I have long enjoyed the sermons and reflections of Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury, his thoughtful way of giving us an image to help us ‘see’ as well as ‘hear’ a deep theological truth helps the thought to linger with me and embed itself into my subconscious. In his book Being Disciples he reminds us that disciples ‘watch’ – a little bit like being a birdwatcher, who, “sitting still, poised, alert, not tense or fussy, knows that this is the kind of place where something extraordinary suddenly bursts into view.” I love this image and the challenge that we are to see as well as to hear God within our everyday existence. We are so accustomed to hearing the scriptures read to us in church, to hearing the preacher challenge us through the message on Sunday or through podcasts and radio broadcasts and conversations with friends. But this invitation to ‘see’ reminds me of another of my favourite artists, Rouault, whose jewel coloured figurative paintings outlined with thick black markings, expose the beauty that he saw hidden within the poor; those who are trapped in the dark places of life, outcasts, vulnerable, suffering. And yet Rouault wrote
“Deep down inside the most unfriendly, unpleasant, and impure creature, Jesus dwells.”
…..“I carry within myself an infinite depth of suffering and melancholy, which life has only served to develop and of which my paintings, if God allows it, will only be the flowering and imperfect expression.”
He understood what it means to be a disciple, to see and hold within himself a deep identification with the poor and marginalised. Yet as well as seeing the suffering of others he painted and knew of hope, of a saviour who shares in our suffering, hence the colours, the bright vivid rainbow of colours guiding us all to see hope and the presence of God in the midst of the darkest of situations.
Take time to look, to really look at the three paintings for today’s reflection, let them move your spirit and ask yourself am I a disciple who takes time to see as well as to hear, to sit attentively like a bird watcher? And secondly where have I seen the vivid colours of the saviours presence amongst the poor and the marginalised? Take some time to journal your answers and to choose to look more intently this Advent.
1: Christ and the Apostles