Archive for the ‘sacred time’ Category

Baptism of Jesus: A Return to the River

January 6, 2012

Born of Water, Born of Spirit © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Epiphany 1/Baptism of the Jesus: Mark 1.4-11

If you’re celebrating Epiphany this Sunday, scroll down or visit Epiphany: Blessing for Those Who Have Far to Travel.

I kept thinking I was going to be able to create a new reflection and image for Baptism of Jesus Sunday, but I was happily consumed with preparing the retreat for Women’s Christmas and finally had to let go of doing something entirely new for Sunday. If you haven’t visited my reflection on Women’s Christmas (which some folks celebrate on Epiphany) at the Sanctuary of Women blog, I’d love for you to stop by. The reflection includes the mini-retreat (which you can download as a PDF at no cost) that I designed as an opportunity to spend time in reflection on this day. If you can’t take time today, know that the retreat works anytime! Here’s where you can find it:

Celebrating Women’s Christmas

I do have a quartet of previous reflections on the Baptism of Jesus and invite you to visit these. Click on the images or titles below to find them. Do not miss Janet Wolf’s story about the baptism of Fayette in the post Epiphany 1: Baptized and Beloved. Her story continues to bless and haunt me as it challenges me to think about what the sacrament of baptism really means.

Baptism of Jesus: Following the Flow

Epiphany 1: Baptized and Beloved

Epiphany 1: Take Me to the River

Epiphany 1: Ceremony (with a Side of Cake)

I also have a charcoal of the Baptism of Jesus, which originally appeared in The Christian Century magazine. You can find it on my images website by clicking this thumbnail:

Whether you’re celebrating Baptism of Jesus or Epiphany this Sunday, I wish you many blessings!

[To use the "Born of Water, Born of Spirit" image, please visit this page at Your use of helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]

Epiphany: Blessing for Those Who Have Far to Travel

December 31, 2011

Epiphany © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Epiphany, Years ABC: Matthew 2.1-12

Merry Christmas to you, still! Because Advent is always such a wonderfully intense time for me, with offering The Advent Door and being engaged in other holiday happenings, I usually arrive at Christmas Day quite spent and ready for a long winter’s nap. I am grateful that instead of being over on December 25, when I’m finally able to take a breath, Christmas is a season—a short one, to be sure, with only twelve days, but a season nonetheless, with its own rhythm and invitations.

This year, the days of Christmas have been for me a time of resting, connecting with family and friends, long walks in the beautiful Florida sunshine, and doing some dreaming about the year ahead. Though the coming months are sure to be marked by surprises, I want to enter the year with some sense of what I’d like for the path to look like, and where I’m feeling drawn to go.

The Christmas season ends with Epiphany, a feast day in which the early church celebrated Jesus’ brilliant manifestation (epiphaneia in Greek, also translated as “appearing”) not only to the Magi but also to the world through his birth, baptism, and first recorded miracle at the wedding at Cana. Eastern Christianity maintains this multifaceted celebration of Epiphany, while we in the West focus primarily on remembering and celebrating the arrival of the Magi, those mysterious and devoted Wise Men who traveled far to welcome the Christ and offer their gifts.

As we travel toward Epiphany and savor the final days of Christmas, this is a good time to ponder where we are in our journey. As we cross into the coming year, where do you find yourself on the path? Have you been traveling more by intention or by reacting to what’s come your way? What direction do you feel drawn to go in during the coming weeks and months? Is there anything you need to let go of—or to find—in order to take the next step? In the coming months, what gift do you most need to offer, that only you can give?

Blessings and traveling mercies to you as we approach Epiphany and the year to come. I look forward to walking with you.

For Those Who Have Far to Travel
An Epiphany Blessing

If you could see
the journey whole
you might never
undertake it;
might never dare
the first step
that propels you
from the place
you have known
toward the place
you know not.

Call it
one of the mercies
of the road:
that we see it
only by stages
as it opens
before us,
as it comes into
our keeping
step by
single step.

