Epiphany, 2013. Christ is being revealed among us. All that we could see was a poplar plywood board in the shape of the San Damiano Cross. That particular cross had a story of its own- it was in the church where St. Francis of Assisi first encountered Christ and received his calling: Go repair my Church, which as you see is falling completely in ruin. This was literal at first, as the dilapidated church was in an extreme state of disrepair. Later, however, St. Francis lived into this vocation in more nuanced ways- he called the church to radical compassion, environmental awareness and creativity in worship, among many other things.
We began with this image and this story as a reference point to reinterpret a historical icon in a new time and place. The invitation was open to the community: come and paint! During the seasons of Epiphany and Lent, careful / prayerful hands of all skill levels worked to flesh out the picture. Each Sunday, those gathered witnessed the slow revelation as we sat with the questions of those particular seasons of the church year: Who is this Christ who was born? What is his work? How might we follow him?
Good Friday, 2013. We finished just in time for Holy Week.
The Cross of San Damiano was an interesting image to work off of. We chose it because it presents a visual conundrum: Christ does not hang on the cross as a corpse, it is almost as though he is supporting it. In the defeat of God we see his victory. As we interact with this imagery, we undergo the counter-intuitive movement that is the tension at the heart of our faith: To participate in the life of Christ, we must die with him.
The gold border contains an undulating vine with a Trinitarian motif: a three-petaled flower that is suggestive of Pentecost and tongues of fire. The ferns are both a contextualization to the Pacific North West and represent radical humility in Christian symbolism. The waves come from an early Wits' End Church logo and represent both the Exodus narrative (as they are parted) and Baptism as the faithful death of Christ makes a way for us through the waters of chaos and death and into freedom and life. The clouds at the top are symbolic of the darkness that occurred on Good Friday and the Temple curtain that was rendered, removing the barrier between God and people. The dove is the Holy Spirit who is the presence of God that now fills the world.
For a simple introduction to praying with icons, see: Behold the Beauty of the Lord, by Henri Nouwen
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