Sunday, December 27, 2009

Feast of the Holy Family

Finding the Savior in the Temple

William Holman Hunt

William Holman Hunt is a recent discovery of mine. There is a wonderful  book by Jaroslav Pelikan featuring images of Jesus throughout history and across cultures (The Illustrated Jesus Through the Centuries) . This painting is a double page spread,  arresting in its colors, complexity and range of images. Each face seems to me a free standing portrait. Each depicts a particular emotion: Mary's relief, Joseph's preplexity, the curiosity of the young student of Torah with a scroll in his lap, the blatant stares of rubber-neckers at the back of the crowd. Jesus is the only one whose eyes gaze perhaps in the viewer's direction but more likely to the other world focus of his motivation; "Did you not know I must be about my Father's business?"

An aspect of the Ignatian method of prayer is use of the imagination. This painting enlivens my imagination, inviting me right into the middle of this incredulous crowd, into the feeling of knowing something new is present, something whose significance I can barely touch.

The work of gifted artists across history and cultures inspires prayer, even the prayer of contemplative nuns. The contemplative eye gazes quietly into the mystery and is drawn to rest within it.

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