The Good Shepherd

This older post remains one of my most popular. Since today’s readings are about God as the Good Shepherd, I thought I’d share it once more.

Good Shepherd, fresco, artist unknown, Catacomb of Priscilla

Good Shepherd, fresco, artist unknown, Catacomb of Priscilla

(Click on images for larger view)

Does your idea of Jesus include the image of the Good Shepherd? Paintings and sculpture of this figure date to ancient times and the Catacombs of Rome contain about 150 such images, showing that this was certainly a popular portrayal of Jesus for early Christians.

I am the good shepherd.
The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep…
My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord;
I know them, and they follow me.
John 10:14, 27

When Jesus disembarked and saw the vast crowd,
his heart was moved with pity for them,
for they were like sheep without a shepherd;
and he began to teach them many things.
Mark 6:34

Continue reading

The Baptism of the Lord


Andrea del Verrocchio is known primarily as a Renaissance sculptor and goldsmith, but he and his busy workshop in Florence also produced paintings. He trained many young artists and among them was Leonardo da Vinci, who assisted with this painting of the Baptism of Christ.  Leonardo painted the angel at the far left as well as some of the landscape. Most of the painting is done in tempera, which uses egg yolk to bind the pigment, but some areas also include touches of oil paint, a new medium that was just being introduced in Italy at this time by Dutch and Flemish painters. Continue reading

Adoration of the Magi

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea,
in the days of King Herod,
behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,
“Where is the newborn king of the Jews?
We saw his star at its rising
and have come to do him homage.”

Continue reading

Stormy Weather

The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, Rembrandt van Rijn, 1633, oil on canvas, 160 x 128 cm.  Whereabouts unknown since the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum robbery in 1990.

The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, Rembrandt van Rijn, 1633, oil on canvas, 160 x 128 cm. Whereabouts unknown since the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum robbery in 1990.

“God, don’t you care?”

How often have we asked that question when we’re in the midst of suffering? The disappointment we feel when things don’t go as we had planned, the pernicious doubts that dog us, the inconsolable grief at the loss of a loved one, the primal fear that we’ve been abandoned, all these can lead us to question whether God actually cares about us. Continue reading

Suzy Schultz’s Second Innocence

Today I’m sharing some of the work and words of the contemporary artist Suzy Schultz, who I just discovered through an interview with her on Joseph Futral’s blog, Nature of the Beat. I instantly was taken by her work, and reading her thoughts about the idea of Second Innocence resonated deeply for me:

“I heard that term in an interview in an article years ago. The guy quoted a French theologian, the theologian used that term Second Innocence. I don’t know what it is about that term, I have some ideas. It kind of goes with the whole theory of there being redemption, of things that are broken becoming whole. Or things that are scarred becoming beautiful, not because they lose their scars but the scars are part of the new beauty that they have. Even physical things like old walls that have years and years of stains on them and have all these different colors as a result of that. They have this patina of beauty that is much richer to me than if it was a freshly painted wall.”

Prayer by Suzy Schultz

Prayer by Suzy Schultz

“There’s a hope that the mistakes we’ve made, or the regrets that we have, or the imperfections we have, can all be a part of, don’t prevent us from, living life fully and beautifully. That can be a part of our going through the fire and having those things perfected into a new kind of beauty. As I get older I look to things that give me hope, that my own struggles can be a part of creating a new beauty.”

Spring Web by Suzy Schultz

Spring Web by Suzy Schultz

“One of the pieces that I recently did, I’ve been doing this whole warrior series. I did a piece in the last few years of a woman; she’s dressed as a warrior, she’s got a bow strapped across her, a quiver with arrows in it. She’s got what could be seen as wings behind her or a large bird of prey like an eagle that’s flying over her. In my mind what I wanted was she is someone who is very strong. She’s a warrior herself. And yet she, herself, needs protection and shelter. I was also inspired by Psalm 91, which I embedded in part of the painting, which talks about finding refuge and being under the shelter of protective wings. There is an aura of mystery to that, you aren’t sure if they’re wings, is she an angel, a bird flying over her. I like that the image is still powerful even though it’s not and maybe because it’s not so defined you know exactly what it is. There’s not a defined message necessarily there, but there is a symbology that gives a powerful image.”