There is nothing
for it
but to go
and by our going
take the vows
the pilgrim takes:

to be faithful to
the next step;
to rely on more
than the map;
to heed the signposts
of intuition and dream;
to follow the star
that only you
will recognize;

to keep an open eye
for the wonders that
attend the path;
to press on
beyond distractions
beyond fatigue
beyond what would
tempt you
from the way.

There are vows
that only you
will know;
the secret promises
for your particular path
and the new ones
you will need to make
when the road
is revealed
by turns
you could not
have foreseen.

Keep them, break them,
make them again:
each promise becomes
part of the path;
each choice creates
the road
that will take you
to the place
where at last
you will kneel

to offer the gift
most needed—
the gift that only you
can give—
before turning to go
home by
another way.

P.S. For another reflection on Epiphany (which includes a bonus gift of a downloadable mini-retreat), visit this new reflection at my Sanctuary of Women blog:

Celebrating Women’s Christmas

For previous reflections on Epiphany here at The Painted Prayerbook, click the images or titles below. Also, the special holiday discount on annual subscriptions to Jan Richardson Images (the website that makes my work available for use in worship and education) will be available through Epiphany Day (January 6). For info, visit Jan Richardson Images.

Epiphany: Where the Map Begins

Feast of the Epiphany: Blessing the House

Feast of the Epiphany: A Calendar of Kings

The Feast of the Epiphany: Magi and Mystery

[To use the "Epiphany" image, please visit this page at Your use of helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]

Inspired: On the Feast of All Saints

October 29, 2011

A Gathering of Spirits © Jan L. Richardson

I’m recently back from a fantastic trip to Kansas City to see my friends and artist-heroes, Peg and Chuck Hoffman. The trip was, in large measure, an occasion to experience some “art reinvigoration,” as Peg put it—sort of a spa vacation for my inner artist. Coming in the midst of some fallow time and creative shifts in the studio, my visit to Kansas City provided marvelous sustenance for my eyes and my creative soul.

I spent time in the studio with Peg and Chuck, where we did some painting on the World Canvas Project. The World Canvas has grown out of Peg and Chuck’s experience in working in such places as Belfast, Northern Ireland; Chuck has created a beautiful blog about the World Canvas, where you can have a glimpse of the project and our painting session at this post that Chuck recently added: Blessings.

Peg and I spent an afternoon doing “retail research,” which featured a splendid browse through Anthropologie (be sure to check out their visually inspiring Tumblr-powered site at the Anthropologist). Chuck and I made a trip to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, where, as it happened, there’s currently an exhibition of prints by Romare Bearden, best known for his collage work and who has been a source of inspiration for me. We found artful treasures at used bookstores; visited Peg and Chuck’s church that features liturgical art by Richard Caemmerer (cofounder of the Grünewald Guild); had a pivotal conversation while sitting on the floor of their prayer room one morning, looking at images and dreaming of books to be born; and savored time at tasty tables where we talked about the wonders and challenges of living at the intersection of art and faith.

In the creative life, it can sometimes feel like we are laboring alone. My vocation as an artist and writer—and my natural disposition—requires a goodly measure of solitude in order to be present to and tend what’s trying to come forth. And of course the experience of feeling like we’re alone isn’t limited to those who work as artists or in other professions that are obviously creative. My time with Peg and Chuck underscored for me how important it is for us—regardless of our vocation—to stay close to our sources of inspiration: the people and places and practices that help us know who we are and what God has called each of us to do and to be in this world. It is crucial to connect with those who can provide insight and energy and encouragement for this work.

We’re coming up on a day that reminds us of all this. The Feast of All Saints on November 1—one of my favorite days in the Christian calendar—invites us to remember that although we are each called to some measure of solitude in order to discern what God wants to bring forth in our lives, we never go about this entirely alone. All Saints Day is an occasion to celebrate and revisit the faithful who have gone before us (and not just those who have been canonically designated as saints), those whose lives provide inspiration for us who follow on the path. The saints, who are not models of perfection but rather people who opened themselves to the ways that God sought to work in and through their particular lives and gifts, invite us not to copy their lives but to draw encouragement from them as we seek to let God do this same work in our own particular lives.

