“When I consider your heavens
the work of you fingers,
the moon and the stars.” (Psalm 8:3)
“The heaven’s declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” (Psalm 19:1)
“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.” (Psalm 24:11)
“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:26)
“Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)
Adele Ahlberg Calhoun wrote in her Spiritual Disciplines Handbook,
Creation speaks. It speaks elegantly. It “ours forth speech” of God. God ambushes people on riverbanks, mountaintops, in wilderness wasteland, whirlwinds, burning bushes and rushing winds. The house of God stretches from the view out my window to the edge of the universe and beyond. All we have to do to see it, suggests Barbara Brown Taylor in An Altar in the World, is to set a little altar in our heart where we reverence the handwork of the Creator. Jesus did this when he considered the birds and lilies, and how they reveal God’s care for us (p. 47).
She goes on to define Visio Divina (Holy Seeing) for us as: “a way to pray with the eyes.”
Christian tradition throughout the centuries has done this from praying icons, difference various of the cross, stained glass, mosaics, statues, and yes, visual art (paintings, drawings, etc.)
Here are the steps of Visio Divina:
- Quiet: Breathe, and let yourself become quiet. Become present to God’s Presence. Invite The Helper (Holy Spirit) to guide your prayer and time.
- Gaze: Look at the image with openness. Seek to see it with God’s eyes.
- Meditate: Notice what stirs in you. Does it evoke any emotions? Does it bring up any memories? Does it initiate any responses? In what ways does it connect with your life?
- Respond: Dialogue with the Lord about what you are seeing and sensing. What do you want to take with you from this time?
We can do this with paintings.
Some ‘classics’ that have impacted me and others throughout history have been:
- Rembrandt’s The Return of the Prodigal Son. It even impacted author Henri Nouwen so much that you can read his experience and meditations on it in his book by the same name.
- Rembrandt’s Storm on the Sea of Galilee. I’m continually amazed by the depth of this painting.
We can do this in nature.
You can intentionally worship God and pray when you run, hike, or exercise outdoors. You can go to a park and walk through the steps of Visio Divina.
RESOURCES ON VISIO DIVINA:
Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun
Contemplative Vision: A Guide to Christian Art and Prayer by Juliet Benner
Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice by Christine Valters Painter
One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp
Praying in Color: Drawing a New Path to God by Sybil MacBeth
Visio Divina: A New Practice of Prayer for Healing and Growth by Karen Kuchan