NEW SINGLE - May 12, 2018
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful, and en-kindle in them the fire of Your love. Send forth Your Spirit, and they shall be created, and You shall renew the face of the earth.
Written by Aimee MacIver
I’ve often struggled against thinking of the Holy Spirit as a sidekick to the Father and the Son, rather than the third Person of the Trinity, and I’m reasonably sure I’m not alone. After all, He’s mostly behind the scenes in Scripture. He doesn’t really have any dialogue. And the imagery is all over the place: A dove? A tongue of fire? Beams of light shooting down from the heavens?
Who exactly is the Holy Spirit, the Person? What does He do? I pondered these questions as I also pondered the far less profound (but still kind of pressing) question of what image I could paint to accompany a new song for Pentecost.
I started thinking of the prayer that opens the Pentecost liturgy: Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your spirit, and they shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth.
The prayer struck me. What the Holy Spirit does and who He is are the same: love that fills, creates, and renews.
In response to this inspiration, I painted two images. The first you’ve seen as the cover art for “Fire of Your Love.” It’s modeled after a fire-and-ice rose set against a dark background. Giving roses to those we love is one of those odd human gestures that simultaneously feels completely natural but is objectively impractical. Roses don’t last—maybe a week if you’re lucky—and they cost a small fortune. Why not spend that money on something more useful?
It’s because there’s a lushness, an extravagance, a fire to intimate love. While love certainly attends to practicality, it is never limited or satisfied by it.
At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit moves like this. The Holy Spirit isn’t a manager sent to sustain and oversee the Church in Jesus’ absence. The Holy Spirit is love itself—intimate, animated, alive, passionate, consuming, bursting through the darkness, lush, extravagant, fiery. The Holy Spirit is not only the Giver of Life in a literal sense, but also in the way that He makes us ardently and wholly alive.
The second piece began as a large fake painting I found stacked against the wall at Goodwill. You know the type: a mass-produced, printed-on image; bland, generic colors chosen to blend in; stamped with factory-generated fake texture and fake brush strokes. Some machine had made it along with dozens of identical copies to become pieces that are hung not for their beauty or impact, but just to fill space. It was in good condition, with solid stretchers, and just one-fourth the cost of a new canvas, so I brought it home, cleaned it, and began turning the fake painting into a real one.
Even as paint transformed the printed-on image into something real and new, the original lines and ridges weren’t buried. They became part of the real painting, but this time with the intention and touch of a creator, no longer just the products of a machine’s inanimate stamp.
At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit rushes forth to move like this in our lives. We are not just bland copies made without meaning. We are not merely placeholders in some weary chain of evolution. We are not made just to fill space.
At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit comes to create us freshly and with purpose, to bring us more wholly to life. But His creative love doesn’t bury or annihilate who we have been—instead, it integrates all the dull and fake and printed-on parts of us into something real and new and beautiful.
If Jesus had remained on earth, says Venerable Fulton Sheen, “He would have been only a symbol to be copied, not a life to be lived.” At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit fills us, creates us, and renews us to be something more than mass-produced copies of Jesus—that extravagant love that cannot be contained makes us more real and more ourselves. Pentecost is not the denouement to Easter; it is the consummation.
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your spirit, and they shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth.
Aimee MacIver is a visual artist for The Vigil Project. She’s married to Colin, mom to Leo and Zuzu, and Greg’s eldest sibling (ask her about the Santa trap she built for Greg in the late ‘80s). She’s also a 12th grade teacher and a writer. She knows all the best places in New Orleans to get a wedding cake snowball. Her current favorite artwork is the Mother’s Day card made by her children.
That Which Pierces
Written by Corrie Boudreaux
There is a saying among photojournalists for photographs that really catch your eye and provoke a response. Such a photograph, they say, “has feeling.” Roland Barthes, French philosopher and linguist, called this attribute of photography the punctum, “that which pierces.” Both phrases refer to the same phenomenon – the power of a photograph to inspire a deeply emotional response.
In fact, most artistic expression, I think, strives for a similar goal: to give the viewer or listener or reader an emotional connection to the work. Sometimes, this emotional connection is the goal in and of itself. The connection is made, the feelings are felt, and the work of art has fulfilled its purpose.
In other cases, that instantaneous and often subconscious emotional response is meant to be a catalyst for something more. The artist uses his or her talent to create work with a deeper purpose. The history of documentary and journalistic photography is filled with examples of photographers whose work, through emotional connections with their audiences, initiated important social and political change. In these instances, the emotional response was a challenge and a call for action, a call for change, a call for conversion.
In my collaboration with The Vigil Project, what impresses me most of all about the members of this team is the desire to create not simply a work of artistic expression that will be commercially successful, but a work with feeling, with punctum, a work that will pierce you deeply and call you to action. Immerse yourself and allow yourself to feel. What visual expression, what lyric, what musical note pierces you and how will you respond?
Woman and Art
Written by Aimee MacIver
It is among the most celebrated and recognized images in history. Certainly you’ve seen it, too, on tote bags, coffee mugs, and cheap posters tacked to dorm walls: Adam—naked, Adonic, and rather casual, considering the occasion—lifts his hand as the Creator leans down to brush fingertips with the first man.
All the movement of Michelangelo’s masterpiece flows toward that intersection where the divine and human almost touch. The eye can’t look away from the tension gathered there, from the energy of creating, from the horizon where matter will spark into life.
And hundreds of millions of eyes have, indeed, gazed upon the painted Adam and God without ever noticing the woman also present there. Look again and you’ll see her: She’s tucked under God’s arm, looking curiously at what God is making, but she’s at ease, comfortable, the way a child might wrap around her father’s legs and peek out while he has a conversation with someone else. Secure, she looks at Adam without fear, shame, or strain of competition.
The painting depicts the same events we might read about in Genesis or learn about in theology class, but the art is no mere accessory to doctrine. Art is not just decoration; art is a language, a medium of the human person for saying what nothing else can.
In the Sistine Chapel, the language of shape, line, composition, color, light, and shadow speaks with a potent immediacy and clarity: Although Adam is the painting’s obvious focal point, the woman is neither in his shadow nor in the background. She has her own place near God, and it’s a place of unique intimacy.
The art reveals that the woman herself—in a painting or a song or in flesh and blood—is no a mere supplement or decoration to the man or the Church. She herself is a language, a medium of the Holy Spirit, the Artist, as He says through woman what nothing else can say.
Both art and the woman are languages—one of the human person, one of the Holy Spirit—so the Church and the world need women to create beauty, which is a ladder to truth. This beauty cannot be substituted with something different. It’s a matter of simple necessity. Without the woman artist, the ladder to truth is missing essential rungs. “The world doesn’t need what women have,” St. Edith Stein reminds us, “but what women are.”
The man and the woman: we’re the only species that creates beauty for its own sake, not just for its function or the sum value of its parts. We’re the only ones that travel across oceans to gaze at a chunk of marble in the Louvre. We’re the only ones that cry at the impossible grace of ballerinas leaping and flying on a stage. We’re the only ones that sing to pray.
Our art echoes the art of ourselves: the only creatures made for our own sake, made for the sake of beauty. And, as it elevates us to truth, beauty will save the world.