We have all heard, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”
Do artwork, photographs, icons, or symbols ever speak of God to your heart?
Henri Nouwen wrote a book – The Return of the Prodigal Son – about his experience contemplating and praying with God about Rembrandt’s famous painting.
A chance encounter with a reproduction of Rembrandt’s The Return of the Prodigal Son catapulted Henri Nouwen on a long spiritual adventure. Nouwen studied all the characters in the parable: the younger son’s return, the father’s loving forgiveness, the elder son’s vengefulness, and the father’s compassion.
He wrote, “Constantly falling back into an old trap, before I am even fully aware of it, I find myself wondering why someone hurt me, rejected me, or didn’t pay attention to me. Without realizing it, I find myself brooding about someone else’s success, my own loneliness, and the way the world abuses me. Despite my conscious intentions, I often catch myself daydreaming about becoming rich, powerful, and very famous. All of these mental games reveal to me the fragility of my faith that I am the Beloved One on whom God’s favor rests. I am so afraid of being disliked, blamed, put aside, passed over, ignored, persecuted, and killed, that I am constantly developing strategies to defend myself and thereby assure myself of the love I think I need and deserve. And in so doing I move far away from my father’s home and choose to dwell in a “distant country”.’
Praying with icons is an ancient prayer practice that involves keeping our eyes open, taking into our heart what an image visually communicates. We focus not on what is seen in the icon, but rather on what is seen through it – what is God inviting us to do, to be. How is He present with us in the image before us?
Icons help us use our right brain to experience the holy — a divine mystery. Icons are not simply art; they are a way into contemplative prayer, and are therefore one way to let God speak to us. They are doorways into stillness, into closeness with God.
Many people’s favorite icon is The Holy Trinity by Rublev.
Image via Wikipedia
My fellow bloggers and their gorgeous photographs they share fascinate me. Often they use few words. Check out Ann Voskamp’s beautiful blog A Holy Experience for inspiration.
I am intrigued, stilled, awed, and humbled that God’s hand is always upon me. Sometimes when I can’t find the words, I just sit quietly with one of these simple reminders that He is here, holding me, loving me.
Do you have a special image, painting, photograph that speaks to your soul?
Jean Wise says
Phil, i am a sorta photographer too and find the lens sees things I often miss. great way to connect with God isn’t it?
Linda, the session on (in)courage did move quickly but full of info. please let me know if ever can help you.
Kay I am coming over to your blog next. glad to connect with another Nouwen fan
Kay Swatkowski says
Jean, I’ve been to all three of your sites now. I enjoyed looking at each. This one was especially interesting to me. I appreciate Henri Nouwen so much.
I blog at http://www.americangrandma.com and hope to nurture the spiritual lives of grandmothers and help them pass on a legacy. I look forward to reading more here!
I so appreciate this Jean. I will have to ponder it. I know that beautiful country scenes bring me such a sense of peace
I am a bit relieved to read Nouwen’s words. I feel, not less guilty, but a little less alone in such feelings.
Thank you so much for connecting with me. I felt a bit lost last night amid all that wonderful information. I am so very far from ever being a published writer!
Phather Phil Malmstrom says
This was wonderful Jean. As an amateur photographer, I spend quite a bit of time taking lots of nature shots. Of the images I take that really “speak” to me, I almost always feel I’ve captured some of our Creator’s Presence through my lens.
Have a Blessed Day!
Jean Wise says
What a great Lenten topic. Thanks for sharing. I really do love Nouwen’s writing.
We did a whole Lenten series one year on the Rembrandt painting and Nouwen’s book on his experiences with the painting. Fascinating.