So where are you finding inspiration these days? Who provides encouragement on your path? How have you seen the Spirit work through the gifts of another in a way that helps you trust that the Spirit will work through your own gifts? Who helps you remember you are not alone?


God of the generations,
when we set our hands to labor,
thinking we work alone,
remind us that we carry
on our lips
the words of prophets,
in our veins
the blood of martyrs,
in our eyes
the mystics’ visions,
in our hands
the strength of thousands.

A blessed All Saints Day to you! On this day, in this season, in the company of the communion of saints, may you find yourself in a thin, thin place where heaven and earth meet and you receive what you need for the path ahead.

[The "God of the generations" prayer is from my book In Wisdom's Path: Discovering the Sacred in Every Season.]

P.S. For an earlier reflection on All Saints, see Feast of All Saints: A Gathering of Spirits. For a related post, visit On the Feast of All Souls at my Sanctuary of Women blog.

For a reflection on the gospel lection (Matthew 25.1-13) for November 6, click the image or title below:

Midnight Oil

[To use the "Gathering of Spirits" image, please visit this page at Your use of helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]

From the Vineyard to the Table

September 26, 2011

Violence in the Vineyard © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Year A, Proper 22/Ordinary 27/Pentecost +16: Matthew 21.33-46

A quick hello from the studio, where I’m continuing to attend to those small steps that I wrote about last week and also gearing up for a couple of retreats. For an earlier reflection on this Sunday’s gospel lection, please visit this post: Violence in the Vineyard.

We have some liturgical festivities coming up:

This Sunday, October 4, is World Communion Sunday. For a previous post in celebration of the day, see The Best Supper.

The feast of Saint Francis is next Tuesday, October 4, but since I know some congregations will be celebrating his day this Sunday, I wanted to give it a mention this week. I invite you to visit Feast of St. Francis for an earlier reflection on one of my favorite saints.

Many blessings to you as you celebrate!


September 19, 2011

Where God Grows © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Year A, Proper 21/Ordinary 26/Pentecost +15: Matthew 21.23-32

Hello, finally! The past few weeks have brought wonderful travels—my annual reunion with a group of girlfriends from seminary, plus a trip with Gary for a retreat that we lead each year for folks who are in the ordination process in the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church. As I continue my own unfolding path in ministry, it is always heartening to be with each of these groups: those whom I shared the seminary experience with (two decades ago now) and whose lives and ministries have taken intriguing twists and turns, along with those on the retreat who are en route to ordination and who are closer to their seminary days and newer to the vocation of ministry.

Though I’m back home for a bit, I’m finding this is a time for regrouping in the studio. This week, in which the gospel lection gives us the powerful image of a vineyard and the fruitfulness it offers, is a good time to remember that creation has its own rhythms. I’m in a fallow time in my artistic life. And while this can trigger frustration and anxiety (“Will I ever create again??”), I have also learned (and those closest to me are good at reminding me of this) that times like this usually precede a creative shift, which is cause for excitement. It’s a good time to hunker down, to keep showing up at the drafting table even when what’s emerging there seems awful (crap is great fertilizer, after all), and to return to the basics, including painting a big new batch of the papers from which I create the collages, which in itself will provide good inspiration. I have a fistful of yummy new paints and am eager to try some new directions in my color palette.

When fallow times come around, it’s good to remember that attending to seemingly small things—like buying new paints, clearing out and re-creating a workspace, refilling the creative well, and returning to the basic elements of the creative process—prepares the ground for new life and growth to take hold. As in a vineyard.

How about for you—what season is your soul in? Fallow or fruitful or somewhere in between? Is there some small step you could take that would make room for God to grow in a new way in your life?

