13th March, 2021

Home Retreat: Art and Lectio...Rock and Sand with Fr Bede

Ampleforth Abbey

Please see below Fr Bede’s Home Retreat for Saturday 13th March. Alternatively, click here to view on our YouTube channel. 

“While the baby is in the background..” 

“The Word becomes flesh”..in Our Lords life ..& in our own life...scripture and spirituality...[read] Iona card..Brian Woodcock...reading between the lines...opened story of Annunciation ..recognising ourselves in it...we might attempt now to go a step further than some of you will have been before...another risk...& an adventure...to look at Art & Spirituality...so called secular calling worldly images on worldly canvas..yet to discover divine essence within...Art & Spirituality...Christmas cake & wensleydale cheese...each seperate...complete in itself...cake & cheese...result of ingredients...process...skills...feel intuition...appearance & smell...taste savoured...known...recognised separately...[planning of day...to make cakes...expectancy memory enjoyment tiredness but fulfilment...shared process...talked about to those not present = inclusion.  Time of eating...tasting...savouring discussing congratulating...each in its own right...then put together..completely different taste experience...taste fuller deeper than sum of its two parts...taste beyond words description.

We have been brought up in a faith which speaks, preaches & acts dualism...sacred & profane...spirit & body...saint & sinner...priest & people...sanctuary & nave...art & spirituality...rock & sand.

Feedback from Advent retreat 2003: “this card caught my eye at Buckfast Abbey, passing on holiday, and I bought the lot. Maybe it’s just that the sense of perpective failed, or that an assistant placed some component of the picture in the wrong place. but I’ve never seen a Nativity where Marys compassionate gaze is on Joseph., while the baby is in the background. Lots of opportunity to wonder what they had been or were about to be talking about.”  Geburt Christi..Bicci de Lorenzo ..Florence [1373-1452]

Ponder...pray in front of...let its scene sink in…notice details...wonder why?...validity of question mark...acknowledged celebrated.

Joseph seated on ground...position of lowliness...reflective of mood & his status in narrative...knees up = sign of closedness...womb position...self protection...hands clasped together locked...locking life outside; head position dejection...glum look...self pity?...outer robe wrapped round himself self contained...even feet covered over...redundant just now not going anywhere...nowhere to go?...halo reminder of his holiness...his role...his calling...his work to date...acceptor protector wrestling with dilemma...realising world interpretation of his position...”she has walked all over him”...man...Jew...elder...craftsman...not husband yet?...partners child...woman...courage...grit...determination...where does all that leave me?..s.tatus role completely reversed...a foetal pose?...a cry for recognition & help...or even to be listened to...nowhere does his voice be heard...silent or silenced?...outside stable...back to centre of story...notice shading on his robes...gold kingship authority father figure...yet edge margin facing child Jesus is tinted with red...love...passion...warmth...energy...grace...from his son...child silent no eye contact yet sense of relatedness...intimacy...awareness presence at the deepest hour of desolation...Josephs Gethsemane...prodigal moment...pig sty...”but no one offered him anything”.

Mary...comes out to him...leaves her baby momentarily...shows importance of healing process...she looks down on him...acknowledging truth of present situation...unbalanced relationship...she dominant...yet her robes open towards him...unbuttoned..invitation into her inner self...hands joined in prayer reverence understanding for all he is going through for her and for her child...she venerates his sacrificial love..look of compassion..empathy...gaze fixed on him in love...notice...her garment trailing over his in gentle connectedness...her red garment matching reflected red on his garment...child Jesus...aware...alert...bound...grave cloths? His cradle manger looks more like a tomb...straw like rays of divinity?...sense of independence prefiguring all that is to come almost?...Mary's role complete...he “emerging” in his own right...a fringe character in painting as it freezes the moment...no one looking on him...shepherds distracted..looking up to heaven...stressing his divinity...one covering his eye from glare..other points in direction of heaven...what who do they see?.is it a prefiguring of Ascension?...sticks not crooks significant or not?...on edge of stable..uncovered...in open typically shepherd like...on margins...yet to them angel appeared...not to temple dwellers...even ox seems to hold eye contact with Mary...looking over & beyond child Jesus...between Mary & Joseph...hidden...peeping out...purposefully...knapsack...symbol of a wanderer...one about to begin a lonely journey in poverty...little to take...most of belongings left behind...travelling light...alone...monos...desert...his Lenten journey...is this feeding Josephs mood...recognising he will soon disappear his apostolate finished...”it is finished”...breathing his last...in relationship...perhaps he glimpses his knapsack out of corner of his eye? feeding his own inner fears of having to let go...a John the Baptist figure..like us about to face a wildeness experience...ask you to offer prayer of thanksgiving for retreatant who noticed postcard...was moved by it...remembered her Advent retreat here...and decided to send me a copy...discipleship as shepherds in action...noticing star...following it...letting others in on it...could we perhaps ponder on sending her a copy of the painting and each of us sign it as a note of gratitude for the seed she has sown for us here this week...beyond her wildest dreams...”the Word becomes flesh”...unique taste of Christmas cake & wensleydale cheese.

“I must decrease...he must increase..."ingredient of Advent...becoming smaller...& better for it...grounded humble together...having “been there” & returned richer for it...having experienced Gethsemane...& looking forward to Resurrection & Ascension...why Shepherds & Innkeepers 2009?...having been Shepherd & Innkeepers 2005...& why now?

Wonderful image of your apostolate in your parish in family & in local neighbourhood...& through this your retreat...leaving manger like Mary...& coming out to the Joseph character...one in community...or those in community who feel isolated misunderstood left out uncertain about their future role in this Holy Family...with a knapsack packed ready just in case...for every Joseph we need a Mary...one who in spite of her own difficulties tensions tragedies doubts is able to look out beyond his or her own room in halls or rented house...to notice [1] which we are good at in spite of our skills at custody of the eyes...and react...[2] crucial difference...to take responsibility for instigating reaction...wise senpectae...“at cost”...to life in community...link of halo of Joseph to halo of Christ child = seeing Christ in wounded sick ill.

How does story finish?...wonderful meditation...”imagine..”if you were to watch to ponder to pray in front of it...an ending will emerge…a signpost for your journey through these few weeks of potential...rich soil of Advent & Christmas...then on into Lent...towards Gethsemane & Good Friday...when seed dies...& only through death is able to germinate into new life...year on year...tidal...same yet different...”new every morning..”..flotsam & jetsom...to sift...save or discard...a retreat to choose to notice..& then to risk reacting...Mary Mother of Church...your discipleship...prayer concern & presence...divinity emanating from within...connecting to your wider Community...those who bring their gifts needs intentions to this stable...expecting an Incarnation..& discovering the fullness of a Resurrection...“a favourable time...a day of salvation..”