The girl with a pearl earring

In 1665, Johannes Vermeer painted A Girl with a Pearl Earring. The girl looks over her left shoulder towards you and the pearl in her ear shimmers. Her coat is a bluey yellow and she has a blue head band with streamers in the same mixed colours. Apart from the perspective and photographic accuracy of every detail, what strikes the viewer is the light coming from the left bathing the whole scene with life in a way a photograph can never do. The girl speaks to us over the centuries and seems to say, “I know.” But what does she know? She is filled with light. It is natural light yet it takes us to the threshold of mystery.

ngomakuriraThere is a Christian feast twelve days after Christmas called the Epiphany, or the “showing of” the Saviour of the world to the gentiles. Teilhard de Chardin, a French Jesuit, who died in 1955, suggested the name should be changed to the “Diaphany”, meaning the “showing through.” God is not only revealed in Jesus but through all he has created. God shines through all things. The world is alive because God has shed his light on it.

But it is incomplete. Jesus opens the way for men and women to complete God’s work and he started by giving this task to a small group gathered in an upper room. They had come to know him as coming “from Nazareth” and had witnessed his teaching, his signs, his rejection, death, resurrection and ascension. Now they came to know him as coming “from heaven.” Now he is completing his work by sending them his Spirit. “God is ours,” Karl Rahner says of the gift of the Spirit. The work we do is our work but it is permeated by God. Rahner continues, “the strength of God vitalises our weakness.” His presence shines through our lives. We use our intelligence, our skill and our strength, but we allow room for the Spirit to give life to all three. There is to be a harmony, a resonance, between our initiative and that of the Spirit.

How do we shift these thoughts out of our heads into our lived reality? How do we interpret our experience of life so that, “we perceive over and over again with trembling joy that he is there, that he is with us: the Spirit of Faith in darkness, the spirit of freedom in obedience, the Spirit of joy in tears, the Spirit of eternal life in the midst of death?” (Rahner). Our world becomes lit up with this gentle light, as Vermeer lights up the young girl from Delft.

15 May 2016                                       Pentecost

Acts 2:1-11                                         1 Cor. 12:3…12                                  John 14:15…28

Post published in: Faith

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