I had a deep sense of awe, even as I was painting... The Lion of the Tribe of Judah depicted what I was feeling, and especially wanted to focus on the expression of the eyes. It was almost like He was peering into my soul, with intensity and love.
Although Simon of Cyrene had the muscle to bear Christ’s cross, Veronica only had her compassion and this seemingly futile act. Since so many in my community are hurting, especially because of mental health, I found thinking about reaching out with a thin, gauzy veil as an excellent symbol for how useless it can feel to try to help sometimes, without any clear certainty of what good your actions might do.
Light of the World
Painting (acrylics, ash, wax), by Jonathon Thigpen
I painted this piece while meditating on Jesus’ words: “I am the Light of the world” (John 8:12; 9:5). I chose a candle because it captures the idea of the Light of the World, in a humble way, while also being a nod to Good Friday. The deep blues of the candle are meant to hearken to the solemnity of the season, but the interweaving colors are to symbolize that we are one body, brought together as one people, to live and serve the Lord and to show forth His Light into the darkness. The dark background was painted using ash from my fireplace as both a reference to Ash Wednesday and the reminder that we are dust and our earthly lives are short, and also to serve as a reminder of how empty, dark, and void the world is without Christ. The light emanating from the candle is not the red hot light that would be expected from the flame, but is soft, and calming, to serve as a visual reminder of both Christ’s coming to comfort and embrace, even while He challenges the darkness, and that there is coming hope even in the times of sorrow. The flame burns bright and strong, stronger than what would be expected from a candle, to serve as a reminder that Christ’s life endures and that His Light is the life of men and that darkness cannot overcome it (John 1:4-5). I also wanted the candle to remind us during Lent of Jesus’ Words in Matt 5:14, when He declares us to be the light of the world. Because we are in Christ, His Light abides in us and shines through us, and the season of Lent is a good time for us to reflect on what it means to live in such a way so as to allow His Light to shine through us.
As a kid I really wished that I could move the stars in the sky and see heaven behind them. I wanted to see an explosion of light, see the heavenly kingdom with Christ on His throne, and everything He has created that is far beyond our imagination. In this painting I included the pink, purple, and white of advent which help to convey the longing for Christ's second coming and to be in His presence. The heavens (or space) are rolled back to reveal heaven itself. Heaven is shown only with light bursting forth.
Out of the whirlpool of emotions and anticipation that comes in the Advent and Christmas seasons, we arrive in a place of gratitude and humility, yet joyful expectation. Creation is a marvel. The fall is a tragedy. God’s Incarnation is mind-blowing. Our redemption is beyond words. When we stop to consider what God has done, we can be nothing but awed and grateful. AND YET HE HAS PROMISED MORE. His grace has no end. So we yearn for more, with the sure hope of his promises.
As I play this piece, I think about our Advent searching for the light of Christ to shine in our lives and in our world. When we look into a mirror we see the light shining from without and reflecting from our own image. Looking into the light of Christ, we see both our own failings and weakness more clearly, but also His love and grace. The longer we look towards His light, the more His beauty captures our hearts and draws us in.
The months of snow and cold, if taken full advantage, often add a pause after the busyness of holidays and before the frenetic activity of the spring and summer. Just as in our agricultural past, the dark of winter afforded a time of rest, so too, I hope does this painting. A rest of the mind and a calming of the spirit.