Friday, 13 May 2011

Logging in from Jordan

Just to keep you faithful followers up to date...

The latest icon painting course in Bethlehem was a great success. A lovely mixed group...German, Austrian, French, Palestinian and English. They all brought a deep reflective spirit that brought out the depths of iconography as a spiritual discipline naturally and powerfully. All managed to achieve good progress and icons of acceptable standards, so that at first glance you weren't aware of 'good' or 'not so good' ones. The sisters really make the course, because their community is one of the most loving, tender, generous and natural I have come across, deeply rooted in Byzantine and Benedictine spirituality. I may post an evaluation from one of the participants shortly.

I am now back in Anjara, continuing with the icons of the Holy Rosary. My aim is to finish the Mysteries of Light, and so far progress is fair to good. Trying to repeat the same character, eg. Our Lady or as it has been this week St Peter, is a real challenge as you want them to be clearly recognisable as the same person. In the Mysteries of Light I have relied up St John's Gospel which might seem strange given that the central mystery is the Transfiguration which doesn't occur in his Gospel, and the Last Supper is oblique.

The start for me came from the account of Cana in Galilee, which of course only appears in John's Gospel and which is the one mystery of this set in which Our Lady appears. I then reflected upon the baptism. Islam's critique of Christianity is that you can't be certain about what is written about Jesus, that it was corrupted by St Paul and the early Church. However, in Islam, the testimony of two or three witnesses is conclusive, so in these scenes about Jesus' earthly ministry I was keen to have the apostles witnessing the events to which later they will bear witness.

John's account of the baptism struck me because it has the wonderful narrative of St Andrew bringing his brother St Peter to see Jesus, believing that he has found the long promised Messiah. The Synoptic Gospels have nothing of this. So I decided to stick with John's account and replaced the three angels traditionally present in icons of Christ's baptism with Andrew and Peter. I have been painting their faces this week, trying to capture something of St Andrew's excitement and anticipation, together with St Peter's curiosity and conviction.

I will try to remember to take some photos as work progresses so you get an idea of what is developing.

Apart from this, I spent today re-arranging the shrine. The building isn't the most inspiring, but it had become a little cluttered and disorganised, so Padre Hugo happily let me loose on it. The only major thing to do was to re-hang the cross above the altar, something I thought might take half an hour. However, as these things do, it took five hours! Combine lack of tools, lack of Arabic, distractions such as a baptism, a rain storm, and places being closed as it is Islam's holy day being Friday, and the time just rolled ever onwards! However, we triumphed in the end, and the shrine is now a contemplative visual space, with the pews aligned rhythmically, a decent space around the altar and the shrine statue of the Madonna, a lack of distracting clutter,and the Cross and Statue clearly visually central (before the Cross was hung on a pillar to the side, and the area above the altar was dominated visually by a light fitting).

Anyway, not much here on the Sacred Heart, but that will resume soon. I follow David's reflections with interest!

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