Jesus’ Abiding Presence – Br. Jim Woodrum

Isabella Stewart Gardner Memorial Mass
(given at the Gardner Museum)

Which painting stands out to you the most in this incredible museum? In a group like ours, everyone likely has their own favorite painting, with some choices overlapping. Among the many exceptional artworks here, one that I particularly admire is Sandro Botticelli’s “The Virgin and Child with an Angel.” Painted sometime between 1470 and 1474, it was acquired by Mrs. Gardner in 1899. I’ve been reading Natalie Dykstra’s new biography, “Chasing Beauty,” where I discovered that this painting was also one of Mrs. Gardner’s favorites.[i] Interestingly, I think it bears a resemblance to a famous photo of Belle (as Mrs. Gardner was known familiarly) and her beloved son Jackie, taken in 1864.[ii] This painting, like that photograph is iconic.

When I say that, I am not suggesting that the painting is admired for its great influence or significance in a specific sphere, perhaps like Mrs. Gardner—herself to this day, an icon. Instead, I use the term “iconic” in the sense that when we gaze at this painting, it conveys something much deeper than merely a depiction of a woman, child, and angel with wheat and grapes. Like a religious icon, every detail in the painting prayerfully hints at a richer narrative—one that may require time and contemplation to fully appreciate. Similarly, in the gospels, Jesus often taught his disciples using iconic stories called parables such as the parable of the Prodigal Son and the parable of the Good Samaritan. Read More

Expansive Love – Br. Luke Ditewig

Br. Luke Ditewig

Matthew 2:14-21

Fiber, beads, pigment, wax, wood, copper, historic rosters and photos, digital image and database software. We Brothers played with these and more for a week of creativity. Diverse mediums for diverse persons, each in the image of our Divine Maker.

Matthew opens his telling of the good news with a genealogy notably including four courageous women: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. Their stories and that of sinful husbands Judah and David are scandalous. All four are foreigners. Jesus’ bloodline is not only Jewish but also Canaanite, Moabite, and Hittite. Jesus came for the world from the world.[i] Read More

The Word Was Made Beautiful – Br. Keith Nelson

Br. Keith NelsonIsaiah 52:7-10 & John 1:1-14

We are here to celebrate Christ, to rejoice and revel in the revelation of the Word made Flesh, to fall headlong into belief for the first time, or the five-thousandth time. You are here, probably, to listen – for the first or the five-thousandth time, to “hear the good news of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation,” in the words of Isaiah. But, probably, you are also drawn to see. To see and exclaim, even before hearing, How beautiful. How beautiful: the messenger’s feet upon the mountains. How beautiful: the holy arm which the Lord has bared. My God, how beautiful: this Child we have sought with the eyes of our hearts for so long.

Christmas, for Christians in the West, is the foremost opportunity to re-embrace the Medieval impulse to look and to touch; to show things of great meaning first, then to tell as commentary on the showing. As the faith of Christians in the Middle East, Africa and Latin America remains to this day, the faith of the Medieval West was unabashedly sensory. Looking and touching and tasting were essential to believing, and they are even more so today. Read More