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  • Writer's pictureKatie Woltornist

Visio divina: praying with art through the crucifixion

As we begin Lent, I find myself being led to this moving icon of Christ by one favorite Dominican, Blessed Fra Angelico. Art has always spoken to me, even when I was a child, and is a way I commonly find deeper relationship with Christ and the saints in prayer. While cultivating visio divina in my own life and in leading a ministry on it, I have found art to be very healing in my experience of loss in particular. Last year, my husband and I struggled a lot with the Lord after we got pregnant and then lost our precious baby. While both of us had been through grief before and were supported by both friends and one another in the process, we also found that we processed loss in different ways. Both with the miscarriage and the months after, it was a very real process of grieving with the uniqueness of our own hearts. In longing to have a child again but being unable to get pregnant, I found myself frustrated, sad and even lonely. And while I knew Jesus and Mary were with me in my pain, placing myself in a scene helped me to go deeper.

Credit: Fra Angelico, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons As I sit with this image, in a place where I can often feel alone, unseen and a wide range of other emotions in the midst of loss and confusion, I find relationship. I place myself in the position of one of the women at the foot of the cross and imagine what it would have felt like. Can you imagine being the Blessed Mother, who gave her whole self in her fiat at the Annunciation, finding herself at the foot of the cross of her son? The ache and the longing must have been so real. And in this pain, she draws ever nearer to the one she loves. In our aches, griefs, and sorrows, let us place ourselves close to Jesus. He feels our pain. He knows our sorrow. Let us find an intimacy and closeness to the One who loves us in such places. For an introduction on how to pray with art, follow the steps below. Using the reflection questions, take this image and scripture to prayer. You can find more resources at The steps of visio divina

  • VISIO (LOOKING AT AN IMAGE): Spend time gazing upon the image.

  • MEDITATIO (MEDITATION): Read the scripture aloud. After being open and receptive in the visio stage, let the image stir some questions in your heart by praying on reflection questions.

  • ORATIO (PRAYER): This is a response to God’s word in the experience of sacred art. Depending on what you have experienced in scripture and the image, your prayer may be sorrow, adoration, or joy.

  • CONTEMPLATIO (CONTEMPLATION): Simply rest in God. This is a time of divine intimacy.

  • OPERATIO (ACTION): Ask yourself and God how to apply what you have received in prayer into your own life.

Scripture to read with this image: Isaiah 53 Reflection questions to ponder

  • What strikes you about this image or scripture? Why?

  • Do you relate to Mary, Jesus or Mary Magdalen in this image? What in particular do you relate to? What do they reveal to you about your own heart?

  • What is consoling to you about Jesus bearing our sins and sufferings with us, as we read in Isaiah 53?

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