Hi friends and welcome to the Arise, Beloved blog. We have an amazing team of writers behind this blog and our desire is to speak truth into the lies that cripple us and shine light into the darkness that isolates us because we believe that now, more than ever, the Church desperately needs women to be restored so that the world can be set ablaze. Our hope is that you find comfort, solace, and peace in knowing that you are not alone, you are not too far gone and there is ALWAYS hope to be found.
// Anna Boehk //
Last week, I wrote about how daunting certain spiritual practices can be – about how often we desire the results but we don’t have the desire to put in the effort to learn and practice and utilize our spiritual skills to achieve those results. I mentioned how I want to spend a full quiet hour in Adoration, but I can’t seem to muster up the desire to train my heart to be quiet, to schedule time for my holy hour, or to practice the skill of mindfulness in front of the exposed Eucharist.
In full transparency, I have been trying to work on mindfulness for a long time. Mindfulness is becoming aware of yourself and your surroundings, to ground yourself if you are feeling unsettled or agitated. It’s a beautiful way of checking in with yourself and checking in with God – through mindfulness, we can allow ourselves to be more aware of the workings of the Holy Spirit in our lives, as well as more receptive to His workings. Through calming down our thoughts and distractions, we can listen for His voice instead of our own.
I recently mentioned to someone that it’s very difficult for me to be mindful because I tend to overthink everything – I end up being overwhelmed by my thoughts instead of working through them in a logical manner. This person suggested journaling prompts to me so that I only have to focus on answering introspective questions. When researching some prompts to use, I stumbled onto Visual Journaling, which is something that art critics, art historians, and museum fans use to interact with and experience the art they see, rather than just “looking” at the art.
When I drew the connections in my mind between mindfulness, journaling prompts, and exploring art, something clicked – surely I can do this in my prayer life. If you like the idea of journaling and experiencing sacred art but the idea of learning to journal is what’s holding you back, you came to the right blog post, because we are going to do Visual Journaling together, right now.
First, you should choose an image.
I’ve chosen my own image for this post, but if you choose to repeat this practice another time, you can choose any image that speaks to you. It can be something you saw on Instagram, a piece hanging on your wall or in a museum, an icon, or your favorite depiction of Mary. It can be a crucifix, it can be the portrait of a saint. Even if you aren’t someone who considers art a passion, I know you have been moved by something before. Seek out what attracts you and explore it.
The image I’ve chosen for today is an image that I found last week when I was cleaning out my file bin. In 2018, I ripped this image out of a magazine and saved it, not knowing why it moved me so much but knowing I wanted to keep it. Now is the perfect time to explore what this image means to me and my faith. The image is by Albrecht Durer, called The Man of Sorrows (1511). It was used to decorate the title page of a book titled The Small Passion.
Look at the overall image. What is this a picture of? What do you see taking place in the image? Notice the colors that are being used, or the specific style of art. In this case, this image was engraved in wood and stamped onto a book page as an illustration.
Choose one detail to focus on. To choose, look at what is most prominent or what is jumping out at you. Is it the use of a specific color or the lack of a color? Is it a small detail in the background? Once you’ve isolated something to focus on, reflect on what you are feeling. The detail I chose to focus on was Jesus’ feet. The holes from the nails tell me that this was after His Crucifixion. Is this an image of Jesus in the tomb, weeping for us? I feel a range of emotions – guilt at not loving my Savior enough, gratitude for His sacrifice…
Imagine yourself in the image. If the image before you was your surrounding reality, what would you do? What would you feel and say? Take a moment to reflect on what you would say or do if you came upon Jesus, bleeding, and weeping. Would you apologize? Would you comfort Him?
Find a Bible verse, prayer, or spiritual quote to match the image. I chose Isaiah 53:5 – “and by His stripes, we are healed.” How does this verse or quote enhance your understanding of or your feeling towards the image?
What does God want you to know through this image? What have you learned about your faith, about God, about yourself through this image?
Take the time to reflect on any other questions that have come up. Sometimes when I see sacred art, I notice characters or symbols that don’t make sense to me. When I do the research to find answers, it enhances my understanding of the painting, which then helps me even more in my meditations.
Try this with the image I found. Even if it feels like homework or doesn’t seem to accomplish anything – writing about this image at least gives you the opportunity to spend 10 quiet minutes reflecting on a beautiful image of Christ. And while you are doing so, imagine that God is spending those 10 minutes reflecting on the beautiful image of you.