Advent Sunday, the first Sunday in Advent, the first day of a new year, the day of beginnings, a day which the church traditionally recalls the Patriarchs, those first men who responded to God. There are times when tradition is good, and there are times when it needs to be challenged, so. Despite the Matriarchs and Patriarchs living more years ago than fingers alone can ever count today is not a time for looking back, oh no, today is about looking forward, moving forward, continuing to transform and become more Christlike.
Advent seems so apt for today’s troubled world. A pregnant woman, an anxious husband, a band of people all moving in the same direction, all moving so they can be counted, not just as another number but as someone acknowledged as being precious and beloved. Walls of water to get through to escape one land of fear and oppression and reach a land where hope and promise abound. Journeying from a land called home to a strange land where others are also neighbours and kin. Dashed dreams part of the baggage, broken promises heavy companions, but also hopes that all is not forgotten, life and love will once more take root and grow, new shoots will be seen.
Regular readers of this blog will know that back when the summer was turning into Autumn I found that doodles I had been toying with had sent off sparks which transpired into me taking a wander down a form of icon painting. While you can find the original post here – if you missed it and wish to know more – below is – Introducing the Patriarchs and Matriarchs – the first in this series of icon inspired Advent paintings. For this picture the background is the dark blue of a clear night sky. Each painting has a different background colour this is the only one which isn’t a liturgical colour for Advent.
As much as I am full of things to say about it I am reluctant to say anything, other than within these ancient stories lie our own stories of today and there is much for us to be encouraged in them and learn from them. They maybe icons of not just our faith but other faiths, they too made mistakes but learnt and grew discovering that God remained with them despite it all, but I fear I am in danger of saying too much. Rather than me saying what might be there to be discovered I would rather pray that within this painting you may search and find something which guides, strengthens and encourages you as you strive to know God more this Advent. Something which will lighten your journey regardless of the terrain you are currently travelling through and also this prayer which you might want to use during Advent in your own private devotions:
God of hope as we journey through the day time and the night,
through the valleys and to the mountain tops,
often in solitude, but never alone for you are our guide.
Open our hearts to your love,
our souls to your possibilities,
our lives to your joys,
and our minds to your truth.
May each step be one of hope leading us to know you more. Amen.
All that being said, I am also aware that there are those who read this blog for whom the symbols will not spark off memories of ancient stories. You may have never read or been told them, or since then the passage of time has dulled the recall of them so all you can do is vainly grope for something just out of reach. There are also some symbols which you might struggle to decipher due to my love of painting far surpassing my ability to actually paint. Therefore below is a key to the symbols of the 15 Matriarchs or Patriarchs I have chosen to represent along with the Biblical Chapter relating to the symbol.