By ANNIE-ROSE KEITH
CONNECTING FAITH AND LIFE
My favorite images on the panels depicting Eucharistic Miracles (currently making the rounds in our diocese) are the hand-drawn illustrations portraying the emotions of the people who directly witnessed such an event. My thanks to Blessed Carlo Acutis for choosing these images. Seriously, what would you do if you looked down into the ciborium and found a red host with liquid that was moving from the center towards the exterior? Like an open wound? It’s sobering to think about that; but there’s also a little bit of an element of whimsy, no? Where else can you present proof of the real presence of Christ and have it scientifically proven to be true? It’s our Church. And I think that’s just great.
It’s perfectly fine to put yourself in the scenes of Eucharistic Miracles. We have a creative God who made our imagination, so why not utilize the ancient tradition of sacred seeing? Contemplative prayer with images (otherwise known as Visio Divina), is an ancient practice that is a powerful method of meditation on the presence of Christ seen in our daily lives. As a chiefly visual learner, this method has proven very fruitful for my prayer life (thanks be to our visionary God for that). Our Church’s artistic tradition is expansive, so any piece of sacred art can be used for this approach to prayer.
I present this to you because it’s so hard to find peace. Regardless of whether you live alone or with others, a strong inner peace that can only come from Christ is so hard to find – if you let it become that way. There are many ways of praying contemplatively, but I present Visio Divina because it keeps a sacred physical object (a painting, an icon, etc.) at the forefront of your mind, allowing distractions to fall away.
The steps for this sacred practice are as follows:
- Choose a sacred image. My favorites are Ingres’s “The Virgin Adoring the Host” and Rembrandt’s “Storm on the Sea of Galilee.” Both are excellent images that easily allow us to use our imaginations.
- Look at the entire picture. Note any shapes, colors and lighting that stick out to you – in the foreground and in the background. Once you have given the entire piece a good once-over, pay attention to what draws your attention. Just like in other methods (like Lectio Divina), God’s luring you to the specific thing He wants you to see – a treasure meant just for you.
- Meditate on the part that draws your attention. What is God trying to speak to you about here? Why do you think God has drawn your attention to this particular part of the image? How does what you see in the image pertain to your life today? Is God calling you? Is a memory recalled? Allow the thoughts you have while contemplating the image to descend to your heart as you embrace the emotion that comes forward during your prayer with a sacred image. What word describes this inner stirring as you embrace this feeling?
- Put words to what you are feeling. Have a conversation with God about that.
- Sit in silence with this image allowing Christ’s love to wash over you.
It’s nice, right? You can even put yourself in the artist’s shoes. This is especially true for paintings created around the time of great personal and international turmoil. Were they able to finish their ideas? How were they (the artists) feeling when they painted the image?
Visio Divina can be put into practice at any point in our lives and, hopefully, will greatly strengthen your prayer life. When paired with the images found on the panels currently rotating around the diocese, it gives us an opportunity to contemplate further on the true presence of Christ – in our lives and tangibly in our sanctuaries.