Second Sunday of Advent

Peaceable Kingdom by Edward Hicks — oil on canvas, 17 7/8 x 23 7/8 inches, ca. 1830-1832.

December 4, 2022 Lectionary Texts — Year A
Isaiah 11:1-10 • Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19 • Romans 15:4-13 • Matthew 3:1-12

View Lectionary

Image description: A menagerie of animals fill most of the canvas and include lions, ox, cattle, cheetah, goat, sheep and calf. The animals have wide eyes. Some munch together on grain stalks. A young child stands among the animals with its arm around the neck of a lion. In the distance and off to the left of the painting sit two children — one older and the other a toddler. Both appear to have their hands over holes in the ground. A lake and trees occupy the background. A dead and fractured tree trunk can be seen among the trees. At the bottom of the canvas just below the cheetah is the text: “ISAIAH 11 Chap. 6 7 8”.

A day will come when the wolf will live peacefully beside the wobbly-kneed lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the young goat; The calf and yearling, newborn and slow, will rest secure with the lion; and a little child will tend them all. Bears will graze with the cows they used to attack; even their young will rest together, and the lion will eat hay, like gentle oxen. Neither will a baby who plays next to a cobra’s hole nor a toddler who sticks his hand into a nest of vipers suffer harm. All my holy mountain will be free of anything hurtful or destructive, for as the waters fill the sea, The entire earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Eternal. — Isaiah 11:6-9

I pray that God, the source of all hope, will infuse your lives with an abundance of joy and peace in the midst of your faith so that your hope will overflow through the power of the Holy Spirit. — Romans 15:13

Edward Hicks was obsessed with this concept/image of the peaceable kingdom. There are 62 versions of this painting done by him in existence. While there may be differences in the exact subjects included in the scene, all of Hicks works on this subject are explorations into how this visualization of the text plays out in the realities of life. Hicks was himself a Quaker minister and was deeply concerned over a split among the Society of Friends happening at the time. The splintered tree in this particular painting is said to be the representation of that break. Other versions include indigenous peoples interacting with European immigrants in background — another relationship in which Hicks hoped for peace.

Hicks was not trained in art and his unique style and expression has become an important contribution to American folk art.

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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