I love this painting of the Emmaus Road by Daniel Bonnell. There are the layered colours, the partially foreboding ultramarine sky, the pink and purple and orange sky which speaks of loss and bereavement but also passion, the cerulean blue above the yellow and orange sun.
We see the three lonely figures in the right hand corner of the painting, so vulnerable in the land and skyscape. Yet as they go the new day awakens with brilliant sunlight which will claim that sky and transform the day.
What we are seeing in the vast canvas of colour is what is happening to the three men as they walk. What will emerge is the knowledge that the Christ is with them in their journey of confusion and loss.
The journey entails darknesses (dark, dark blue sky) and suffering and loss, the pink, red and purple sky, but also the warm glorious light of the morning sun and the promise of a new dawn and a new day. The painting suggests a process as in the seasons, Autumn, Winter, Spring, Summer -the yearly rhythm of life that we come through.
The Sun is the awesome transcendence of God who calls all life into being, but God is also immanent in the beauty and unity of the created world, and also one of the characters on the Emmaus road – the third presence on our journey.
At supper the Christ will break bread with them and in that moment they will recognise him and their whole experience will find its deepest meaning – the past will flow meaningfully into the present.
The story of the Emmaus road tells of two disciples journeying away from Jerusalem.
They had experienced a great sense of loss.
Their friend had died there.
They carry this burden with them.
But on that road there is a third presence;
a stranger who comes alongside them,
and talks them through their grief.
So much so
that when they later look back on the event, of that moment
‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us
on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’
No matter what we go through in life;
whatever valleys there may be,
there is always the third presence
on the road with us, engaging us at the level of soul.
And having made journeys such as we have,
there will come the calling on the road, or invitation
for us to step forward and be that third presence,
the Christ-like voice and presence on the journey for the other.
A quotation from a poem by David Whyte
THE ONLY ROAD YOU COULD FOLLOW
The road seen, then not seen, the hillside
hiding then revealing the way you should take,
the road dropping away from you as if leaving you
to walk on thin air, then catching you, holding you up,
when you thought you would fall –
and the way forward always in the end, the way
that you came, the way that you followed,
the way that carried you into your future,
that brought you to this place…,
Prayers for the Journey
These prayers are adapted from the prayers of Michael Leunig, the Australian cartoonist, poet, artist, philosopher.
Dear God, when we fall, let it be like a leaf, let us fall inwards. Let us fall freely and completely, that we may find our depth and humility: the solid earth from which we may rise up and love again.
Let the lightness of your love and forgiveness and renewal touch our hearts like a feather.
In the fellowship of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Lord in your Mercy
Hear our Prayer
Dear God, We pray for balance and exchange. Balance us like trees. As roots of a tree shall equal its branches so must the inner life be equal to the outer life. And as leaves shall nourish the roots so shall the roots give nourishment to the leaves. Without equality and exchange of nourishment there can be no growth and no love.
Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer
Dear God, We give thanks for places of simplicity and peace as we journey through the pandemic, lockdowns, and places of bereavement. Let us find such places within ourselves. We give thanks for places of refuge and beauty. Let us find such places within ourselves. We give thanks for places of nature’s truth and freedom, of joy, inspiration and renewal, places where all creatures may find acceptance and belonging. Let us search for these places: in the world, in ourselves and in others.
Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer
Dear God, accept our prayers
Send us laughter in return.
Give freedom to this exchange.
Let us pray inwardly.
Let us dance outwardly.
This is the breathing of the soul.
This is the vitality of the Spirit.
For this we give thanks.
About the Painter:
Daniel Bonnell is a contemporary artist whose paintings are found in private collections and churches around the world. He was inspired by the French Dominican monk, Père Couturier and seeks in his work to embrace humanity from a state of pain and humility. He has lived with homeless people in New York City and travelled to isolated places across Africa, teaching art in difficult places and neighbourhoods. He wrote a book called Shadow Lessons which is about teaching art in the inner city to at-risk students. In his life he follows the Franciscan style of simplicity.