All in the Boat together
I love the picture I found this week to accompany my weekly reflection. The Gospel reading this week is from Mark: Jesus Stills the Storm, and this artwork grabbed my attention as soon as I saw it featured on a resource blog. Everything about it stands out to me as something significant, with meaning, both for the painter and for me to observe:
... the colors
... the style
... the placement of each of the elements in the painting including the horizon
... the dove with the olive-branch or palm frond crown for the figure who is obviously Jesus
... the terror and fear of the figures praying and paddling.
Jesus' face is above the horizon: he can see the light; the disciples in the boat are under the horizon: they see darkness. The other standing figure, attached to the boat mast is interesting. Head above the horizon, does this person have faith through the storm? Is it God, completing the Trinity with the presence of the dove as Holy Spirit? Is the figure us, the faithful, watchful and observing to see if the miracles we have heard our entire life are still true? Is the figure standing firm in faith, or struggling to stand, holding the mast of the ship trying to keep themselves from becoming swamped in the boat with the rest of the disciples?
Before the setting of this picture, though, is the question: How did these people get to be in this boat at this time when they could be caught in one of the storms on the sea? There were experienced fishermen in the crew of disciples. Would they not have known what could happen? The answer to the first question is easy. They are in this boat because Jesus said to them all, after a long time teaching large crowds, "Let us go to the other side." This raises a new question - why? why travel, why go to "the other side"? Who is over on the other side of the sea that Jesus felt compelled to visit? Jesus is calm, has no fear about making the journey. Is the storm allegory for the fears of the disciples about traveling into unknown territory? Jesus "calms the storm" for the disciples, but is it a squall he calms, or the storm of fears in the disciples' hearts?
Faith calms the storm in our lives when we are tempted to say, like the disciples, "Jesus, God, Teacher and Healer: do you not care that we perish under the weight of the troubles of the world?"