For a previous reflection on this Sunday’s gospel, I invite you to visit Where God Grows. And whatever season you find yourself in, I wish you many blessings!

[To use the "Where God Grows" image, please visit this page at Your use of helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]

A Portable Cathedral for the 21st Century

June 17, 2011

“Although some may find Ordinary Time a lackluster season, I’ve grown fond of it for the ways that it invites me to discover the sacred in the rhythms of unbroken dailiness. Waking, eating, reading the paper, working, playing, talking, doing laundry, doing dishes, doing errands, doing nothing at all: how is God with us in these times? Who is God with us in these times?” —From In Wisdom’s Path: Discovering the Sacred in Every Season

As we approach the season of Ordinary Time, I am thrilled to share that my book In Wisdom’s Path has just been released as an ebook! With original artwork, reflections, poetry, and prayers, In Wisdom’s Path invites the reader to enter into the rhythms of the Christian year. From the contemplative “Cave of the Heart” in Advent to the “Daily Way” of Ordinary Time, the book serves as a companion through the unfolding seasons of the sacred year.

First published in 2000, the book is now available in a PDF format that brings the beautiful, full-color layout—designed by my splendid art director, Martha Clark-Plank—from the printed page to the screen. Read it on your computer or, better yet, on your iPad, Nook Color, or other portable reader, so you can always have it with you wherever you go!

As we release In Wisdom’s Path as an ebook, I find myself thinking of the exquisite illuminated prayerbooks of the Middle Ages called Books of Hours (which helped inspire The Painted Prayerbook blog!). Designed to enable folks to pray the same rhythm of prayer as the monks, nuns, and priests who prayed the Liturgy of the Hours, these prayerbooks typically were small enough to carry in a pocket or purse. This medieval prayerbook became, as one writer has put it, a “portable cathedral.” In pausing for a few moments and opening the book amidst whatever was going on, the owner entered into a sacred space—a thin place—for reflection and prayer.

In the spirit of these remarkable medieval prayerbooks, In Wisdom’s Path incorporates 21st-century technology to offer you a sacred space in our own time. We are pleased to provide this book for you in a format that you can download and take with you anywhere to find moments of respite and renewal in the rhythm of your day.

For more info and to purchase the ebook, visit the Books page at

P.S. In other book news, In the Sanctuary of Women was recently named a winner in the 2011 National Indie Excellence Book Awards! More info over at the Sanctuary of Women blog.

Trinity Sunday: Blessing of the Ordinary

June 12, 2011

A Spiral-Shaped God © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Trinity Sunday (June 19): Matthew 28.16-20

Each year when Trinity Sunday rolls around, ushering us into the season of the year known as Ordinary Time, my memory travels back to a Trinity Sunday many years ago. It was my last Sunday living in Atlanta, where I had gone to seminary and was now finishing a bonus year spent working on my first book and lingering with the seminary community. In a few days I would move back to Florida to take my first pastoral appointment.

On that final, bittersweet Atlanta Sunday, I went with my boyfriend to Oakhurst Baptist Church, where one of the pastors preached a powerful sermon about entering into the rhythms of Ordinary Time. At the close of the sermon, she invited us into a ritual of laying on of hands as a way of seeking a blessing as we crossed into the new season. Several teams of church members, three in each team, moved to various places in the church. Folks who wished could go to one of the teams, asking them to pray for something in particular or simply to offer a blessing.

Standing at the threshold not only of  a new season but also of a dramatic life change as I prepared to move from Atlanta, where I had a close and wonderfully engaging community, to Orlando, where I knew virtually no one, I thought I could use a blessing. Approaching one of the teams that included a seminary friend of mine, I quietly told them about my upcoming move. And the team—a trinity of women, as it happened—laid their hands and their words on me in a sacramental gesture of blessing.

