Many of our congregations marked the Baptism of Christ this Sunday. Whether your congregation engaged this event or not, you might like to do so now through a practice called Visio Divina. “While Lectio Divina is a method of praying with scripture, Visio Divina (Latin for “divine seeing”) is a method for praying with images or other media.” (from Patheos, read more on Visio Divina here.)
Practice Discipling the Eyes
If you are new at “discipling” your eyes, it is often helpful to practice Visio Divina using a Scripture passage alongside an image or artwork. For today, we’ll use the image of a mural above, entitled Jesus and St John the Baptist, from St. Michael and All Angels Church, London (photo credit John Salmon). You may also use the text below from Matthew to aid in your meditation. When you are ready, follow the prompts below, which can be used to practice Visio Divina with any appropriate art image. Allow the Holy Spirit to guide you as you imagine the Baptism of our Lord today.
Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by
him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized
by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be
so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then
he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up
from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of
God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from
heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
Settle into stillness. Get in touch with your breath and your body. Relish the silence. Be aware of your desire to grow in intimacy with God.
Gazing Upon the Image
Explore the entire image with your eyes. Look more deeply at the different sections – notice colors, shapes, figures, symbols. Pay attention to anything in particular that captures your attention. Be aware of what calls you to deeper reflection, and let your eyes be drawn to this place and rest there.
Reflection on the Image
Focus on the place in the work of art that captured your attention. Let it draw you more deeply into the experience. Invite it to unfold in your imagination, and notice if it evokes any memories, feelings or other images. Let the image create spaciousness in you. Become aware of what the image touches in you.
Responding to the Image
What is the invitation behind the images, memories, and feelings that unfolded for you? How is God speaking to your life through this work of art? What is the “yes” within you that is longing to be expressed? Explore your responses through silence or journaling.
Resting with God
Release all the words and images that have been flooding your heart. Rest and be. Close your eyes and savor the darkness and sense of surrender to the depth and breadth of God.
Offer a prayer of thanks for the gift of this time and for God’s presence in beauty and stillness. Do any other verses of scripture comes to mind for you in connection to the art?
Acknowledgment for the content of this exercise is due to Christine Valter Paintner and Lucy Wynkoop, authors of Lectio Divina: Contemplative Awakening and Awareness.