Images that to speak to us are powerful. When we stop to pay attention to these images, it is like coming home. Images that speak to us whether a piece of music, a special place, a person or picture are powerful reminders that we are on the path of wholeness. Mandalas are images, patterns of art arranged within a circle.
The Mandala is a symbol of the self and a movement toward a goal. Teresa of Avila imagined an image of a crystal castle with many rooms where the soul enters as it draws near to God. The image of a dwelling place has a focus on the center. It is a vision of a large picture toward a goal.
The pilgrimage begins in the beauty of God’s Creation. Flowers, fields, and hills. We know that He is God when we notice His work. The powerful image of God’s love is in the creative work that surrounds His people. God created a home for those He loves. What things do you create? Who is it that receives what you are you creating?
Mountains and a red sky. Perhaps, the crossing of the red sea. The Israelites racing to run from the Egyptians, they faced the obstacle of the read sea, surely they would perish. God saved them. How has God saved you when you have passed through uncertainty? Did you take His hand?
“Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls,” (Matthew 13:45-46 New International Version) Seeking the Kingdom of Heaven is looking for the richness of the indwelling Spirit in humanity. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. (Matthew 7:7) Have you requested the intimacy of the Kingdom? Are you seeking for the fine pearls, communion with God and the saints in God’s Kingdom?
The mandala’s center is the goal, the primary focus of the journey, the movement toward the center is involved in all our decision making. The place where the human and divine meet. What images are in your center? Where is the place where you make all your decisions?
The world was created through the word, a sign of home, which are images of communication, a concert of music, all for the inner journey toward our Maker. Reflect on your journey and create a mandala.
Creating a Mandala
The most important thing in creating a mandala is that it is spontaneous and that you do not stop to analyze your work. And do not try and make a beautiful picture or force the outcome.
- Find a quiet place, perhaps play some music and ask God to join you in your creating.
- What colors are important to you? Choose 2 or 3
- Begin in the Center or on the outer edge and follow your intuitive impulses and allow the drawing to begin. No planning, just draw, or paint or paste.
- When you have finished step back and look at your mandala and journal your journey.
- Write five or six descriptions names for each color and reflect on the associations with the colors. What are your insights, feelings, memories?
- Describe the patterns, lines and shapes, and spaces? What road blocks or forbidden zones, or other experiences have you encountered?
- Is there a central theme that is coming to surface. Write the idea from the thoughts you have journaled.
“And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the gates was a single pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.” Revelation 21:21
The pines, under the umbrella of two large pines, are a blanket hiding place. A favorite, natural castle surrounded by the art of the Master Creator is a place of quiet rest.
“What are you going to do with that door?” My husband replied.
“I don’t know yet.” I shrugged.
Twelve years or more ago I was given a 10-glass panel 1920’s door. The door was salvaged from a cottage on Three Rivers in Michigan and leaned up against the wall in my room.
I remembered when I picked up ferry glass on the beach of Lake Michigan. I collected the broken glass smoothed by the waves and sand of Lake Michigan. The cobalt blue is my favorite.
Broken colored glass is amazing when the light brightens the color in a soft glow. On a trip to England, I am attracted to the Cathedral’s glass windows. Each piece of glass is cut to fit precisely.
With broken stained glass and glass glue, I took the door and laid on our kitchen table and began to fix the glass to the windows on the door. I call this my art, my favorite way of praying in a contemplative movement of worship. The glass did not exactly fit, and I used crushed glass filled the crevices just as the lead separated the glass on the stain glass masterpieces in the England Cathedral
I entered the door in an art contest, Art Fest, and the won a place in the top ten.
“Now, what are you going to do with that door?” My husband replied.
“I am going to build a sacred space in the backyard, and this is my front door,” I said.
I collected the windows through various stops in Habitat for Humanity Restore.
In two weekends I measured and purchased wood and lay out my foundation, set on cement blocks.
The Dutch inventive painter and remarkable draftsman, Pieter Bruegel the Elder was born in the Netherlands in the1520s. That is all that is known until Bruegel residency is recorded in Antwerp, Belgium in 1551, when he became a member of the Guild of Saint Luke, as a Master painter. Pieter Bruegel the Elder created art that portrayed the humanity of people living in the real world. “The Parable of the Blind” was the one of the last paintings he painted that is a biblical parable told by Jesus about the leaders in church, the Pharisees, who created rules that lead the common people away from God, just as the peasants were also lead astray in the 1500 and 1600s and how the people are lead astray today.
Western Europe was exploding in Humanism at the time of Pieter Bruegel’s birth in 1525 and Italy’s High Renaissance of arts and culture was winding down. Martin Luther created his Ninety-Five Thesis that upset the Catholic Church, claiming abuse of indulgence, which included practicing good works, prayer, visiting a certain place. Many thought that works lessened their sin. Religious Icons were destroyed in churches and public places, these iconoclastic riots, called Beeldenstorm, focused on destroying iconic art because these images were considered as idolatrous.
