The Goodness of Creation

The Starry Night, Vincent Van Gogh; 1889, oil on canvas, 73.7 x 92.1 cm, Museum of Modern Art, New York.

The Starry Night, Vincent Van Gogh; 1889, oil on canvas, 73.7 x 92.1 cm, Museum of Modern Art, New York.

In The Starry Night, perhaps Van Gogh’s most famous and beloved painting, he has poured out his feelings of awe and wonder at God’s creation. He depicts The Starry Night as a swirling mass of deep blue space punctuated by blazing stars. This violent energy erupts above a peaceful, idyllic village with the cypress tree at left twisting upwards to connect the earthly and heavenly realms. Be sure to click on the painting to look closely at the larger version. You can see the details of Van Gogh’s brush strokes heavily loaded with pigment, his delicate yet confident outlines of the buildings, and the harmonious half circles of the trees that both echo and yet contrast with the drama of the whirling sky. By placing the cypress tree in the left foreground Vincent has drawn us into the scene, giving it an immediacy that it might lack otherwise. This picture gives us a sense of eternity and of our smallness in the vast infinitude of creation.

I thought of this painting today when I read the lectionary, which includes a lengthy passage from the opening verses of the book of Genesis. Continue reading

Eve, Mother of All?

(Warning: this post departs from the usual serious meditative art and scripture and instead veers off somewhat into the whimsical.)

Today’s challenge from WordPress Daily Post  is to pick up the nearest book, find the third complete sentence on page 82, and work it into a posting. Fun, right? Except that I had to cheat a little since the sentence in the book nearest to me was:

“The assistance khoregoi ‘bought’ in this way will have been of two principal kinds: that of men who were choral professionals, probably not composers of music, poetry or dance themselves, but skilled in their execution and in the difficult business of forging good order, discipline, and the much sought-after grace of choral eukosmia.”  (The Athenian Institution of the Khoregia, Peter Wilson)

Yeahhhh…I don’t think so. Try again:

“The word for ‘create’ is the same as the word used in the Bible for the creative power of God (Gen 14:19, 22) and in extrabiblical texts for the creativity of Semitic mother goddesses.” (Women in Scripture, Carol Meyers, ed.)

Now this I can work with! The sentence comes from the entry for Eve, so my next challenge was to choose from the abundance of images of Eve, which proved to be a knotty challenge indeed. Why, you ask? Well, firstly, I’m not a biblical literalist so I don’t ‘believe’ that Adam and Eve actually existed or that Eve was created from the rib of Adam! Secondly, I’m a feminist (yes, I used the F-word!), so I find the whole story of Eve as promulgated in our culture to be problematic, you know, the whole apple thing and the way it has been used for centuries to justify patriarchal notions of male dominance. So although there are several famous images of Eve, such as her creation from the sleeping Adam in the Sistine Chapel:

Creation of Eve, Michelangelo; Sistine Chapel Ceiling

Creation of Eve, Michelangelo; Sistine Chapel Ceiling

Continue reading