A friend asked me to sing a Psalm for an art group she was leading over Zoom. I agreed, happy to do something nice for her. In the end, yes, the group appreciated the addition of my music to their class on art and spirituality, but I also received a great gift. I ended up with a meaningful piece of art and a sense of meeting God in the process of creating and reflecting on my art.
Ahead of the meeting, my friend mentioned the possibility of incorporating collage in our art, so I prepared some music scores to use. The theme of the class was rejoicing in hope. My friend prompted us to add “seed words” to our projects- words at the bottom in the ground that would grow into plants above. These could be words of hope, descriptions of our experiences, or even words like “grief” that were also a part of us and our growth and change over time.
I had the perfect seed words- the beginnings of the O Antiphons I had sung for my church for Advent. The seven O Antiphons have been sung by Christians for centuries in the seven days leading up to Christmas. The texts, which are in Latin, each begin with a different name for Christ, such as O Sapientia (O Wisdom), O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse), and O Emmanuel (O God with Us). These were certainly fitting; names of Christ are words of hope.
I used the very score I had used to sing the antiphons. Some of my writing is visible on it. I layered the beginnings of the antiphons in the dark earth I painted in black and grey. I reflected on Advent as a season of darkness and longing and of hope. I reflected on Christ being a great hope and comfort in the darkness, and I noted that phrase of in the darkness, not replacing darkness. Along with hope and comfort, there is still darkness.
I have learned and really seen over the past year how you can hold and feel seemingly opposite things at the same time- like that darkness and hope of Advent. I have felt proud of myself for taking a risk and uncomfortable about it at the same time. I have celebrated healing in myself while also recognizing and feeling my past and remaining pain. I have felt the loneliness of COVID isolation and the relief of a slower pace of life.
I first experienced this holding of opposites last Easter. My counsellor and I reflected on both my healing and pain. We realized that was in accord with Easter, which observes both the death and resurrection of Christ. It was a meaningful time together and I felt God with us that day.
Now, almost a year later, I feel God with me again as I reflect on Advent and on my year of holding different things at the same time.
My painting represents all of this! The music score represents my meditation on Advent and my tangible participation in Advent by singing the O Antiphons. In my painting, some purple from the flower goes down into the dark earth, and some bits of dark go up into the purple. This conveys the complexities and opposites of my emotions, growth, and experiences. It portrays that there is both darkness and light, and they are connected. The words remind me that God is with me in all of it.
O Emmanuel in darkness and light.