Visio Divina: First Sunday of Lent

As the Lenten Artist in Residence at St Paul’s Episcopal Church, I’m reflecting on the weekly lectionary scripture passages and offering a collection of photos in response. The photos are displayed during the 5pm worship service each Sunday, with time for people to meditate on them in relation to the readings.

Lectio divina, Latin for divine reading, is an ancient monastic practice of reading and praying with scripture. Visio divina, divine seeing, takes a similar approach to visual art.  The four movements of lectio or visio divina are reading, meditating, praying, and contemplating. For a description of the prayer practice, a colorful handout is here.

First Sunday of Lent–March 13th

The mood of the readings is one of dryness and dust, a curving sin-ward as a result of turning away from relationship with God.Jesus goes into desert and to the cross to turn us God-ward again.

I imagine the desert into which Jesus is driven by the Spirit as both the desert of his own vulnerabilities (the three temptations), and the desert that once was Eden, a place of hope and love, now dry and petrified.

Jesus cannot go back to the beautiful, yet immature, Eden, nor can he accept the world from the hands of satan without denying his very identity. The only path to resurrection is through the cross and death.

Metaphorically, the tradition imagines the Tree of Life in the Garden as both Christ’s presence and as the very wood on which Christ was crucified, which is restored as the tree with the leaves of healing for the nations in Revelation 22:2:

There in God’s garden stands the Tree of Wisdom,
whose leaves hold forth the healing of the nations:
Tree of all knowledge, Tree of all compassion, Tree of all beauty.
Its name is Jesus, name that says, “Our Savior!

–Király Imre von Pécselyi, c. 1590-c. 1641

The Collect (prayer)

Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan: Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Lent 1--Withered Tree

Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7

The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, `You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, `You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.'” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

Romans 5:12-19

As sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned– sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law. Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come.

Lent 1--Incurvatus in se

But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many. And the free gift is not like the effect of the one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.

Lent 1--Cruciform

Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

Lent 1--Death

Matthew 4:1-11

After Jesus was baptized, he was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,

‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,

‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'”

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'”

Lent 1--Past or Future--Jesus temptation

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written,

‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.'”

Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.

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