Pray With These Sacred Images During the Triduum
Christ in the Gethsemane Garden, Arkhip Kuindzhi
Visio divina, “divine seeing” in Latin, is a form of prayer in which we contemplate visual art. Like lectio divina, in which we contemplate the words of Scripture, visio divina can open us up to a personal encounter with God and help us to hear and respond to his voice.
Visio divina can be prayed with any form of visual art—paintings, photographs, sculptures, textiles, etc. The goal of the practice is not to provide an artistic analysis, but rather, to notice what moves your heart and discern how God might be speaking to you. Perhaps the way the light falls on someone’s face or the abstract shapes in the background spark a particular memory, feeling, or thought. The beauty of visio divina is that there is no “right” way to do it and no “correct” result.
The steps below provide a framework for beginning your practice:
- Take a moment to settle down in a quiet place. Begin with a prayer and invite the Holy Spirit to be with you.
- Gaze at the art. What details do you notice? What is your first impression?
- Consider what thoughts, feelings, desires, or questions the art provokes.
- Bring these thoughts, feelings, desires, and questions to God. Speak to him as you would speak to a friend.
- Allow some quiet time for God to respond. Continue the conversation as your heart is moved.
- Close with a prayer of thanksgiving.
We’ve curated a series of paintings depicting the events commemorated during the Triduum, and we invite you to prayerfully contemplate them using visio divina. Perhaps this Holy Week, deprived of the visual experience of worshiping in our churches, praying with visual art might serve especially helpful for engaging our senses and entering into the Paschal Mystery.
Christ Washing the Apostles Feet, Dirck van Baburen
Jesus Washing Peter's Feet, Ford Madox Brown
Christ in Gethsemane, Carl Heinrich Bloch
The Flagellation of Our Lord Jesus Christ, William-Adolphe Bouguereau
The Mocking of Christ, Matthias Grünewald
Man of Sorrows, Geertgen tot Sint Jans
Christ on the Cross, Francisco de Zurbarán
Pieta, William-Adolphe Bouguereau
The Dead Christ and Three Mourners, Andrea Mantegna
Christ in Limbo, Fra Angelico
The Holy Women at the Tomb, William-Adolphe Bouguereau