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About the Cover

July

Nikola Sarić was born in Serbia in 1985 and formally became an art student at the age of fifteen. He went on to acquire a degree from the Academy of the Serbian Orthodox Church for arts and conservation in Belgrade. This young artist embraces the tradition, as it is ordinarily understood, but also believes that “the tradition” is continually in development, that today’s faithful are creating tradition for the future (www.nikolasaric.de).

Mr. Sarić painted the icon of Jesus Christ the Redeemer in 2016 as part of his series of “Witnesses,” which was exhibited last year at the Mount Athos Center in Thessaloniki, Greece. On the occasion of that exhibit, Orthodox theologian Georgios Fousteris noted that, in Sarić’s work, “the glance, the positions, the gesticulations, the shapes, the colors, all are clear and lucid, with a frankness not admitting of delusions.” Indeed, in keeping with iconographic tradition, every detail of the work has been given the highest degree of attention. In the image, Christ appears seated on the throne surrounded by angels—the very throne seemingly made of wings. Curious-looking seraphim (is that what they are?), all eye and wing, support his feet. There is something distinctly classical about Sarić’s forms. He acknowledges the influence of the art of classical antiquity in his style, including sacred Greco-Roman art. His ability to infuse it with his own brand of modern elegance, however, is what holds our gaze and connects us—as great icons do—with an image of what is divine.

—Br. Ælred Senna

Ælred Senna, OSB, is a monk of Saint John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota, and associate editor of Give Us This Day.

Art Credit:
Jesus Christ the Redeemer by Nikola Sarić.
© Nikola Sarić. www.nikolasaric.de. Used with permission.

Mary Magdalene, Apostle to the Apostles and first minister of the Good News, brought word of the resurrection to the apostles gathered in Jerusalem. While the idea of ministers and ministry was well established, for such ministry as this to be entrusted to a woman was, in first-century Palestine, undoubtedly unusual—and one wonders if Mary even realized she was a minister.

Another of God’s ministers, Sr. Mary Charles McGough, OSB, knew early that she was called to use her gifts and talents as an artist, but it took time for her to understand her art as ministry. A favorite motto of Benedictines appears in Chapter 57 of the Rule, on the artisans of the monastery: in omnibus glorificetur Deus, “that in all things God may be glorified.” Sr. Mary Charles knew this motto well, and the power contained in that bit of advice worked in her as she came to appreciate her artistic work as a ministry, a way for her to give glory to God. In an essay for Sisters Today (2000), she said, “The conviction that my art is truly ministry has grown within me. I know that art has the power to teach, to heal, to comfort, to challenge, to entertain, and to help people pray.”

St. Mary Magdalene and Sr. Mary Charles both continue their ministry to the Body of Christ in the icon Mary Magdalene Announces the Resurrection to the Apostles. As I pray with the icon, I am comforted, elated, overwhelmed by the Good News of the Resurrection, and sometimes puzzled, even doubtful, as the other apostles seem to be. I can also sense the power of the prayer of Sr. Mary Charles as she wrote this icon, inspired by the Holy Spirit to carry on the ministry of the Good News of Jesus Christ.

—Br. Ælred Senna

Ælred Senna, OSB, is a monk of Saint John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota, and associate editor of Give Us This Day.

Art Credit:
Mary Magdalene Announces the Resurrection to the Apostles
(1993) by Sister Mary Charles McGough, OSB. © St. Scholastica Monastery, Duluth, Minnesota. Used with permission

Laura James draws us into a well-known story with this month’s cover. Jesus Walks on Water is in the Ethiopian style, which Ms. James has made her own over the years (www.laurajamesart.com). At a glance we might see in the image only the familiar: Jesus saving Peter from drowning in the stormy sea. But let us see where it may take us if we quiet ourselves and sit with it for a time.

There are the twelve disciples in a boat on a raging sea. Simon Peter is in the bow of the boat, and he is kneeling on the water, clasping Jesus’ hands for safety. (This multiple depiction, known as synoptic narrative, is common in iconography.) The Peter in the boat notices the calm sea just out ahead of the boat. The Lord is walking on the placid water, but under the boat, the waves are still roiling.

In my mind’s eye, Jesus calls to Peter, who jumps from the boat at the Lord’s command. The wind tosses Peter about on the water, he begins to sink, and Jesus reaches out to rescue him. But now, as I come back to the art, I see that Jesus’ attention is not fixed solely on Peter’s predicament. What is he looking at? Is it the tumultuous waves, the other disciples imperiled in the small boat, or maybe even the frolicking fish?

In the next moment, the waves settle and cease to break, the whole sea becoming as placid as the water on which the Lord stands. The fish abandon their frenzy and return to a peaceful existence. And the disciples help a shaken Peter back into the boat, all the while professing (along with me) their freshly bolstered faith that Jesus is, truly, the Son of God.

—Br. Ælred Senna

Ælred Senna, OSB, is a monk of Saint John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota, and associate editor of Give Us This Day.

Art Credit:
Jesus Walks on Water by Laura James.
© Laura James. www.laurajamesart.com. Used with permission.