Saturday, November 30, 2013

Wisdom's Circle (vi) - Encounter with the Trinity

This painting is a meditation on the Trinity through the use of circles in art and an attempt to bring my heart to this Christian symbol. I used to get lost in analysis of Trinity as a theological concept but gradually as I discovered the iconography of the universal church the Trinity became for me a Circle of Love and a deeper contemplative reality that carries the themes of emptiness, humility, love, compassion, wholeness, form and formlessness. Each member of the Trinity intimately touches each other and binds together as a unified whole. Occasionally I have a sense of being in contact with the Mystery of the Trinity in prayer and this is indicated through the fourth circle being subsumed within the larger circle. I realised later that this mandala is not so much an encounter with the Trinity as about being birthed by the Trinity. The space at the centre is the birth canal! The energetic qualities or pattern of the Trinitarian relationships continue on in each human life. 

Wisdom's Circle (v) - 'Celtic Cross for the Babies'

The Celtic Cross simultaneously holds together life and death, pain and joyful resurrection and offers it to the whole universe.  This painting is in essence grief work.  We lost our third daughter three days after her birth in 2010 after a relatively uncomplicated pregnancy.  The red background indicates that what is portrayed is linked to the Eternal.  The gold coloured cross draws on the wisdom understanding that wisdom is better than gold and silver (Proverbs 9:10-11) and indicates that this image carries a treasure of infinite value. 
The inner brown or red ochre ring is the earthy womb for both babies that survive and babies that perish.  This reality is immense, paradoxical, deeply moving and largely beyond intellectual understanding.  However both realities can lead to a release of love.  The inner circle is unintentionally similar to the Asian Ying Yang symbol and perhaps there is an archetypal resonance.  This similarity arose naturally as I was trying to capture the two growing foetus each with a different life path.  The curved white strip in the centre indicates the Mystery of the whole experience and the transfiguring Source of both life and death.  I feel close to the reality of Christ’s Wisdom in this image.

Wisdom's Circle (iv) - 'Rose Mandala'


During a workplace reflection late last year I noticed a small red rose in bloom with a glowing light filled centre growing in the garden of the family centre where I work (see post entitled 'The Centre of Yourself').  The rose became a symbol for joy emerging in my life and needing to be expressed rather than hidden.  It was also a reminder of the following passage from the Rule for a New Brother which I discovered many years ago in a bush hermitage.

What love is you can learn from Jesus.  He is the one who has loved most. He will teach you to put the centre of yourself be unlimited space for others, invitation and openness: 'Come to me, all who are weary and over-burdened and I will give you rest.’  (Brakkenstein Community of Blessed Sacrament Fathers, 1973).

Wisdom's Circle (iii) - 'Wisdom Channel Mandala'

This painting arose from a time of Lectio Divina with Sirach 24:30-34.

As for me I was like a canal from a river, like a water channel into a garden.  I said, “I will water my garden and drench my flower beds.” And lo, my canal became a river, and my river a sea.  I will again make instruction shine forth like the dawn, and I will make it clear from far away. I will again pour out teaching like prophecy, and leave it to all future generations.  Observe that I have not laboured for myself alone, but for all who seek wisdom.

What captures my attention immediately in this passage is the movement from the watering of ‘my garden’ to labouring for ‘all who seek wisdom’.  In the painting blue water flows out of the canals at the centre watering gardens and drier lands as it expands to become a river and sea.  It seems to me this is the striking call of relationship with God.  Our awareness can become, like Jesus Son of Sirach, that we are part of a sea, even an ocean of love and wisdom and the life this brings can be poured out for others, for future generations. Labouring for oneself alone is not the way of wisdom.

This pattern of growth interiorly and outwards reminds me of James Fowler’s work on stages of faith.  In his reflections on faith and vocation in Becoming Adult, Becoming Christian he says: ‘The human calling –which we take to be universal – is to undergo and participate in the widening inclusiveness of the circle of those who count as neighbour, from the narrowness of our familial beginnings toward real solidarity with a commonwealth of being.  This call means movement from the limiting love of those who love us and on whom we are dependent, toward the limitless love that comes from genuine identification with the Source and Centre of all being’.

All are called to be Wisdom channels.

Wisdom's Circle (ii) - 'Our Star, the Sun, A Eucharist'

This painting points to the significance of the sun as source of life and light.  The Sun’s light and heat continually nourishes our bodies and indeed all life.  Despite its relatively isolated position towards the edges of the Milky Way Galaxy the Sun connects us with the whole cosmos.

The Celtic Cross emerging from the Sun highlights that it too will eventually die and become something else.  In other words for me the Sun speaks of the Christ pattern of life, death and resurrection.  In some respects the sun is a model for our own spiritual life.  Like the Eucharist and the self-offering of the Holy One the Sun continues to produce and gradually empty itself of light and energy supporting our own being on earth.

I resonate with the following Sun Prayer from the Carmina Gadelica with its deep reverence for the sun:

The eye of the Great God,

The eye of the God of glory

The eye of the King of hosts

The eye of the King of the living,


Pouring upon us

At each time and season,

Pouring upon us

Gently and generously.


Glory to thee,

Thou glorious sun.

Glory to thee, thou sun,

Face of the God of life.

Similarly in the following excerpt from St Francis’ Canticle of Brother Sun:

All praise be yours, my Lord, through

all that you have made,

and first my lord Brother Sun,

who brings the day; and light you

give to us through him.

How beautiful is he, how radiant in

All his splendour!

Of you, Most High, he bears

the likeness.

Wisdom's Circle (i) - Wisdom's Invitation

Over the last 12 months I have been journeying with Wisdom largely in the realm of creative endeavour.  I would like to share with you some of the fruits of this time.  The next 8 posts following this one will introduce a series of mandalas painted in this time entitled 'Wisdom's Circle'.

In our Christian traditions the circle is a potent symbol that seems connected to the all-encompassing, co-creative and presence filled tradition of recognising Christ: The Wisdom of God.  The circle also resonates with proclamations such as 'Christ is all and in all' (Colossians 3:11). The image of the circle turns up again and again in nature, in child's play (see photo for this post), iconography, liturgy, Church seasons, poetry, prayer and discussions concerning growth in the spiritual life.  Perhaps the soul can recognise in the circle a way of nurturing and expressing our capacity for deep consciousness of the divine in all things.

By way of entering into 'Wisdom's circle' the following poem is offered....

Wisdom’s Invitation


Come to me

Leave your slumber early in the morning

Arise, come sit by my streams

And by my pools of silence.


I am waiting… at the gates

And at the borders of your towns

And your thresholds and boundaries.

I am waiting…in the wind that touches your face

And that caresses and whistles through ancient ruins.


It is time…for listening to all things

That resonate in your heart and in the

Trail of spirit in breath, stone and stars.

It is time…for beginnings…

Wise sages have said, “Fear of the Lord

Is the beginning of Wisdom”


The beginning of Wisdom

Bring reverence, your desire, your love

Bring delight, your gladness, your joy

And come find fullness of life in God and Wisdom.



Come to me

Leave your slumber early in the morning

Arise, come sit by my streams

And by my pools of silence.


21/10/13 Lindisfarne