This morning, I lit a candle.

The day has been filled with Christmas light.

DSC_1791I got up early this morning…Max and I did a before-the-sun-came-up walk.  On the circle, Christmas lights on houses and in trees still dazzled the snow-sprinkled morning.  A cold bite to the air, I pulled my hood up and we made our way into day, leaving our footprints behind, the first in fresh snow.

The magic continued.  As is usual, it was possible to hear one good classical tune on CKUA on my drive to the church, where upon my entrance, I was greeted by the familiar voices and smiles of old friends.  After a short morning prayer, I decided to light a candle.  It is the feast day of the Holy Family and I couldn’t stop thinking about my family…Dad, Mom…my brothers and sister and my children.  Mom would have me light that candle and say a prayer and acknowledge, with gratitude, the blessings of this season and my life, and so I did.

Social media enjoys its fair share of cynicism about God, Jesus and ‘religion’.  While somewhat accepting of ‘spirituality’ and spewing a constant blast of Rumi quotes, many people generally dismiss the power of belief and embrace the power of ‘I’, ‘me’, ‘now’, ‘manifestation’, ‘selfie’, and ‘self-gratification’ instead.  I’m not here to knock all of that and all of them, but I’m here to proclaim just how powerful faith is for me.  I felt as though when I lit that candle, a tidal wave of love spilled over me.  I experienced ‘God-be-with-you’ in the truest sense.  I am grateful for the grace and power of the divine within me.

I’m a big one for family history, studying my maternal and paternal lineages intensely for the past five years. The Liturgy of the Word was filled with family history today…stories of hope and amazement.

The Mass was filled with blessings of every kind. Deacon Greg shared a heartfelt homily that touched me deeply.  Sometimes personal narratives just have a way of reaching into the soul and healing something.  Greg’s stories of faith, family, struggle and joy were so meaningful and so relevant.  I cherish my family deeply and I’m so grateful for their love and support always.  Each member of my family, whether they be in Lethbridge, Raymond, Magrath, Ottawa, Halifax, Comox or Calgary, is light to me.

During Offertory, we sang the Little Drummer Boy.  Today’s version, with some percussion, sent chills up my spine because I felt as though Mom was sitting right beside me.  This carol was always her favourite and my spirit lit up at the first tap of the drum.

Three baptisms…Isaac, Ethan and Noelle.  What’s not to absolutely love about baptisms?  The children from the congregation gathered, wearing their new Christmas outfits, excited to celebrate in the welcoming of three new infants into our community.  Ethan and Noelle appeared to be twins, looking so fragile and sleeping so soundly.  Father Cristino gently blessed their small round heads with water and there was barely a peep from either of the wee angels.  Isaac was fully immersed and his back stiffened at contact with the water, when all at the same time, he let out a cry.  Wrapped up in a cozy blanket, Daddy held him close and he was quickly consoled.  The congregation was invited to applaud our welcome and our excitement for this beautiful event.  That small candle continued to light up my heart.

The Consecration at the celebration of the Holy Eucharist left me gobsmacked.  My readers might have to look up the term in their urban dictionaries.  I just could not find a term that would suit this moment better.  Gobsmacked, it is!

This day has been a very special day for me because of its beginning.  The snow continues to flutter gently to the ground.  My daughter came by and shared a meal of beef barley soup.  We snuggled.  Max played whizzo outside and flew through the snow…again.  The light has long since left the sky.  The Christmas tree lights are once again plugged in.  While the sky is very dark, it feels as though I am lit up.  I am grateful.  I am happy.

 

Prayer Mandala

At times when I feel grief spill over me, for missing Mom, I take out her prayer mandala and spend time building upon the piece and praying, both.  One of those times came upon me this past weekend.  As recommended by my spiritual director and dear friend, I’ve connected my creative side and my spiritual side through this form of prayer. I know that mandalas are used in countless religious traditions and these are as varied and as unique as the people who create them.  As a practicing Catholic, I have used art for the past many years, as a way of drawing closer to God.  While I am painting or creating, I don’t feel as though I’m sitting outside, on God’s doorstep…I feel as though I’m spending time, sharing his kitchen…no rushing about…no distractions…quiet and restful.

