Sunday, May 22, 2011

Rays of effing sunshine: found icons

An icon -- at least as I'm referring to icons here -- is "an image or depiction, that represents something else of greater significance through literal or figurative meaning," especially a religious picture. I often find icons powerful. Here are some I've encountered recently.

While looking for something else, I can't remember just what, I recently ran across this picture created in the workshop of Hildegard of Bingen, a medieval mystic and abbess.

die wahre dreiheit in der wahren Einheit-Scivias.jpg
The German title says it is an image of the Christ, displaying his wounded palms, enfolded in the unity of the Trinity -- don't ask what that means, just look. I find it strangely calming. It was an illustration for one of the abbess' books of theology.

Robert Lentz is a Roman Catholic Franciscan friar who paints contemporary icons. Sometimes I'm a critic of his work -- I don't much like his Harvey Milk. The gay leader and martyr was a Jewish secularist who seems to me violated by depicting him as a Christian saint. And I loathe his Dorothy Day. Alive, Dorothy was beautiful even when old, even when distracted, or tired, or feeling stern.

But I am gripped by Lentz's Ss. Brigid and Darlughdach of Kildare.
Lentz, Brigid & Darlughdach.jpg
Now there's power. An explication of these two women:

St. Brigid and her soulmate St. Darlughdach were sixth-century Irish nuns who brought art, education and spirituality to early medieval Ireland. Brigid (c.451-525) shares her name and feast day (Feb. 1) with a Celtic goddess -- and she may have been the last high priestess of the goddess Brigid.

Raised by Druids, Brigid seems to have made a smooth transition from being a pagan priestess to a Christian abbess. Today she is Ireland’s most famous female saint. Legend says that when she made her final vows as a nun, the bishop in charge was so overcome by the Holy Spirit that he administered the rite for ordaining a (male) bishop instead.

A younger nun named Darlughdach served as Brigid’s ambassador and her “anam cara” or soul friend. The two women were so close that they slept in the same bed. Like many Celtic saints, Brigid believed that each person needs a soul friend to discover together that God speaks most powerfully in the seemingly mundane details of shared daily life.

I can relate to that.

I'm not the only one drawn to icons. Ran across this left in a barred window on San Francisco's hip Valencia Street:
icon-in-window.jpg
The mother looks over the passing stream of humanity.

I don't want to just gripe here all the time. I do after all, quite frequently, encounter things and people that delight me. Hence a new feature: occasional posts labeled "rays of effing sunshine."

1 comment:

sfmike said...

Rays of effing sunshine, huh? It will be a good practice for you. And love the quote/story about the Druid Priestess/Catholic Abbess and her "soul friend" that she slept with.

I'm going to a concert of British chamber music at your church on Thursday the 2nd. Maybe I'll see you there.

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