People buying art for the church stopped and mainly Protestant artist in the North, begin an era of Genre art, which is pictured scenes from life, such as landscape, domestic settings, parties, inn scenes, and street scenes. Genres were down-to-earth or imagined by the artist using mediums that included painting, genre prints, genre photographs, and other art mediums. Bruegel’s drawing and paintings are considered Renaissance Flemish Baroque paintings, which is art from the Southern Netherlands during the 16th and 17th centuries. Bruegel’s paintings were an invention of moving away from the princes, queens, kings and wealthy divine paintings, to the life of the peasants. The common people caught the eye of Bruegel, possibly from the political and religious conflict that surround him in his world.
Political movements in the early1600s caused bitterness for the people living in the Netherlands, which most likely affected Bruegel’s art. However, there is not documentation of Bruegel’s political beliefs and the art work stands alone without the mysterious life story of Bruegel. Van Mander wrote in his book, Het Schilder-Boeck, that Bruegel requested from his wife that she destroy some of the drawings and paintings of his because the contents may cause trouble with the Catholic Church. Could this be an indication of his disagreement with the Catholic Church, although, Bruegel remained Catholic and this is known because his funeral was in the Catholic Church.
Bruegel moved from Antwerp to Italy in 1551 then back to Antwerp in 1554, fascinated by the Alps, he created landscape drawings in ink, perhaps, he also studied Italy’s great works of art. Hieronymus Cock, the owner of a publishing house called, Four Winds, partnered with Bruegel, who mastered in prints of landscapes and parables. Bruegel separated his work from the iconographic tradition paintings and sold many of his prints to the prominent humanist in Antwerp.
In Matthew 15, Jesus is teaching the disciples about what pollutes the life of the people. After speaking to the Pharisees and religion scholars on how they have used God to create their own rules, Jesus speaks the scripture in Isaiah 29:13:”These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.” (Isaiah 29:13, Bible, New International Version, NIV) The disciples are concerned and wonder if Jesus realizes that he has upset the Pharisees.
Jesus answers the disciples, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” (Matthew 15:13-14, NIV) Jesus explains the parable as what comes from the heart of man spills from their month and it is evident what it is their heart. The sins of man make the man unclean. In other words, spiritual blindness follows the spiritually blind.
Bruegel wanted the peasants to know the real Jesus, the one who came for the weak and the poor.
Jesus then, tells the parable of the Canaanite women who’s daughter is terribly suffering from a demon. She begs for mercy and Jesus says that she has faith, the women called out to Jesus and recognized Him as the one who heal her daughter. Jesus came for the sick not the healthy, or those who considered themselves healthy as did the Pharisees. Perhaps, Bruegel painted his painting with beautiful peasants as a way to love the ones who were caught in following the rules of the church, blind to making their own choices with God. Blind to the ways in which they are invited to a personal relationship with Jesus. Therefore, it may be that Bruegel wanted the peasants to know the real Jesus, the one who came for the weak and the poor.
In the last recorded art that Bruegel painted one year before his death in 1568, tells the story of spiritual blindness. The painting named, The Parable of The Blind, or The Blind Leading the Blind is muted in hue, conveying a sorrowful tone of despair. The painting shows the sadness of the spiritual state of the blind men. The leader has fallen into the stream and it probably already dead and the next blind man is without hope, already falling into the pit, and the third is sure to follow the same fate, as with the fourth, fifth and sixth blind men. Each of the last four men has a hand on the shoulder of the blind man in front of the other. The third blind man has taken his hat off, with the sense that he is going down and desires to save his hat, not even thinking of crying out to Jesus, the only one who can save him.
The fourth man has his stick behind him, feeling the way of where he has been, instead of choosing to know where he is going, fully trusting the man ahead, instead of looking to Jesus as the gate and listening to God as his leader. The blind beggar line has been destined for forever death as they choose their fate. The imaginary lines of the row of blind men point to the edge of the pit, where there is no water. The path that they walk is dead, the grass and trees are dead.
A church in the horizon of the painting is identified as the Sint-Anna Catholic Church located in the village of Sint-Anna Pede in Itterbeek, Belgium. The name Sint-Anna Pede is named after a stream that flows through the village. The grass is green and a river flows with a horse drinking from the stream, animals are tended by a farmer not far from the line of the fallen blind. Does he see them? The farmer cannot save them, only a cry out to God will help them. The farmer has heard Jesus’ parable, “Leave them; they are blind guides.” (Matthew15:14, NIV)
Bruegel has given the parable life to those who suffer under the man-made rules that cause us to live in bondage
Bruegel has given the parable life to those who suffer under the man-made rules that cause us to live in bondage. These rules are tools to keep us away from God, away from crying out for help to our Lord, who is willing to take our hand before we fall into a dry barren pit. True life is the presence of green pastures and an ever flowing stream of living water. It may be that Bruegel intended to blame the political and religious mess and make them the blind men in his painting, I believe that the painting, as in all of the parables of Jesus, has something to say for today.
Today, many will follow other men is hope for a better life. People will follow political leaders who promise to make life great, they follow religious leaders who say everything is okay and we all need to just pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and think positive. These are blind leaders who want to be great in the eyes of men. They teach the people in candy coated words, like in the book of Jeremiah, they cry peace, peace, but there is no peace, and the people believe them. Bruegel painted truth, and it did not matter what his political stance was because he pointed to Jesus.
