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May

Creation. Creation. How to begin to comprehend something so overwhelming? The account in Genesis breaks it down for us, makes it manageable. And Donald Jackson’s illumination from The Saint John’s Bible follows the Genesis account carefully, each day’s work coming alive in the imagination of the artist. Both Scripture and artist seem to say, “Let’s take it in parts, a day at a time.”

The illumination is Jackson’s spiritual meditation on the Scripture, his visio divina. Another creation, this time in the mind and at the hand of an artist, also under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Jackson says of his work on illuminating the Bible, “The continuous process of remaining open and accepting of what may reveal itself through hand and heart on a crafted page is the closest I have ever come to God.”

Viewing the Creation illumination is almost like seeing God’s week-in-view calendar for “creation week.” I wonder if it felt quite so organized—for God, or for Jackson—when it was all coming together. I would be surprised. That said, the illumination is helpful for an unhurried meditation on a biblical account we have heard hundreds of times.

Look . . . there’s the moment, that line of gold leaf in the first panel, when God said, “Let there be light!” And there . . . the shadow of a bird soaring above the whole work of art . . . the Spirit, bringing order to the chaos. Across the page, the illumination helps us ponder over God’s mind-boggling, awe-inspiring work—and rest.

To learn more about The Saint John’s Bible and its art, visit www.saintjohnsbible.org.

—Br. Ælred Senna

Ælred Senna, OSB, is a monk of Saint John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota, and associate editor of Give Us This Day.

Art Credit:
Creation
Donald Jackson with contributions from Chris Tomlin, © 2003, The Saint John’s Bible, Saint John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota, USA. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

“Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky?” Why, indeed. Their teacher, master, Messiah just disappeared into the sky. We think “heaven,” but what must have been going on in their heads? The artist Chris Cook challenges us to imagine what their thoughts might have been. As the disciples in his Men of Galilee stare up at nothing but sky, each has a different look on his face. What are they thinking? And is it just me, or are their necks stretched out beyond maximum length, as if they wished with all their might to follow Jesus right up into heaven? But that was not to happen. Not that day. It took a couple of strangers to bring them back to their senses, reminding them they had lives to lead, work to do, a message to spread.

As human beings, we all have experienced some “Now what?” moments. Chris Cook’s art reminds us that sometimes the intensity of those moments can simply stop us in our tracks. But recognizing that the journey goes ever on, he says of his work as an artist, “In my quest to constantly improve my craft, creating a vision and interpretation of life as I move through it—I shed my skin and allow myself to wander and wonder. I never rest on my laurels—I explore, turning my back on both successes and failures, to move on, unburdened by, but certainly learning and building on my past work.” As Christians, we too are called to carry on, learning from successes and failures, spreading the good news, pausing often to marvel at life’s miracles and tragedies, and to ask God, “Now what?”

To learn more about Chris Cook and his art, visit www.chriscookartist.com.

—Br. Ælred Senna

Ælred Senna, OSB, is a monk of Saint John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota, and associate editor of Give Us This Day.

Art Credit:
Men of Galilee, acrylic on canvas by Chris Cook.
www.chriscookartist.com. Used with permission

Nikola Sarić was born in Serbia in 1985 and formally became an art student at the age of fifteen. He went on to acquire a degree from the Academy of the Serbian Orthodox Church for arts and conservation in Belgrade. This young artist embraces the tradition, as it is ordinarily understood, but also believes that “the tradition” is continually in development, that today’s faithful are creating tradition for the future (www.nikolasaric.de).

Mr. Sarić painted the icon of Jesus Christ the Redeemer in 2016 as part of his series of “Witnesses,” which was exhibited last year at the Mount Athos Center in Thessaloniki, Greece. On the occasion of that exhibit, Orthodox theologian Georgios Fousteris noted that, in Sarić’s work, “the glance, the positions, the gesticulations, the shapes, the colors, all are clear and lucid, with a frankness not admitting of delusions.” Indeed, in keeping with iconographic tradition, every detail of the work has been given the highest degree of attention. In the image, Christ appears seated on the throne surrounded by angels—the very throne seemingly made of wings. Curious-looking seraphim (is that what they are?), all eye and wing, support his feet. There is something distinctly classical about Sarić’s forms. He acknowledges the influence of the art of classical antiquity in his style, including sacred Greco-Roman art. His ability to infuse it with his own brand of modern elegance, however, is what holds our gaze and connects us—as great icons do—with an image of what is divine.

—Br. Ælred Senna

Ælred Senna, OSB, is a monk of Saint John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota, and associate editor of Give Us This Day.

Art Credit:
Jesus Christ the Redeemer by Nikola Sarić.
© Nikola Sarić. www.nikolasaric.de. Used with permission.