First Sunday of Advent

Church History by Michelle L Hofer — sepia toned silver gelatin print, 7 x 9 inches, 1998.

November 25, 2022 Lectionary Texts — Year A
Isaiah 2:1-5 • Psalm 122 • Romans 13:11-14 • Matthew 24:36-44

View Lectionary

Image description: Closeup black and white photograph of the base of a brass candlestick on a church altar. Sunlight from a window above the altar hits the edge of the candlestick base and the table. Though mostly out of focus, a grid of cobwebs shimmers in the light between the candlestick and the table surface.

O house of Jacob — people of the promise — come, come walk with me by the light of the Eternal. — Isaiah 2:5

And now consider this. You know well the times you are living in. It is time for you to wake up and see what is right before your eyes: for salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The darkness of night is dissolving as dawn’s light draws near, so walk out on your old dark life and put on the armor of light. — Romans 13:11-12

One of the joys of working in a darkroom developing prints from negatives is the length of time spent with a singular image — some images required many long hours to produce a quality print. It was this practice which opened me. I began seeing my pictures as metaphors for the spiritual life and journey. The potential for comparison and reflection between this week’s prophetic texts and this particular image is why I have chosen it. You may find the story behind the photo enlightening as well.

I took this photograph on a heritage tour across Europe visiting sites associated with Hutterites and Mennonites (my husband’s ancestry). While exploring a poverty stricken village in Slovakia, and old woman accommodated us by unlocking and letting us into a tiny chapel.

Silently, our group filled the pews to hear the story of the Habáner people — Hutterites who, having already fled Europe under religious persecution, were now unwilling to move again from this area of Slovakia because of mounting religious persecution. Instead, this group of people recanted their Anabaptist faith and accepted the sanctioned Catholic faith with the assistance of Catholic missionaries. The chapel we were sitting in was built by those missionaries while they were visiting the village.
At the time of our visit to Slovakia in 1998, few in the village practiced any religion at all having been under communist rule for many decades. The chapel sat locked up with its few remaining fixtures, among them a pair of wax dripped brass candlesticks, the rest having been looted.

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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