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.”

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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.”

Nicodemus

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