It would take a long time for me to find and reestablish some ordinary rhythms in my life. But on that Trinity Sunday, graced by the women who offered a blessing for me and for my ministry that lay ahead, I found sustenance that helped me cross the threshold into the new season and into the new life that waited for me.

As we move from the times and seasons that have been so marked by a sense of story and meaning—Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost—into the long season of year that bids us celebrate the commonplace and to seek the God who dwells within the daily, what sort of blessing might you need? What words or gestures of sacrament and grace do you need to sustain you as you enter into this part of the year? How do you look for the presence of the God who lingers amid the ordinary and seemingly mundane? What rhythms of living do you yearn for as you stretch into the season that awaits you?

Blessing the Ordinary

Let these words
lay themselves
like a blessing
upon your head,
your shoulders

as if,
like hands,
they could pass on
to you
what you most need
for this day

as if they could
anoint you
not merely for
the path ahead

but for this
ordinary moment
that opens itself
to you—

opens itself
like another hand
that unfurls itself,
that reaches out
to gather up
these words
in the bowl
of its palm.

You may think
this blessing
lives within
these words

but I tell you
it lives
in the opening
and in the reaching;

it lives
in the ache
where this blessing

it lives
in the hollow
made by the place
where the hands
of this blessing

Spiraling back around: For a previous reflection on Trinity Sunday, see Trinity Sunday: A Spiral-Shaped God.

[To use the "Spiral-Shaped God" image, please visit this page at Your use of helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]

Pentecost: One Searing Word

June 5, 2011

Pentecost © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Book of Acts, Day of Pentecost (June 12): Acts 2.1-21

Nearly thirteen weeks have passed since the day we stood on the threshold of Lent, our foreheads streaked with ashes. We have traveled through a wilderness season of reflection and preparation as we journeyed toward the cross. We have entered into a season of resurrection in these weeks since the wonders of Easter Day. We have watched Jesus take his leave, blessing those whom he has called to continue his work and become his body in this world.

Now, as the Day of Pentecost approaches, we find ourselves at the other end of the arc that began on the weeks-ago Ash Wednesday. “Know that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” many of us heard on that day. A crucial reminder, to be sure: to know what we are made of, where we are from, to where we shall return. Yet all these weeks later, at the end of wilderness and death and resurrection, the day of Pentecost comes to show us that there is still more to know, and a purpose for knowing that lies beyond our individual lives.

Throughout this Easter season, the gospel readings have placed a persistent emphasis on knowing. To those who heard the Ash Wednesday admonition to know that you are dust, Jesus’ intentionality in telling his followers what he needs them to know comes as a striking complement to the words that ushered us into Lent. Although knowing our earthy origins is crucial in our life with Christ, the past weeks have proven there are other things he needs for us to know as well about who he is, what he has done, and what he is calling us to do.

Yet simply knowing, of course, is not enough. On the day of Pentecost, as the Spirit descends upon the gathered assembly, we see with dramatic clarity how the knowing that Christ gives us is not for ourselves alone: it is for the life of the community and the life of the world. As on Pentecost, when those who spoke in the Spirit did not recognize what they were saying but could be understood by others in the crowd, our knowing and understanding are always incomplete without the presence of community.

The incompleteness of our knowing comes as its own reminder of what dusty disciples we are. Made of common earth, fashioned of ordinary matter, we are called to a humus-born humility that cautions us against acting like we have all the answers and know all of God’s designs for creation. Yet the story of Pentecost bids us to remember what the Spirit can do with dust. Pentecost reminds us that the Spirit draws us together and gives us to one another so that we may hear and see and know with greater clarity. This day challenges us to open ourselves beyond the limits of our individual lives to the Spirit who sets us ablaze for the healing of the world.

In this Pentecost week, are you seeking the presence of others who will deepen your understanding? Where do you go to hear and see what you cannot hear and see on your own? When knowledge and wisdom come to you, how do you share them beyond yourself to help others flourish? Where are you turning your ears, your eyes, your heart, your mind to perceive the presence of the Spirit and the path to which it is drawing you?

