Unveiling the Advent painting: Fecundity (part III)

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By Honore Onana Olah, SJ

This year, Hekima Jesuit Community under the leadership of Fr. John Ghansah S.J. has decided to celebrate the Advent Season through graphic art, thanks to the expertise of two Jesuit scholastics – Patrick Taban (from South Sudan) and Ernesto Graciano (from Mozambique) – who have undertaken to work on four interconnected paintings to capture not only various Advent motifs but also the movement of the Christian community toward the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ…

The first painting, it will be recalled, represented the Trinity’s contemplation of the earth, an insight appropriated from the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises. The second painting, entitled the Fiat, is an introduction to the Second Week of the Season of Advent. The third painting, instead, is entitled Fecundity. The painting for the Third Week draws its inspiration from the “Rejoice” (Gaudete) motif of the Third Sunday of Advent. The expectant joy of the birth of the Savior intensifies.

Advent Art Third Week
Advent Art of Taban and Graciano

Honore Onana Olah spoke to Fr Wilfred Sumani, SJ, Hekima’s resident liturgist, who unravelled the ‘mystery’ of the painting. In three points, Fr Sumani outlines the key theological points through which we can deepen our friendship with the Lord who comes to save us:

Heaven: The Second Person of the Trinity has left the glory of heaven (cf. Phil 2:5-7), “abbreviated” himself–as the Fathers of the Church would say–and now dwells in Mary’s womb. God is already in our midst! The descent of the Son of God is symbolized by the rain: “Let the clouds rain down the Just One, and the earth bring forth a Saviour” (Isa 45:8 – Entrance antiphon for Sunday Week 4).

Earth: Thanks to the rain, the landscape has turned greener. On the extreme right are Mary and Elisabeth, two women blessed with the miracle of fecundity. Mary’s hand is lifted up as she sings the Magnificat in the company of her cousin Elisabeth. In the centre, the branch on the formerly dry stump is growing, while, slightly above, the farmer is planting (cf. James 5:7-10 – second reading, third Sunday of Advent). On the extreme left is a community of women who, by dint of mystical intuition, are aware that something marvelous is happening in the world. They, therefore, praise God facing the mountain of the Lord, which now enjoys more light. Birds of the air represent the joy of creation at the imminent birth of the One who will liberate creation from futility and corruption (cf. Rom 8). A river flows into the sea (Isa 35:1-6,10, first reading of third Sunday of Advent) and raises its water level.

Under the Earth: The bones of the human skeleton begin to gather sinews and flesh (cf. Ez 37:8). The fish in the sea leap for joy.

Prayer: O God, who see how your people faithfully await the feast of the Lord’s Nativity, enable us, we pray, to attain the joys of so great a salvation and to celebrate them always with solemn worship and glad rejoicing. Through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Collect, Third Sunday of Advent)

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