This is a Spiritual Practice that I have taught at several retreats. It is similar to the ancient practice of praying with icons since it uses something an artist has created. And yet, meditation with art is also a world apart from praying with an icon. The icon artists (or Icon writers as some like to refer to themselves) intentionally create an image to gaze into as one prays. Whereas the artists of the famous paintings I am going to introduce wanted to inspire and teach us with their art, but didn’t necessarily think we would pray with it. But we can! And many people find it a very beneficial and enlightening way to pray this way.
Here is how I have been teaching this practice:
- Choose a painting from the gallery below on which to mediate. Print it out or save it to your phone.
- Find a quiet place to be alone with the Trinity. You know that because of Christ, we live in him and him in us — that actually makes us part of the trinity! When not teaching this at a retreat, I go to a Catholic church that I can walk to from my house and meditate there, but any where you can be quiet and focused is fine.
- Read the scripture (which I have printed on the painting) associated with the art. Read it slowly enough to remember it. But read it only once and put the scripture away.
- Now meditate using the picture only.
- Notice the expressions, the colors, the use of light and dark, the focal point, and every detail.
- Let your thoughts flow freely as you gaze into it. Share this moment with the trinity! Ask God to show it to you through God’s eyes.
- Some things to consider:
- What do you love about the picture? What don’t you like?
- Where do you and the artist agree and disagree about the story? It is okay to have a different understanding than the artist. Try to understand why you disagree and why the artist took liberties – were they trying to say something special or ironic?
- How does God speak to you through this story and painting?
- When you are finished, journal your thoughts.
- Some people will try a new painting every time they mediate. Others will spend time for weeks with one until they feel God has spoken through it completely. Try returning to a painting months or years later. I have found that they invoke something new every time.
All of the images below can be useful for everyone. The first set consists of stories about men in scripture. The second set is stories about women. I usually offer the second set when I do a women’s retreat. You can click on them for a large size and print them or download them to your phone.
Stories about women in scripture:
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