Contemplatio, Absconsa Mysteria – To Contemplate Hidden Mysteries
Introduction to this Collection of additional Scripture Passages for your Rosary Beads
Jesus Looking through a Lattice (Jésus regardant à travers le treillis), by James Tissot (French, 1836-1902),*
When Tissot first debuted his series in Paris in 1894, he preceded the earliest narrative scenes with this mysterious image of Jesus peering through a delicate screen. The artist provided the following verse from the Song of Solomon to accompany this unusual composition: “Behold, he [the beloved] standeth behind our wall, he looketh forth at the windows, showing himself through the lattice.”
As scholars have noted, the vines heavy with fruit and the sunflowers—traditional Christian symbols—sprout before or climb the thick stone wall. While the grapes evoke the rite of Communion, the bright yellow flowers, which grow toward the sun, suggest Christ’s followers, who turn faithfully to him.
This image of a partially hidden figure also suggests Tissot’s mission in painting the series: through his careful archaeological, anthropological, and historical researches at home and abroad, he sought to reveal the “true” Christ, who had been obscured, he asserted, by the “fancies” of successive centuries of artists.
Portfolio/Series: The Life of Our Lord Jesus Christ (La Vie de Notre-Seigneur Jésus-Christ)
Artist: James Tissot, French, 1836-1902
Medium: Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper
Place Made: France
Caption: James Tissot (French, 1836-1902). Jesus Looking through a Lattice (Jésus regardant à travers le treillis)
200 Eastern Parkway
Brooklyn, New York 11238-6052
Rights Statement: No known copyright restrictions
*Cover image description from Brooklyn Museum web site: http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/objects/4417/Jesus_Looking_through_a… 12/25/2014
Contemplatio, Absconsa Mysteria – To Contemplate Hidden Mysteries
Other self-published books by Jerry available on line at no cost at www.immersiveprayer.org:
Table of Contents
A few years ago I had a profound realization as a guest at a prayer shawl ministry meeting. Shortly after the meeting I wrote a poem titled God, Knows Each Need about what I understood and the painting titled Christ’s Warmth that went with it. When this painting was finished I started noticing layers beyond a representation of a prayer shawl. It spoke to me of Jesus coming, being present, and forever available as love. Below are just a few of the scriptural verses that visually manifested for me in the acrylic’s.
“I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.” (Song of Songs 2:1). Some would describe this verse as Jesus speaking of his beauty.
“She wrapped him in swaddling clothes.” (Luke 2:7). What a beautiful description of what a prayer shawl does, swaddling the owner.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” Luke12:30. Only after the fact did I discover multiple hearts not just the one in the roses.
“Ground that has absorbed the rain falling upon it repeatedly and brings forth crops useful to those for whom it is cultivated receives a blessing from God.” Hebrews 6:7 Many of my paintings include a representation of God’s love as rain.
I may never be able to adequately express how much insight this moment has given me into how little I understand about the ways God wraps us in love. One thing that became quite clear was the mingling of human and divine. As of that point my life the best example I had was the Holy Family of Mary, Joseph and Jesus. This new moment pushed the button inside that causes me to try explaining what I participated in even though I know it may not be possible. I had understood by faith alone that the divine family breaks the unbreakable bonds of physics. Now I had a new piece of information that had gathered in plain sight.
Consider a Mobius strip which technically is a surface with only one side. The Mobius strip has the mathematical property of being non-orientable. Visually it looks remarkably like an infinity symbol and like that symbol you can never get to the other side of a Mobius strip as it loops back on itself. At this Prayer Shawl meeting I had begun to grasp how the other impossible side of the strip (when allowed by divinity) can become orientable.
What I came to realize was the Holy Family permeated both sides, surrounded by countless saints all looking directly towards Christ in the center. Once a month for a number of years, I get the humble privilege of leading a group Rosary at our Parish. It dawned on me when I was leading a Rosary, that in prayer we are also on that Mobius strip with an opportunity to contemplate Christ in the impossible center. This led me to look for other ways to utilize the Rosary beads with Scripture and art to illuminate more mingling of human and divine.
* The sculpture is Octo by Wendy Taylor and is outside Norfolk House on the corner of Silbury Boulevard and Saxon Gate, UK. Photo by Paul Harrop and licensed for reuse a Creative Commons License
Somewhere along the way I discovered that it was ok to experiment with new mysteries. I started by placing myself as if I was looking through the eyes of others such as Saint Paul, along with Mary using the Rosary format. I had found a few examples which I started modeling and now occasionally share at the monthly group Rosary. I will note that I always start by explaining why I choose a particular mystery theme. In no way am I suggesting that these mysterious can replace the existing twenty Church defined mysteries. What I can say is that they may provide additional ways to hear and participate with scripture. I have also found art enhances the experience of meditating on these scriptural readings.