P1030399The process of creating a prayer mandala, one that is not intended for art, but for the focus and spiritual aspects of the prayer, may take much time.  As an example, the initial four concentric circles took somewhere between four and six weeks to complete, beginning in early September.  I think that more typical of a mandala, is a pattern that segments itself around a central point, where as my mandala has become a series of almost concentric circles.  I wanted my mother at the prayer’s center.

Many years ago, at a silent auction, intended to raise funds for the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, I bid on and won a mandala created by Tamarah Alister Rose AntaresShe creates exceptional works and is a beautiful woman.  I took a photograph this morning, out on my back deck, of Tamara’s mandala that hangs in my bedroom.

P1140703The process of praying my particular mandala, incorporates many of the memories I have of sharing times with Mom…but also, a bit of a journey through her life as little girl, growing woman and mother.  I am comforted through this process and while it is a deeply personal journey of prayer that I can’t share here, I think it’s alright to share that this can be a very healing possibility that might benefit readers going through similar loss.  If you’ve created a mandala, I would like to hear about it.

Four to six weeks of prayer...

Four to six weeks of prayer…

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Reading over Mom’s old letters to me…and incorporating them…remembering her teaching me the blanket stitch…of doing and undoing…of weaving…

I think it is important for the artist or spiritual being to not see or set limits to the experience of prayer.  I think that God opens up the heart and the mind…we are simply needing to be open to that.

I think this is a particularly wonderful exploration of a mandala by the Dalai Lama.

Meeting Margaret Atwood

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Pulling myself out of bed at the crack of dawn was not an easy thing to do on a day off, but I did it!  My contract has ended for the duration of the teacher’s convention and Family Day, but begins again on Tuesday.  This left me with the option, as a retired teacher/substitute, to attend or not.  I decided, without hesitation, to head down to hear Margaret Atwood, one of Canada’s icons…writer, teacher, environmental activist, advocate for women and all beings and inspiring speaker.

The crowd was in stitches…so perfect was her timing during the various narratives she shared.  Atwood sublimely drew us into sad tales of her ‘worst teacher’ and happy recollections of life with her mother and father.  My readers can find the short story Significant Moments in the Life of My Mother in her collection of twelve short stories, Bluebeard’s Egg.

Directly from Wikipedia, this…

Born in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, Atwood is the second of three children[5] of Margaret Dorothy (née Killam), a former dietitian and nutritionist, and Carl Edmund Atwood, an entomologist.[6] Due to her father’s ongoing research in forest entomology, Atwood spent much of her childhood in the backwoods of Northern Quebec and traveling back and forth between Ottawa, Sault Ste. Marie, and Toronto. She did not attend school full-time until she was in grade 8. She became a voracious reader of literature, Dell pocketbook mysteries, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Canadian animal stories, and comic books. She attended Leaside High School in Leaside, Toronto, and graduated in 1957.[6]

Was Taught
How to pound in a nail
How to tie a trout fly
How to knit (a neighbour taught her this)
How to make a stink bomb
How to clean off a table
How to crochet
How to wax a maple leaf
How to use a rifle
Canoeing techniques
How to raise your temperature.
1812 overture
How mushrooms reproduce
How to dissect frogs
Medley from Oklahoma
Swearing in several languages
Many ways of committing murders (mystery reader from a young age)
The fact that everything is connected to everything

Taught

Puppetry
Archery
Nature Studies
How to light a fire
Drama
How to make a toad on a cake with icing
A literary survey Chaucer to TS Eliot
Grammar to engineering students
Classical Literature and American Romanticism

“ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS YOU TEACH IS YOU.”

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A very interesting and honest interview…

 

Symbol

Happy Easter!!  There are so many wonderful wishes flooding the internet this morning and it makes my spirit spring with joy to see them…  “Happy Easter”, the world cries out!!  Lent and then the Paschal Triduum has taken me deeper into the heart of my soul than I have ever been.  For this, I am more than grateful and this morning, am left feeling both inspired and contented.  I don’t know how to piece all of this together for my readers.  Certainly, my thoughts will be in no specific chronological order…that’s why I thought I’d write a wee bit about a symbol…here or there…perhaps a prayer or a reading or an image.  This is nothing like what we experience through the mystery of our faith journey… THAT journey is neatly organized through the liturgical calendar and the STORY of our faith.  But for me and for the purpose of this blog, I am going to post snippets of wondrous moments that happened, this year, for me.

