Ordinary Time: Proper 26

The Prophet (Habakkuk) by Donatello (Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi). — Marble sculpture originally for the Cathedral in Florence, Italy, 76.7 inches, 1435-36. Photo by Emon Hassan for The New York Times.

October 30, 2022 Lectionary Texts — Year C
Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4 and Psalm 119:137-144 • Isaiah 1:10-18 and Psalm 32:1-7 • 2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12 • Luke 19:1-10

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Image description: Standing with a look of exasperation, the prophet Habakkuk stares with a large open mouth as if he is about to speak. Dressed in a toga-like garment with one arm and shoulder exposed, we glimpse a thin yet slightly muscular man. One hand is casually tucked under the strap of a scroll while the other dangles limply in the folds of his robe.

This is the vision with which the prophet Habakkuk was burdened. “How long must I cry, O Eternal One, and get no answer from You? Even when I yell to You, ‘Violence is all around!’ You do nothing to save those in distress.” — Habakkuk 1:1-2
Trouble and distress have overtaken me, but Your commandments bring me great joy. — Psalm 119:143
So, of course, we’ve proudly bragged about you within circles of God’s people at other churches near and far because, even in the grip of much persecution and affliction, you’ve stood firm in your faith and have persevered. All this is why we are constantly praying for you, so God will make you worthy of the great calling you have received from Him and will give you the power to accomplish every good intention and work of faith. — 2 Thessalonians 1:4,11

The texts this week remind us that a life of faith is not a life of joy and prosperity. No… we are more likely to witness and even experience ourselves injustice, violence and afflictions. We are called to persevere and to hold on to hope. This will prove challenging, if not impossible.

I am so thankful then when Scripture provides the exact words that reflect my own feelings and thoughts of confusion, trouble and anguish. Habakkuk, though a lesser known prophet, is one such example. The sculpture I have chosen today is a critical work of art which provides us a wonderful visual expression of Habakkuk’s wrestling with discomfort… dis-ease… distress.

It is definitely the most well-known piece of art to depict Habakkuk, and it is also the capstone work for Italian Renaissance artist, Donatello. Completed at the very end of his stellar career, Donatello was said to be surprised by the depth of expression in The Prophet’s face. He repeatedly told the sculpture to speak as he worked. The Prophet is popularly known as Lo Zuccone which translates to “pumpkin head” or “bald head”. A distinguishing feature of The Prophet is the roughness with which Donatello carved the head and face choosing not to polish it to a silky smooth finish.

Practicing Visio Divina:

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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?

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