presence in our lives.

IMG_0891

What is Art?

By Sr. Spero

Those of us who have passed through several decades seem to have one unanswered question that circles through the years.  Mine is “what is art”?  I tried to answer the question in school with a confusing course on Aesthetics.  That didn’t work, and now, many years later, I’m no closer to the answer.  I have learned a couple of things though—that what I like and don’t like has little to do with art; that what moves me, or makes me cry, is not a test of art.  That what disgusts me is just as likely to be called great art.  And that art takes all forms—the visual arts, music, poetry, dance, theater, as well as the culinary arts, the art of smells–incense or perfume, and many more, such as flower arranging, architecture, and so on.  As a monastic at The Community of Jesus, I am surrounded by many forms of art; most recently, the art of making yogurt!

Tolstoy said “a writer [artist] is dear and necessary for us only in the measure of which he reveals to us the inner workings of his very soul.”  I am pondering this as a definition of art.  Is that quality, so hard to pin down, recognizable in great art, simply a revelation of the “workings of the [artist’s] soul,” wrought through creative struggles with paint, sound, words, movement, even food?

I welcome your comments, thoughts and opinions.  

My next big question is “is all art subjective?”  or is there an objective measure – to which we can all say, “yes, that is great art.”  

Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, 1853 - 1890 ), Green Wheat Fields, Auvers, 1890, oil on canvas, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon

Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, 1853 – 1890 ), Green Wheat Fields, Auvers, 1890, oil on canvas, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon. Public Domain.

Choosing Beauty

By Sister Spero

God created flowers. Each species, fully developed, is beautiful. A flower cannot choose its own beauty. It begins with the seed, containing the nature of the parent plant. If the seed drops, or is placed, in soil with the right nutrients, it will grow. Development depends on water, good soil, and protection from predators. A plant cannot arrange this on its own. It cannot make itself produce flowers.

We are the same, but, unlike flowers, we can choose our own beauty. (I’m not thinking of make-up and exercise). We can cultivate spiritual beauty. We can ask for living water (John 4:14), avoid rocks and thorns (Matthew 13), and protect ourselves from predators. For me, the predators are stray thoughts that I can choose to embrace or ignore.

I cannot choose what type of flower I am to become, but I can be a co-worker with God in his garden—to blossom into the person God originally created me to be.

Rose - Choosing Beauty