Faith filled living, for some of us, includes the visual arts.
Images in every medium speak deeply to the soul, often in surprising ways
as understandings are revealed to the conscious mind that might have been inaccessible through any other exploration.
Whether it includes enjoying the breathtaking beauty of church sanctuaries, gazing intently at creation’s many majesties, studying the composition of stunning art forms, or numerous other modalities; vision and visual art forms have long been a means of spiritual contemplation. For myself, in recent years, that inclination has been expanded to embrace creating visual images through photography, painting, and visual journaling as a faith practice. In tandem with a slow progression into the arts I searched for writings about this realm of contemplative practice, arriving, in part, to the works of those quoted here.
“In an aesthetic experience, in the creation or the contemplation of a work of art, the psychological conscience is able to attain some of its highest and most perfect fulfillments. Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time. The mind that responds to the intellectual and spiritual values that lie hidden in a poem, a painting, or a piece of music, discovers a spiritual vitality that lifts it above itself, takes it out of itself, and makes it present to itself on a level of being that it did not know it could ever achieve.” p. 34, No Man Is an Island written by Thomas Merton, Trappist Monk.
Merton so aptly describes what I have so often experienced myself, how an experience with art, in a multitude of formats, can lead one to a heightened sense of faith and closeness to God. Photography too, offers precious opportunities for walking more intimately with God, as writer Christine Valters Paintner describes in Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice …
“… one of the wonders of photography [is] to be able to frame a moment in time and, within my gazing absolute presence in that particular moment, discover holiness.” (p.5)… Photography can be an act of silent worship. When we see the world with “eyes of the heart”, we can engage in an act of both reverence and self-expression. We can discover how the living Spirit is being revealed in the world.” p.8
Paintner borrows the lyrical phrase “eyes of the heart” from Ephesians 1:18. It is a phrase that Paul uses in his letter to the people of Ephesus. Paul tells the people that he prays for them, in part, so that they will “have the eyes of their hearts enlightened” by the wisdom of the Spirit and the power of God.
Working with inks, papers, paints, digital photography
and the printed Word;
is practicing the spiritual discipline of seeking enlightenment
through God’s power and the Spirit’s sacred wisdom.
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