This month in Sanctuary First, we draw on the language of images to add light and shade, colour and depth to our Advent journey. Freed from the rigid meaning of words, the language of pictures draws on our everyday experience of the world we can see and feel. Mums identify with an image of Mary cradling her precious son while Dads know how that weary figure of Joseph feels as he leads his little family into the unknown. In the midst of busy lives, we are drawn to images of the tranquil countryside. Pictures help us to think and reflect, as they touch our emotions, trigger memories or make us smile.
As you reflect on the readings and prayers this month, look carefully into the images (click to magnify if you can). They’ll come in a wide variety of forms, so be ready to embrace challenging or unexpected images and allow them to linger in your mind to spark off thoughts. Study the details and try to see the significance of Jesus’ birth from a variety of points of view.
Paintings, whether from 200 or 2 years ago, are not simply illustrations of a text. Artists strive to visualise complex spiritual truths as well as objects and landscapes, and through the years they’ve built up a language of signifiers which you probably don’t realise are familiar to you. Golden haloes tell of the holiness of someone, or precious expensive blue pigment gives Mary a gown worthy of her calling and commitment. Doves appear for the Holy Spirit, lilies for purity, and stables crowded with animals, shepherds and magi remind us of the untidy, noisy, smelly world that was unprepared for Jesus’ arrival.
Isaiah predicted that
“The people who walk in darkness
will see a great light.
For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine”
We have a good reason to make this a vivid, colourful month when our weather is at its darkest. Use these images alongside the word of God, to light up your life this December.