Sunday, 22 May 2011

Icons: windows or /and mirrors?

For me the whole point about commissioning an icon from Ian has been to use sacred and liturgical art as a way to think and reflect on my faith and how I have lived it in the past and how I live it now. What sometimes confuses me is exactly what role can art play in spiritual life? Icons, so it is often said are 'windows'. Yes, I get that. Reflecting on the Sacred Heart in terms of art does indeed serve as a window. But all to often over these months the image of the Sacred Heart has proved to be more a of a mirror. As I explore and reflect and pray what comes to mind is not what is 'out there' in front , but what is 'inside' me, behind. The more I think about the future, the more does the image suddenly make me look at myself. ( Deep into MY HEART: my inner core of what I am.) It can be most dis-concerting. It reminds me of a car journey when I could see practically nothing out of the car window in front of me, but I had a clear view of what was behind me in my rear-view mirror. Reflecting on the relationship between Ian's Rosary commission and the Sacred Heart took me to Teilhard's thoughts on the Virgin Mary. And in doing that I found myself standing in a tomb in Ravenna Italy! The tomb belongs to Dante. I was there a few years ago, whilst teaching at the University of Bologna. As I reflected on the Rosary, this memory came back very strongly and made me think of Teihard's love of Dante. I had forgotten how important Dante was for me in my youth. In school I had an Italian friend who came from Florence and -inter alia- we studied art history together for our 'O" levels. Our special study was the Italian Renaissance and of course Gabriele coming from Florence knew all the paintings and sculptures so well. He taught us all so much. But he also introduced me to Dante, and as a parting gift he gave me a copy of La Vita Nuova - The New Life. Standing there in Ravenna a few years back, looking at Dante's tomb, I thought again of this great work that my friend had introduced me to and later that week I managed to get a copy and re-read the whole thing. And that was that, until the other day!! But I think now that Dante is far more important to the Sacred Heart than I had imagined. So now I feel as if I am driving by looking in my rear- view mirror again. Icons are windows, but it seems to me when it is dark outside they reflect and become mirrors. So, I think I have to revisit my old friendship and re-read Dante and see if things become clearer! I feel strongly that it will give insight, and I will go with this feeling. Dante and the Sacred Heart?? .. O come on....

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