Vision of the New Jerusalem, Donald Jackson, ©2011 The Saint John’s Bible, Saint John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota, USA. – This link to the Abbey blog will allow you to open and explore the image in another window as I do not have permission to post it. You will be able to click on the image to enlarge. I do my best to read and honor copyright and permissions on Visio Divina.
May 29, 2022 Lectionary Texts — Year C
Through this Easter season, we have traveled across the ages and the globe looking at the work of artists compelled to give visual to the glorious imagery found in John’s Revelation. Our journey began with a story of my own experience in a small Bosnian art gallery. I had an equally amazing experience tied to Donald Jackson’s Vision of the New Jerusalem.
I visited the vault at Saint John’s University set up for the preservation and protection of The Saint John’s Bible. If you are unfamiliar, The Saint John’s Bible is an illuminated hand-crafted manuscript of the entire Holy Scriptures commissioned by Saint John’s Abbey and Saint John’s University of Collegeville, Minnesota. A work of this magnitude and quality has not been undertaken for several centuries. It is a revival of a long gone artform having faded with the dawn of the printing press. Visiting the vault where this incredible volume resides was such a life-giving experience for me. Myself and the few individuals who went were able to view the exquisite workmanship as pages of the Bible where laid out before us to explore up close. The detail… the colors… the gold… so rare and precious.
Donald Jackson, a world renowned calligrapher (in fact he is calligrapher to the Queen of England) headed up this project. It had been his dream since he was a teenager to inscribe and illuminate the Bible. Though the entire work is the collaboration of numerous artists and calligraphers, Jackson himself competed both text and illumination for all of Revelation.
This Benedictine community who commissioned Donald names the practice of visio divina as an important aspect of The Saint John’s Bible:
The illuminations are not illustrations, they are spiritual meditations on a text. — Father Michael Patella
The city here is laid out like a map of sorts. We see the streets of gold, floating angel forms, the tree of life with golden fruit, a river-like background, and God enthroned. Tiny geometric shapes enter at the bottom of the image and serve to represent the saints entering the New Jerusalem. You will note a pair of crosses in the lower right hand corner. These were added during the presentation service of the completed Bible and follow a Judaic tradition whereby the one who commissioned a new scroll would place the final mark. Both the Abbot of Saint John’s Abbey and the president of Saint John’s University burnished these Benedictine crosses and signified the work’s completion in 2011.
The Anointed One: See, I am coming soon, and I will bring My reward with Me. I will pay back every person according to the deeds he has done. I am the Alpha and Omega, the First One and the Last One, the beginning and the end. Blessed are those who wash their garments. In the end, they have rightful access to the tree of life and will enter the city through its gates. — Revelation 22:12-14
Practicing Visio Divina:
- View the artwork
What do you see?
Note shapes – color – style – movement
What stands out for you?
What are you curious about?
What questions do you have?
Hold back any feelings – judgments – opinions
- Read the accompanying scripture and look over the artwork again
What connections do you make?
Between the image and text?
What is coming to mind from your own experience?
What feelings are rising in you?
Are you uncomfortable with something?
There are no right or wrong answers
- Read the scripture again and explore the artwork a third time
What do you hear?
What is God saying to you?
What do you wish to speak to God?
What blessing or prayer is rising in you?