Now years later I am a recipient of a prayer shawl because of an injury. I knew this was the final clue that I needed to share the mysteries I had assembled. As I began the process of committing to make these mysteries more presentable with the associated art, I felt I should explain the external logic and reasoning separate from my own.
In a US Catholic bishops Pastoral Letter on the Blessed Virgin Mary titled Behold Your Mother, they wrote, “Besides the precise rosary pattern long known to Catholics, we can freely experiment. New sets of mysteries are possible.” John Paul II in his Apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae proclaimed 2003 the Year of the Rosary. Highlights of his letter include:
· “Announcing each mystery, and perhaps even using a suitable icon to portray it, is as it were to open up a scenario on which to focus our attention.”
· “I turn particularly to you, my dear Brother Bishops, priests and deacons, and to you, pastoral agents in your different ministries: through your own personal experience of the beauty of the Rosary, may you come to promote it with conviction.”
· “To recite the Rosary is nothing other than to contemplate with Mary the face of Christ.”
· “In order to supply a Biblical foundation and greater depth to our meditation, it is helpful to follow the announcement of the mystery with the proclamation of a related Biblical passage, long or short, depending on the circumstances. No other words can ever match the efficacy of the inspired word.”
· “After the announcement of the mystery and the proclamation of the word, it is fitting to pause and focus one’s attention for a suitable period of time on the mystery concerned, before moving into vocal prayer.”
The art in this book with the exception of my own is from the French artist James Tissot (1836-1902)*. James Tissot’s life in many ways was reminiscent of St. Augustine. According to his own account, Tissot, at around age 48, saw a vision during Mass in the Church of St. Sulpice in Paris. After his mystical experience, Tissot’s work changed markedly. Four years later, after his vision, Tissot undertook an artistic project that led him to study archeology and the Bible, and he traveled three times to the Middle East, where he filled sketchbooks with images of the people and places he observed.
Drawing upon his photos, sketches and nearly 100 finished drawings, Tissot created a suite of 350 watercolors, entitled “The Life of Our Lord Jesus Christ,” commonly known as “The Life of Christ,” a chronology from Jesus’ birth to the Ascension. It took the artist 10 years to make these vivid, detailed and emotive images. Contemporaries of Tissot, like Paul Gauguin and Vincent van Gogh, also produced biblical images, as did Maurice Denis decades later. But by the end of the first half of the 20th century, only Georges Rouault and Marc Chagall had come even close to Tissot in the quantity of their Bible-based output. I own a Catholic Bible from 1950 which is filled with both Tissot’s Old and New Testament watercolors.
To believers, Tissot’s images reveal something more: signs of a vibrant Christian imagination. He did more than represent the land where Jesus walked. Tissot saw himself as a spiritual pilgrim. He reflected on each image and seems to have placed himself in the scenes as the various characters, much as St. Ignatius Loyola recommends in the Spiritual Exercises: as a prodigal son, a child of Jerusalem, a Roman soldier, a mother with a sick child, a condemned thief, a woman at the empty tomb and a convinced follower. Tissot’s visionary images can also help viewers to do the same.
*Material for James Tissot’s biography comes from an America magazine (April, 2010) article titled “The Artist as Believer”.
James Tissot’s art is now in the public domain and available as non-copyrighted downloads from the Brooklyn Museum (www.brooklynmuseum.org), The Jewish Museum (www.thejewishmuseum.org) and WikiArt (www.wikiart.org/en/james-tissot) web sites. I have followed their publication guidelines such as using proper captions for use. All scripture is taken from the 2009 Catholic Public Domain Bible which is a new translation of the Latin Vulgate, using the Douay Rheims as a guide (www.sacredbible.org). This is a non-copyrighted version that does not carry an imprinter. If you would prefer a Bible with an imprinter, I would recommend using the USCCB online version (www.usccb.org/bible/books-of-the-bible) using the reference at the end of each scripture
When I read scripture I normally follow that using the ancient prayer of Lectio Divina in which a thought that surfaced is further contemplated. For me, these thoughts are a word or phrase in the scripture. Quite often I will take a note and later find art to further enhance the thought. For the scripture-based Lectio reflections, I have used a distinct font and highlighted my word or phrase. My reflections use personal pronouns such as I, we and you. Normally when Lectio is used it is meant for the specific person. However, for these mysteries my thoughts tended to be inclusive for all God’s children. As St. Paul suggest, I let time and prayer test the spirit to determine that was how I was supposed to feel.