One of Rembrandt’s finest paintings resides in the Hermitage Museum of art and culturein Saint Petersburg, Russia, “The Prodigal Son”. This is a biblical parable told by Jesus in the gospel of Luke about a father and his two sons. One of his son’s request his inheritance from his father and squanders the father’s gifts, while the older, responsible son stays home and lives a “good” life. The son, who leaves is now empty, tired and hungry and returns to his father, hoping to work as a hired hand and is received with forgiveness, love and compassion. Rembrandt depicts the emotional scene of the son’s return home where the light in the painting focuses on love and forgiveness. Rembrandt’s oil painting tells a magnificent story observed in the basic art elements, with understanding, aesthetic judgment, and a Christian Worldview response.
As my eyes fell upon the lit area of the painting, I noticed first the hands of the father, the straight left, firm hand and the right curved arm with a soft hand, this reminded me of balance, firm in the left hand and on the other right hand, soft, gentle, compassionate and slow to anger. The father kept his firm hand on his young son’s back and shoulder area, while his right hand covered across the grandeur of his son’s back, pronouncing forgiveness over firmness, forgiveness for the hurt and pain endured, while waiting for the return of his son.
My eyes fell upon the hue of lead-tin yellow in the prodigal son’s clothing that was in harmony with the yellow color in the father’s clothing underneath the tasseled red robe. This hue of yellow, during the Baroque is known as an association with sin, so it is simple to understand that the son would have only yellow covering his body, however the father wore the yellow under the red blood cloak, as though acknowledging his sins covered in the blood. I saw the trinity in Rembrandt’s Father, perhaps he resembled God, the symbol of sin covered in the blood of Christ, the glow of the Holy Spirit radiating the value of warm light and in the hands of God welcoming the young man home. The lead-tin color may have had the Christian symbol, according to “History of Painters,” yellow symbolized a remembrance of the spiritual world ; miracles, harmony, sustenance of the soul. The miracle of forgiveness certainly falls into harmony, sustenance of the soul. The meaning would be a brighter image for those who are Christian.
My vision scanned the clothing of the older son and I could not find a spot of yellow, in the same hue as the clothing worn by the father and the prodigal son. The older son is painted without the yellow as though he has no sin or claiming to have no sin. Forgiveness was not in his mind. Suppose, Rembrandt had painted a smudge of yellow somewhere, a possible sign of hope for older son.
My eyes scanned the form of the father’s long face with movement only on the left brow slightly furrowed, as if all the father’s prayers of love and concern remained above the left eye. The hue of yellow speckled in the frame of his face within the hairline, brows with dotted lines pointing out of his beard like a fan from his mouth. The three vertical lines on the father’s breast land on the top of the son’s head, this reminds me of the Trinity. The colors of the son’s head and the breast clothing of the father are the same, which melted the son’s head into the father’s breast. The two became one. The shadowing around the head of the son portrays a pressing of the head into the father. Such passion and movement of love was poured out in the hue of yellow and in light and darkness.
The elements of light and darkness, a chiaroscuro effect that beckons the viewer to imagine themselves in the parable and yearn for a place in the mystical light of the wayward son or father. The gradation of the darkness coming to light is a beautiful symbol of the true Father who never leaves us or forsakes us. He waits daily for us to come out of the darkness into the light, to hold us with His hands. The women, maybe the boy’s mother is quietly watching the embrace from the darkest corner may have wondered, how beautiful, or perhaps in thought of wonder.
Perhaps, the viewer may imagine themselves in the painting standing in the dark with fear and uncertainty of the light, maybe questioning, is forgiveness real? Possibly the older son is where one may imagine themselves. My eyes fell on the older son, I wonder, did he long for his father’s embrace? The servant and possible relative have a starry look of hope, were they thinking, “It is possible to come home,” as if they knew they were invited.
The red robe is elegantly draped in a uniform manner, settling on the older son’s shoulders. Perfectly folded are his closed hands, slightly touching the same spot on his breast in the place the younger son has held fast, pressing into his father’s breast. The older son bore the look of jealousy, reserved and not opened to his father or his brother, shown by his folded hands.
Baroque paintings like “The prodigal Son,” expressed drama and movement, that is evident in the expression in the prodigal son’s clothing. The folds of the garment brings life and the bare shoulder of the son exposed tells a story of the young man leaving his father to follow idols of prostitution, money and fame. The son was alive and redeemed, a good vision of the way our Father, God redeems His children through the blood of Jesus.
Response to this painting is run to the Father and fall into His arms, He is waiting for you. It is not so simple, it is evident in the older son who has been responsible, however he cannot see his own sin. The embrace of the Father is a balanced embrace, one of firmness and enormous love. A kind and compassionate, patient love that takes away our sins by the giving of his son to death on the cross. There is another response, a response to love the ugly, haters, the prostitutes, the ones who are difficult to love and to reach deep within ourselves for the truth that we have all walked away from God and allow the Spirit of God to transform us. The culture will be turned upside-down, as they witness the love of God that pours out through the people of God into the lives of the poor and hurting, the oppressed and worthless.