Abraham's Willingness to Give His Son, Isaac

When we left the Easter Vigil last evening, my youngest daughter made mention that the most powerful reading for her was the reading about Abraham and his offering of his son, Isaac.  She said, “Can you imagine a world where every single person lived the conviction of Abraham, in everything they did.  What would that world look like?”  I was inspired by her thought.  I’ve been thinking about that all morning. 

This reading has also baffled me…more, after I watched the Passion of Christ in 2004.  First of all, I kept seeing the pain of the Father, giving his own Son…for the sake of each of us.  Second of all, I thought about Mary and the torment she must have felt at the pain of her Son.  And so, when I hear the story of Abraham, I see it as a huge Old Testament foretelling of the Passion of our Lord.  I rarely hear the story without having tears.

So…while it IS Easter, and today we celebrate the Resurrection, a huge part of my gratitude and the reason I am so inspired today, is because of God’s call…the one to draw nearer to him…to grow in my knowledge and understanding…and to celebrate his promise.  God will provide for all ages. 

First Reading:  Genesis 22:1-18

The Will of God

1 It happened after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!”

He said, “Here I am.”

2 He said, “Now take your son, your only son, whom you love, even Isaac, and go into the land of Moriah. Offer him there for a burnt offering on one of the mountains which I will tell you of.”

3 Abraham rose early in the morning, and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son. He split the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went to the place of which God had told him. 4 On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place far off. 5 Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I will go yonder. We will worship, and come back to you.” 6 Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. He took in his hand the fire and the knife. They both went together. 7 Isaac spoke to Abraham his father, and said, “My father?”

He said, “Here I am, my son.”

He said, “Here is the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”

8 Abraham said, “God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they both went together. 9 They came to the place which God had told him of. Abraham built the altar there, and laid the wood in order, bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar, on the wood. 10 Abraham stretched out his hand, and took the knife to kill his son.

11 The angel  called to him out of the sky, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!”

He said, “Here I am.”

12 He said, “Don’t lay your hand on the boy, neither do anything to him. For now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”

13 Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and saw that behind him was a ram caught in the thicket by his horns. Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 Abraham called the name of that place God Will Provide. As it is said to this day, “On God’s mountain, it will be provided.”

15 The angel of God called to Abraham a second time out of the sky, 16 and said, “I have sworn by myself, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 that I will bless you greatly, and I will multiply your seed greatly like the stars of the heavens, and like the sand which is on the seashore. Your seed will possess the gate of his enemies. 18 In your seed will all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”

Even When I’m Sad, Art Speaks

Russian icon depicting Saint John the Baptist, from a Deësis cycle.

“The Deësis is a traditional iconic representation of Christ in Majesty or Christ Pantocrator enthroned, carrying a book, and flanked by the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist, and sometimes other saints and angels. Mary and John, and any other figures, are shown facing towards Christ with their hands raised in supplication on behalf of humanity.” (Source: Wikipedia)

It was a difficult day yesterday.  I’m not here to write about the difficulties, just to say that it was a difficult day.  I was very late getting over to the church to paint and was a wee bit frazzled about pretty much everything; and then I was blessed with a parking-lot conversation with my priest, Father Kevin Tumback.  I then had opportunity to see three icons that were brought back from Bethlehem by parishoners who recently enjoyed a pilgrimage to the holy land.  I was overcome by the luminosity of the three pieces instantaneously.  While people were speaking nearby, I had already entered into the images and was only aware of their voices as background, but not really aware of what they were saying.  I had already entered into the icons and for me, the art spoke and my many concerns drifted away and were silenced.  Art, particularly liturgical art these days, is an entry point to all that is spirit within me.  As much as making art, I am enjoying the meditation that is provided while looking at art.  It is such an engaging experience.

There is a long history about icon writing and I won’t begin to write about that here today, but I will, as soon as possible, take a photograph of the icons that will be installed in our church, St. Albert the Great Parish.  I am excited to learn as much as I can about the various styles of icon writing and what they tell of our church and its people. 

Mary

Tuesday: Painting the Resurrection Tree

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Last Tuesday, I got as far as  Saint Juan Diego on my list of Roman Catholic Saints.  According to the traditional account, the original image of Our lady of Guadalupe miraculously appeared on the cloak of Juan Diego, on the hill of Tepeyac near Mexico City on December 12, 1531.  Apparently there are over 10,000 Roman Catholic Saints and a longer list for the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Communions.  I have successfully written 510 saint’s names on the painting, The Resurrection Tree.

