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Posts Tagged ‘Henry Ossawa Tanner’


Micah 7Teachability

Monday, February 4, 2019

Written on February 3, 2010 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

Tanner: The Savior

Today we read about a people who find themselves in such dire straits that no one is to be trusted but God – not even a dear friend or a family member.  I am thinking of the times in my life when I have allowed myself to be wrongly steered by companions and relatives – and this kind of miss-steering usually comes out of both their fears and my own.  At times like these, Micah tells us, we are to turn to God for this all-knowing, all-seeing justice, mercy, and wisdom are the only tools we will need.  They are the sole valid markers in circumstances where the culture of the day reigns rather than the spirit of God. The eternal serenity that comes from acting in humility and meekness – and by this I mean teachability – is the only remedy for extreme or grim conditions.

It is painful to realize that a loved one has been lenient with us and even pampered us in fear of losing our friendship.  It is humiliating to know that while we have been in a relationship of trust, a friend or kinsman has been less than truthful out of their own fear of conflict.  Yet it is precisely these conditions which always offer us the opportunity to draw nearer and closer to the one source that understands us better than any person in our present life.  It is only God who knows what is best to do.  And we can only hear the teaching we will need for these circumstances when we allow ourselves to be teachable.

Henry Ossawa Tanner: Christ and his Mother Studying Scriptures

We do not often think of Christ as a child but I like to remember a painting I saw in a Baltimore exhibit of paintings by Henry Tanner.  This site will show you some of his work but it does not contain my favorite . . . a sun drenched yet shady scene of the Blessed Mother with the child Jesus at her side.  The scroll she is using to teach has unfurled at their feet, and they bend to their work.  This is the image of Christ I hold before me when I am trying to learn from difficulties in my life.  Christ looking on as his mother points to figures and pronounces their sounds.

Joseph taught Jesus the craft of carpentry.  This is inferred from scripture and taught by tradition.  In the garden at Gethsemane Christ allowed himself to be taught by the father in heaven.  As he moved toward his crucifixion he kept his mind open to the messages the humanity in him needed to hear in order to perform the tasks required of his divinity.  We too, share this task of using all that is human in us to reach out for what is divine.  This is difficult work and yet we must not think that we are alone in this.  For the one who made us and saved us and comforts us is with us still.  In all circumstances, on all days, throughout all nights, at all times.

And so we pray . . . Sweet and gentle God, when we are confused and feeling lost, teach us just as your mother and father taught you.  When we are exhausted and knowing not which way to turn, bring us to you, wrap us in your gentle arms, tell us how to pray, teach us what we are to do and how we are to act.  We place all trust in you.  Keep us ever with you.  Amen. 


A re-post from February 4, 2012.

Images from: http://negroartist.com/negro%20artist/Henry%20Ossawa%20Tanner/index.htm and http://negroartist.com/negro%20artist/Henry%20Ossawa%20Tanner/index.htm 

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Mark 6:47-52: Rowing Against the Wind

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Henry Ossawa Tanner. The Disciples See Christ Walking on Water. c. 1907. Des Moines Art Center Permanent Collections: Gift of the Des Moines Association of Fine Arts, 1921.1

Henry Ossawa Tanner. The Disciples See Christ Walking on Water

When it was evening, the boat was far out on the sea . . .

Night is about to fall and as darkness overtakes us, the once gentle waves rise above the sides of our boat. We worry about the unseen future, fret about the present and hope to remember the lessons of the past. Hold on, we say to ourselves and one another. The light will come again.

He saw that they were tossed about while rowing, for the wind was against them . . .

We strain against the current that runs too swiftly for our tiny oars to guide us to shore. We cannot possibly go on, we say to ourselves and to one another. This looks like the end.

He came to them, walking on the sea; and he intended to pass them by . . .

The promise of salvation flickers before us as our oars stutter over the chop and waves breech our little boat. Our rescue is here, we begin to think. But is it? Are we expected to save ourselves against this overwhelming wind?

They supposed he was a ghost and began to cry out . . . they were terrified . . .

Jesus understands us far better than we understand ourselves. His presence is both soothing and alarming. We are doomed! We say to one another. There is no way out of this.

But immediately he spoke to them, “Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid . . .”

This cannot be real, we say. Who walks on water? Who calms the sea and wind? Who cares enough about us to risk a relationship of fidelity and hope with us?

Tanner: Christ and his Mother studying Scriptures

Tanner: Christ and his Mother studying Scriptures

Learning at his mother’s knee and listening to the Spirit within, Jesus knows how to respond to every hope and every fear that pulls us down into negativity in the moment of its burgeoning.

Then he got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped; and they were utterly astonished . . .

Jesus does not abandon or betray us, even when we falter or stumble.

For they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their hearts were hardened . . .

Jesus accompanies us even when we refuse to enact the gift of grace and peace he offers. Jesus is with us when we find ourselves rowing against the tide. Might we come together to help one another as we struggle to reach the shore against the wind?

Use the scripture link above to compare other versions of these verses. Or read this story in Matthew 14:22-26 and John 6:16-21 to reflect on Jesus’ presence and power in our lives. 

