GTA Advent Journey, Day 13: Spiritual Formation

GTA Advent Journey

Day 13: Spiritual Formation

The Sistine Madonna, by Raphael, 11513-14, Oil on canvas, 270x201cm, Gemaldegalerie , Dresden, Image courtesy Web Gallery of Art. The Sistine Madonna, by Raphael, 11513-14, Oil on canvas, 270x201cm, Gemaldegalerie , Dresden, Image courtesy Web Gallery of Art.

Rafael Angels

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 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3;16 NIV

Henri Nouwen,  in his book called Spiritual Directions, defines Spiritual Formation as follows:

“Spiritual Formation is the ever increasing capacity to live a spiritual life from the heart.”

What are the tools we can use to cultivate our heart for God? I believe spending time reflecting on God’s love and gifts to us is an important part of what creates in us a desire to please and honor our Father.

The Sistine Madonna, one of the most famous paintings in Western Christian tradition, features two charming angels wistfully gazing up at the Madonna and child scene. Used by many marketing campaigns, it might seem very familiar. But let’s look more deeply at this scene.

The Madonna is standing on a bed of clouds ascending from a heavenly space. She is surrounded by a crowd of witnesses….angels…the unborn maybe…I wonder. The two Saints are guiding our attention to gaze upon the scene as the two angles leaning on the balustrade are looking on in quiet adoration. Legend has it that Raphael captured their expressions  from the children of the model posing for the Madonna. From this, he was able to imbue a humanistic tone as they patiently waited for their mother. This realistic depiction of adoration for Jesus is what touches our heart and gives this painting universal appeal.

Imagine yourself now as one of these angels wistfully gazing at the gift of the baby Jesus to the world. Lean in and become child like in your adoration. As we spend time doing this we grow in our level of commitment in pointing others to Christ. As our desire for him grows, we begin to patiently endeavor to confidently and boldly, like the Virgin Mary,…bare Christ into the world.

The Christian heart will benefit greatly by spending time in deep reflection on the various scenes of the life of Christ, his teachings certainly, but also his actions. To view a work of art that focuses on the various stages of the life of Christ is to focus on Christ coming…Christ being born….Christ making himself known to the world. And when you see these scenes deeply with your heart, you see God coming to be where we are…giving us his best….making himself to become one of us…. so that we can become like him.

Dear Lord, lover of my soul, thank you for the gift of your son Jesus. We praise your glorious name and we honor you with our lives. In Jesus Name we pray, Amen.

Grace and peace!

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