510 Saints

 

The final Saint’s name was Zygmunt Gorazdowski.  I found a brief write-up on this blog and really have enjoyed reading some articles on The Black Cordelias’ wordpress as they share a many-faceted perspective on the Catholic Religion, along with good humour and extensive research.  God really DOES have to have a sense of humour!  I know that on the wall there are three spelling errors and also the incorporation of three Eastern Orthodox Saints…I dare anyone to find these! :0)

The Tree: Piet Mondrian

The Red Tree 1909

It is interesting to look at how the tree transforms through certain stages of Piet Mondrian’s development and discovery as an artist, writer and thinker.  Along with the physical changes in Mondrian’s (originally spelled Mondriaan) works, were the changing influences of the times; that including a variety of places, historical events and relationships with a particular community of artists.  Even those who are not connoisseurs, without the theories behind the evolution, will see the tree evolve.

The tree’s structure and its upward thrust determines a natural interception of strong vertical with horizontals lines.  Interestingly enough, on page 106 of Jaffe’s Mondrian, Mondrian goes so far as to explain a male and female symbolism inherent in his exploration of the tree’s structure.

Horizontal Tree

“Since the male principle is represented by the vertical line, a man will recognize this element in the upright trees of the forest.  He will see the complement to this in the horizontal line of the sea.  A woman will recognize herself in the horizontal line of the sea and her complement in the vertical lines of the forest, the latter representin the masculine element.  Thus, each sex is affected in its own way.”

Hmmm…interesting.  It’s actually fascinating to go into the writings of these artists and to see what ideas helped formulate their take on the visual world!  And in looking for images that I could use, I came upon this link to Blurred Habitation.

In the end, Mondrian’s observations of the ‘spiritual’ aspects of the ‘universal’ tree symbol ended up playing a vital role in the progression of Modern Art.  It was through a period of years that Piet Mondrian completed a wide range of tree studies and over time, the axes, the intersections of these dominant horizontal and vertical lines became most apparent.  The tree ‘in nature’ seemed to disappear and became a universal symbol instead.  The medieval German mystic, Meister Eckart aptly stated, “To find nature herself, all her likenesses have to be shattered; and the furthur in the nearer the actual thing.”  This quote taken from Roger Cook’s The Tree of Life: Symbol of the Centre.

Tree Becoming More Simplistic

In Mondrian’s words, found on page 429 of Art of our Century: The Chrionicle of Western Art : 1900 to the Present,  “In order to approach the spiritual in art, we will make as little use as possible of reality, because reality is opposed to the spiritual.  Here, there is a logical explanation for elementary forms.  As these forms are abstract, we find ourselves in the presence of an abstract art.

Like religion, Art is superhuman and cultivates the superhuman element in man, and it is consequently a means of human evolution.

Neither life nor art can be brought into being if we consider the spirit alone.  Or matter alone.  The unity of the two makes creation.

The universal can be expressed in pure manner only when the particular does not obstruct our path.  Only then can universal consciousness (in other words, intuition), which is at the origin of all art, be rendered directly, giving birth to a purified artistic expression.”

I believe Divinity, Divine Love, God-Present to be the intuition that Mondrian speaks of and that I, the artist become instrument to that intuition.

Grid....I see the cross here.

Perceptions

I have spent so much time thinking about angels….but, second to that, I’ve thought about perceptions….of angels and other things.  I can’t fathom how some can’t see past the ephemeral bits of what surrounds them….or even the notion of ones own mortality….to see the everlasting and what is truly ‘forever’.  We are all caught up in an endless conversation about our desires, our needs and our hopes.  These, alone, are intangible and yet we are constantly rooted in our own longing. 
 
If indeed I sit on the point of a circle…  if every other being I have encountered in this ‘silly’ lifetime is also seated on that circle somewhere …if from the sky, a beautiful feather falls from a bird…perhaps an eagle  and flutters its way to the precise center of that circle… then…we will see that feather from an angle, our own angle.  Our perception of that feather can not be right or wrong…it can only BE.  We see that natural form through our own eyes….
 
If then, a concept such as politics or spirituality falls from the deep blue sky above….and then, settles itself into the center of the circle; is it not the same as the feather?  Are we not able to see the concept that reveals itself to us from our own point on the circle, however different that perception  from our neighbour’s?
 
I’m rambling….sigh…..but tonight I am thinking about the angles of angels!