Tag: love

Inspiring Paintings: “The Baptism of Christ”, Piero Della Francesca

Piero’s painting hangs in the National Gallery in London:

There is a beauty to the stillness of the figures, to the depth of this vision of heaven-on-earth, to the beautiful colours (look at the rainbow effect of the angel’s wing on the left-hand side, for example).

It is the moment when Jesus hears the words “You are my beloved”. John the Baptist hardly seems to dare to touch Jesus’ body, his approach is so reverent. The dove of the Spirit hovers as if it were a cloud and completely naturally part of the scene.

In the background someone else is getting ready to be baptised. It is the everyday action of getting undressed. Is this humanity in general? (we cannot see the face of an individual as it is hidden by his clothes).

Also in the background are the religious authorities of the day, in their fine robes (compare with Jesus’ near-naked body) and tall hats. They are dressed with the robes of status. But Jesus identifies with our basic humanity – “a poor, bare, forked animal” as Shakespeare describes us in King Lear.

The following sequence was inspired by this painting:

The Baptism of Christ (I)


The Angels

Winged from beyond our world

what do they perceive

that we cannot see?


And how may we become like them

in our worship?




absorbed in adoration

in the deep contemplation of God


He hears the words of affirmation

what all believers may know


That change the ground of our being

root us like the tree of life

to our source in God.


John the Baptist

To reach out



Offer a vocation

For this moment


Aware that it may cost you

Your life.


The Holy Spirit

May the dove descend on each of us

spread wings within


Unfurl in a flight of grace

to transport us beyond this place.


The Pharisees

There will always be

Our opponents


Those who judge

And do not understand


The subtleties

Of the spiritual life.


The Penitent

May we like him

cast off the clothes of our culture


And in nakedness

plunge into the baptism


Of mind

Of heart

And of soul.


unfurl AOC

The Generosity of The Poverello

“The Poverello” was St. Francis of Assisi’s way of describing himself – the poor man.

One day Francis sent away empty-handed a man who had begged him for money for the love of God.  He quickly regretted what he had done, ran after the man, gave out of his own wealth, and resolved never again to refuse anyone who begged from him for the love of God.

Another time he met a knight who was badly clothed and had become poor.  Francis took off his own expensive clothes and gave them to the poor knight there and then!

Later, he met a man with leprosy.  Francis had an understandable disgust and fear of this horrible disease and at first reacted with horror.  But he remembered the vow he had made, and when the leper reached out a hand to beg, Francis not only gave him money, but also a kiss.  “That which seemed bitter to me was changed into sweetness”, he later wrote.

Francis giving his cloak to the poor knight – Giotto

Inspiring Art by Van Gogh


Is my neighbour?


It is the one

Who can do nothing


The one

Wholly other


By sight

Wholly other


In mind

And tongue


It is the one

Who is utterly in need


And there

I find my neighbour


And I am called

To love.


“The Good Samaritan” – Van Gogh

Notice the two priests who have walked by on the left-hand side

…and the amazing colours of this beautiful painting

Inspirers: Henri Nouwen – “Return of the Prodigal Son” (2)

Henri Nouwen has inspired me in so many ways that each book of his deserves its own mention!

“Return of the Prodigal Son” is a wonderful book that inspired a whole collection I wrote, called “Returning to the Father”.


Again and again

I have fled the hands of blessing


Made myself deaf

to the voice of love


Hardened my heart

to the close call of conscience


All this in the hope

I would find somewhere else


What I lacked

In the home


Of the soul

Safe in God.


soulsafe RTF

Rembrandt’s painting of “The Return of the Prodigal Son” is at the heart of Henri Nouwen’s book.  It is an amazing painting that deserves repeated viewing.  And Nouwen wonderfully interweaves meditations on Rembrandt’s life, his own life and on the spiritual journey.

I love the way Nouwen harnesses the insights of modern psychology alongside his deep perception and experience of spirituality.  The parable of “The Prodigal Son” of course runs all through the book, and Nouwen wonderfully elaborates on how the spiritual journey can involve rebellion, lostness and despair, as well as progress, homecoming and love.


I am on my way home

feeling the nearness of love

I have left the distant country

and am travelling

My feet keeping step

with the beating of my heart

As I journey

to the heart of the father.

journeyheart RTF