Minute Meditations

Art and the Holy

Man sketching jesus | Photo by Karsten Winegeart on Unsplash

I turn to art, as I always do, in trying to understand the holy. The first thing that came to me initially as I dove into the miracle of the loaves and fishes was a perfect carving of two identical fishes facing one another, just barely kissing. The only darkness in the granite is the indented curve of their mouths. Beneath them are five loaves as circles, and two angels, thin as stalks of wheat, standing on either side. With a bit more research, it became clear these focused images were part of a larger masterpiece, a sacred stone cross carved in tenth-century Ireland: The Moone High Cross.

And in the Cathedral of Seville, Spain, an exquisite image of Jesus: a seventeenth-century relief, the Altar of the Back Choir, where he emerges from white marble, extending his hand with a loaf, and at the same time, the other hand is already on the next loaf, ready to give. His arms are one long flow of giving, like a seashore; it just keeps on coming toward you, wave after wave.

Yes, I turn to art to try and understand the holy. Somehow, fragments hold on, like the Fat Fish I love, under centuries of ashes. Like the horror of one of the world’s most beloved buildings burning in 2019. When Notre Dame Cathedral caught on fire, the Paris skyline frothed with smoke. The spire came crashing down, most of the roof was destroyed, and the church was essentially deformed. But the stained glass windows, with luminous imagery, survived. It’s a miracle that these ruby stories of the miracles were untouched. Their glass winds of cobalt still blow. I can feel them.

—from the book Gather the Fragments: My Year of Finding God’s Love
by Maureen O’Brien

Gather the Fragments by Maureen O'Brien


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