Warrior by Suzy Schultz.

Warrior by Suzy Schultz

“There’s something so symbolic about eggs. I love the fact that only the eggs that are broken bring forth life. If the eggs are never broken apart the life inside them dies. There’s a lot of symbolism there. I couldn’t have put words to that before I started painting those. I just knew there was something about the eggs that I was drawn towards.”

Broken and Whole by Suzy Schultz

Broken and Whole by Suzy Schultz

“I guess my connection with the Christian faith tends to be finding these redemptive themes over and over and exploring those. Kind of like the broken and whole, the guy holding the birds nest, the empty chair, the warrior. I guess those themes keep drawing me back to the faith.”

Doorway by Suzy Schultz

Doorway by Suzy Schultz

“Every once in a while when I’m painting I’m able to be both a participant and a vessel. When that happens and things happen on the panel or paper that were other than what I intended, that end up being really powerful paintings, I feel like I experience something of a connection with God.”


Arguably the most popular verse in the Bible is John 3:16, which is included in today’s Gospel reading.

Nicodemus, Henry O. Tanner, 1899, oil on canvas 85.6 x 100.3 cm., Pennsylvania  Academy of the Fine Arts.

Nicodemus, Henry O. Tanner, 1899, oil on canvas 85.6 x 100.3 cm., Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia.


Jesus said to Nicodemus:
“Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” Continue reading

The Hands of the Father

As I’ve written on the About page, The Return of the Prodigal Son, a book by Henri Nouwen in which he writes his profound extended meditation on the painting of that name by Rembrandt, was the inspiration for the creation of this blog. So imagine my excitement and trepidation when I saw that this Saturday’s Gospel reading is that very parable! Excitement because, obviously, I love both the painting and the parable. Trepidation because nothing I could possibly write would come near to the eloquence and profundity of Nouwen’s words. So my solution is simple: I’ll include the words of Henri Nouwen that speak so deeply to my own heart. I hope they’ll speak to yours as well, as they have to millions of others. First things first though. Here is the scriptural passage that is the basis for the painting, from the Gospel of Luke: Continue reading

Woman with the Alabaster Jar

St Mary Magdalen and St Catherine of Alexandria, Simone Martini,1320-25 Fresco, 215 x 185 cm Cappella di San Martino, Lower Church, San Francesco, Assisi.

St Mary Magdalen and St Catherine of Alexandria, Simone Martini,1320-25
Fresco, 215 x 185 cm
Cappella di San Martino, Lower Church, San Francesco, Assisi.

While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. But some were there who said to one another in anger, “Why was the ointment wasted in this way? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”
Mark 14:3-9

I am currently taking part in a weekly women’s retreat series based upon the book, Do What You Have the Power to Do by Helen Bruch Pearson. The book contains six studies of women from the New Testament who are nameless but who take some action that involves Jesus. This week we read and meditated on the woman with the alabaster jar. Her story is told in varying ways in all four of the Gospels, but there is some confusion surrounding her identity. She has been conflated with Mary Magdalene, who has also become confused with the “woman of ill repute” in Luke’s version. Our task for the retreat was to read Mark’s account at least three times, each time noting what words or phrases stood out to us, and then praying and journaling further on them. Continue reading

Announcing the Monthly Masterpiece Challenge!

Infinite Windows is a blog about connecting art and faith, so tell us what visual arts Rothkosmasterpiece speaks to you in a spiritual way and why. Does Rothko make you ruminate on God? Does the Pantheon cause you to ponder the heavens? Does Michelangelo leave you musing over biblical stories? Or maybe Tibetan mandalas lead you to thoughts of mortality? Whichever masterpiece gives you a window into the infinite, share it with us! Continue reading