Enter the name Henry Ossawa Tanner into the blog search bar to discover more about his depiction of this story. To learn more about his life or works, click on the images or visit: http://americanart.si.edu/exhibitions/online/tanner/tanner_main.html 

Jessie Olssen Tanner

Jessie Olssen Tanner and Jessie Ossawa Tanner posing for Tanner’s painting Christ and his Mother studying the Scriptures

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John 6:16-21Walking on Water – A Reprise

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Henry Ossawa Tanner: The Disciples See Christ Walking on the Water

Henry Ossawa Tanner: The Disciples See Christ Walking on the Water

 A Favorite from May 23, 2008.

Back in January we looked at chapter 6 of John and reflected on his Bread of Life Discourse.  Today we are drawn back to this chapter, but now to the incident that is sandwiched between the act of the multiplication of the loaves and Jesus’ explanation of the Eucharist . . . Jesus walks on the water.

I am thinking of a painting I saw by Henry Tanner when it was on exhibit at the BMA . . . and I go in search of it.  The waters in this painting are calm, one the apostles stands toward the front of the boat . . . Jesus approaches from the left.

The painting is ethereal, with wisping stokes that evoke the spiritual experience these men are having.  They have witnessed the miraculous multiplication of bread yet do not see.  They will hear the explication of this miracle but will not fully understand.  They are fishing alone when the storm rises up and they fear for their lives . . . then they see Jesus walking toward them.

It is I.  Do not be afraid.

 Life has a way of pulling us into a vortex of activity without suggesting to us that we ought to reflect on our actions.  Storms rise suddenly, our little fishing boats are swamped . . . and a figure fluoresces just outside the periphery of our vision.  We turn to focus on it but we cannot see anything which we can readily identify . . . and so we go back to bailing.  I am wondering what might happen if we calm our fears and linger a bit with that fluorescence.  Would it come into a crisp image that might register on the retina long enough for us to believe?

It is I.  Do not be afraid.

Life has a way of making us feel as though everything is urgent, must be done by Friday, Monday, Tuesday.  Deadlines loom, our agenda overflows . . . and something beckons just off behind our shoulder.  We pause to listen to the faint humming, to wonder what it might be . . . we hear nothing that the ear recognizes . . . and we go back to phone calls, emails, messages that pile up on the desk.

It is I.  Do not be afraid.

We are afraid that the work will not be done, that the children will not be fed, that the gift will not be bought, the grass not mown, the laundry not washed.  We have an idea that time is linear, finite and within our control.

It is I.  Do not be afraid.

Jesus knows no time.  Jesus is.  Jesus was.  Jesus will be.  In the midst of our bailing, our counting, our working . . . we must pause to look and to listen.  We want to have ears that truly hear, eyes that truly see . . . because . . .

It is I.  Do not be afraid.

Tomorrow, seeking Jesus. 

For more on Henry Tanner, visit: http://www.britannica.com/biography/Henry-Ossawa-Tanner 

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John 6:16-21: Walking on Water

Monday, November 30, 2015

Henry Ossawa Tanner: The Disciples See Christ Walking on the Water

Henry Ossawa Tanner: The Disciples See Christ Walking on the Water

I am thinking of a painting by Henry Tanner in which the waters are calm, one of the apostles stands toward the front of the boat, and Jesus approaches from the left.

The image is ethereal, with wisping stokes that evoke the spiritual experience these men are having.  They have witnessed the miraculous multiplication of bread yet do not see.  They will hear the explication of this miracle but will not fully understand.  They are fishing alone when the storm rises and they fear for their lives. Then they see Jesus walking toward them.

It is I.  Do not be afraid.

Life has a way of pulling us into a vortex of activity without suggesting to us that we ought to reflect on our actions.  Storms rise suddenly, our little fishing boats are swamped, and a figure fluoresces just outside the periphery of our vision.  We turn to focus on it but we cannot see anything which we can readily identify so we go back to bailing.  I am wondering what might happen if we calm our fears and linger a bit with that fluorescence.  Would it come into a crisp image that might register on the retina long enough for us to believe?

It is I.  Do not be afraid.

Life has a way of making us feel as though everything is urgent, must be done by Friday, Monday, Tuesday.  Deadlines loom, our agenda overflows yet something beckons just off behind our shoulder.  We pause to listen to the faint humming, to wonder what it might be. We hear nothing that the ear recognizes, and so we go back to phone calls, emails and other messages that pile up on the desk.

It is I.  Do not be afraid.

We are afraid that the work will not be done, that the children will not be fed, that the gift will not be bought, the grass not mown, the laundry not washed.  We have an idea that time is linear, finite and within our control.

It is I.  Do not be afraid.

Jesus knows no time.  Jesus is.  Jesus was.  Jesus will be.  In the midst of our bailing, our counting, our working we must pause to look and listen.  We want to have ears that truly hear, eyes that truly see because . . .

It is I.  Do not be afraid.

For more of Tanner’s work, visit: http://americanart.si.edu/exhibitions/online/tanner/tanner_main.html

Adapted from a reflection written on May 23, 2008.

 

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