I like the format of the Liturgy of the Word so I prepare myself spiritually for these and other new mysteries. with Old Testament passages that I feel are related which I have included. For the repeating art, scripture and Lectio Divina reflections are in this introduction section. For the individual mysteries, Tissot’s art, the scriptural mystery material and Lectio Divina reflections are together.
In no way is anything in my choice of art, style, format or Lectio reflections meant to be other than personal inspiration perhaps coupled with a subconscious opinion based on decades of observations. I strongly suggest that you use this same test as it is not necessary that you agree with my Lectio reflection. You might find (as Pope John Paul indicates using an icon) the combinations of art and scripture can be as a beginning point to contemplate hidden mysteries of your own. If you happen to use these mysteries in a group I have included Italics as a suggested response. The following is repeating art in each mystery. I will note that I did not use Lectio for these but rather an explanation on how I use them to hold my focus, which you could consider or perhaps create your own.
Sign of the Cross
St. John of the Cross painted a picture of divinity looking down on Jesus on the Cross which was suspened in the air. Salivar Dali re-created St. Johns painting making it famous. Tissot had a similar concept of looking through the eyes of Jesus at both his friends and enemies. Like Tissot, try placing yourself with Jesus. Look up beyond the borders of the painting, what do you see? Look down upon the crowds what do feel, look to the left and right off the edges what do you sense? With all of this in mind slowly say the Trinitarian formula of the Sign of the Cross, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”
The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel: To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth— Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance. (Proverbs 1:1-33)
When I painted On the Other Side of the Ambo, and the associated poem titled The Word, I knew it was for anyone who to proclaims to know they are filled with the Trinity. Filled with the Word of God and the wisdom of Proverbs, immerse yourself into the Apostles Creed to allow more than words be absorbed.
The Lord’s Prayer
“This is how you are to pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread; and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors; and do not subject us to the final test, but deliver us from the evil one. If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions. (Matthew 6:9-15)
Imagine you are sitting next to an Apostle in this picture. Your hands are cupped, like theirs, ready to receive the Prayer Jesus offers.
“Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you. (Luke:28) “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. (Luke:42) Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. (James 5:16)
“The center of gravity in the Hail Mary, the hinge as it were which joins its two parts, is the name of Jesus. It is precisely the emphasis given to the name of Jesus and to his mystery that is the sign of a meaningful and fruitful recitation of the Rosary. It is at once a profession of faith and an aid in concentrating our meditation” (John Paul II in his Apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae).
John Paul II helps us to see that by joining with Mary in prayer, she works with us to direct our focus towards Jesus.
Hail Mary Beads
Our blessed rosary beads are a sacramental which help excite our thoughts and increase our devotions. When we grasp a rosary bead we are allowing our sense of touch to remind us to awaken to what we are about to pray. Mary represents an example of what we are supposed to be like. I left the face of Mary blank so I could allow my imagination to put faces of those I love with Mary.
While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem. (Luke 9:29-31) Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” (Luke 9:35)
What do you think of when you visualize the transfiguration? Do you notice the glory? Let that glory be affirming to you.
The Prayer of Fatima
O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those who have most need of your mercy.
World War I was raging one when the three children of Fatima received this prayer from Mary. While this prayer is not part of the original Rosary its intention is clear. The world needs forgiving and healing so we all may enter Heaven.
Hail Holy Queen
Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness, and our hope. To you we cry, the children of Eve; to you we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this land of exile. Turn, then, most gracious advocate, your eyes of mercy toward us; lead us home at the beginning and show us the blessed fruit of your womb, Jesus: O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary. Amen.
This prayer is also the song Salve Regina. When we ask Mary to pray with us we are offering ourselves (at least briefly) to acknowledge our own assumption with divinity. When Jesus died many holy and righteous people were assumed into the long awaited heaven. In this prayer we are asking Mary who in heaven is still Jesus’s earthly mother to assist us in locating Jesus in our souls. This prayer allows to cross a boundary within the limitation of our faith. Asking Mary to be with us gives us that little boost of courage we need to so.
Let Us Pray
Let us pray. O God, Whose Only-Begotten Son, by His life, death and resurrection, has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life: grant, we beseech Thee, that by meditating upon these mysteries of the most holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may imitate what they contain, and obtain what they promise, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
This prayer is the Collect from the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary Liturgy. The original Greek was collecta meaning a gathering which is why there is a Collect prayed for the gathered by the Priest at the beginning of every Mass. Let Us Pray was a later optional edition to the Rosary. I choose to use it as a reminder to gather together all of the prayers I have just completed during the course of the Rosary, offering up to God whatever I have silently accumulated in my heart.