Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Fog, Autumn



Levitan painted this picture: Fog, Autumn in 1899. His physical heart was giving out; he was dying. Still he mustered the strength to create and share this image born of his symbolic heart which was alive and strong. What a gift to us! 

It is an autumn day, the year is drawing to its close. Some of the leaves have already fallen, knocked out of the trees by the bracing wind. See the Birch trees leaning! This is the kind of day when we might  wake up to frost on the ground. A killing frost. The ground is seizing up and we'll have to wait  through the long winter to the spring before we'll see bright green again. 

It's said that while Levitan was Jewish, he seemed to possess deep Christian instincts or awareness-es. Maybe leaving this world and going to the next, is like passing through a fog of unknown. This has got to be one of the most beautiful lines of scripture:

You must see what great love the Father has lavished on us by letting us be called God's children - which is what we are! The reason why the world does not acknowledge us is that it did not acknowledge him. My dear friends, we are already God's children, but what we shall be in the future has not yet been revealed. We are well aware that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he really is. 1 John 3:2

We're so dragged along in the immediacy of outer life demands that we don't much consider what the next life will present. But St. John's letter invites wonder - wonder about our passing through the fog to the light of encounter. An encounter! That's better than eternal rest, which might soon get boring.

I want to step into the dying Levitan's painting (that's not morbid at all) and imagine walking through the Autumn fog: feeling the misty air on my skin, the sound of the wind, the hardening ground, the quiet - as the birds have left, even squinting my eyes and concentrating my focus - what will I encounter having passed through the fog?

P.S. Scroll back to Sunday, February 26 to see what's going on here these Lenten days.

8 comments:

  1. It is only the very beginning of your Lenten posts with this artist, but I am already seeing what a beautiful journey this will be. There are so many ways to interpret a painting, if one takes the time at all to do so, but you are giving them a spiritually purposeful message. I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings. Thank you Father.

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  2. I'm pleased for this happy openness to the Levitan images. Some people can only acknowledge spiritual presence if the image is overt: a saint, a biblical scene, an icon. But Levitan realized that nature has its own spiritual energies. They are God-given. Indeed, how many times in the Genesis creation account does God look back at the day's work and muse, "It's good"! Levitan understands this deeply.

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  3. Thank you for the invitation to wonder this AM, through John and Isaak. Fr. Stephen you stay true to previous sharing that 'Religion ought not to lose its wonder'. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel authored, "I Asked For Wonder", a book of aphorisms - might be a good one to pull off the shelf today. All, literally AWEsome and thanks for letting us lilt and bask in the fog.

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    1. I'll check this out! Thanks for the suggestion "I asked for wonder" how lovely.

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  4. I completely understand this painting after reading this. I see how an artist puts depth into their work both in how they paint and how they want it interpreted. I don't think we look closely enough at things to figure it all out.

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    1. Yes indeed. And sometimes we don't need to figure it out - just enjoy it! Let IT take my breath away. Let IT stop me in my tracks. Let IT grab my attention.

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  5. How remarkable it is too that Isaak Levitan painted this when his physical heart was dying. Our human-ness has physical, mental, emotional, spiritual dimensions. When one is 'down in the dumps' in one dimension, so to speak, nice to call upon or receive the grace to have strength in the other dimensions. We do not know where Levitan was on the spectrum but it is remarkable he created this masterpiece while in debility.

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  6. I read that Levitan never smiled. His story was so sorrow-laden. Still, the closer he got to death, the more he painted light into his pictures.

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