Pentecost Blessing

On the day
when you are wearing
your certainty
like a cloak
and your sureness
goes before you
like a shield
or like a sword,

may the sound
of God’s name
spill from your lips
as you have never
heard it before.

May your knowing
be undone.
May mystery
confound your

May the Divine
rain down
in strange syllables
yet with
an ancient familiarity,
a knowing borne
in the blood,
the ear,
the tongue,
bringing the clarity
that comes
not in stone
or in steel
but in fire,
in flame.

May there come
one searing word:
enough to bare you
to the bone,
enough to set
your heart ablaze,
enough to make you
whole again.

P.S. For a previous Pentecost reflection, click the image or title below:

Pentecost: Fire and Breath

[To use the "Pentecost" image, please visit this page at Your use of helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]

Easter 2: The Illuminated Wound

April 24, 2011

Into the Wound © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Easter 2: John 20.19-31

“Have you believed because you have seen me?” Jesus asks Thomas as he, at Jesus’ invitation, reaches his hand into the wounds of the risen Christ. “Blessed are those,” Jesus goes on to say, “who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

While Jesus accords special honor to those whose faith does not depend on sight, surely he does not mean that the gift of blessing is reserved solely for those who can make the leap of imagination toward belief. Christian history would indeed come to label Thomas with the moniker—something of an epithet—of “Doubting Thomas,” (though elsewhere, in John 11, Thomas displays remarkable courage and devotion to Jesus) and cast a suspicious and sometimes deadly eye on doubt. At the same time, through much of its history the Christian tradition has offered tools and gifts specifically designed to foster sight and thereby deepen belief.

Thomas would have found good company amongst many Christians in the Middle Ages, when there arose a form of devotion that gave particular attention to the wounds of Christ as an entry into prayer and contemplation. The writings of medieval mystics both helped give rise to this form of devotion as well as to articulate it. With an approach to both flesh and spirit that can be challenging for us to comprehend in our day, these mystics saw in Christ’s wounds, particularly the wound in his side, an array of meanings. In their prayerful imagining, Christ’s wound became, among other things, an opening through which he offers his life-giving sustenance as a mother shares her milk with her child; a womb-space that offers the possibility of rebirth; and a place of union between lover and beloved.

These ideas about Christ’s wounds made their way into images that medieval artists created for the purpose of devotion. We see this, for instance, in paintings that depict the wounded Christ and his mother. As Christ offers his wound to the viewer, Mary offers her breast with a nearly mirrored gesture that suggests the similarity of the sustenance they give. We see signs of this devotion also in a number of illuminated manuscripts that include life-sized renderings of Jesus’ side wound. Divorced from his body, the wound itself becomes an object of contemplation, making an intriguing portal into the page and doorway into prayer.

This kind of depiction of Jesus’ wound sometimes appears in illuminated prayer scrolls that were used by women in childbirth. The women placed the prayer scrolls around themselves as birth girdles, with the depiction of Christ’s wound serving not only as an object of contemplation but of hoped-for protection as well.  One can imagine the laboring women saw this wound-symbol as a confirmation that Jesus, who knew what it meant to suffer in bringing new life, offered sustenance to them as they did so. More than one writer has remarked on the striking similarity that the depiction of Jesus’ wound bears to female genitalia (noting also the similarity between vulva and vulnus, wound), prompting one to wonder if those who clung to Christ’s wounds in prayer noted the similarity of these portals by which new life enters. (But, as another writer has noted, how could they have missed noticing it?)

While such a vivid approach to the wounds of Christ may strike our 21st-century sensibilities as odd or gruesome, this form of contemplation was not seen as an end in itself. In the myriad ways that mystics and artists reflected on Christ’s body, it seems clear that they understood the flesh of Christ as a threshold: that his wounds were an entryway, a portal into God. As Sarah Beckwith describes it, the wounded body of Christ offered a rite of passage that held the possibility not only of a deeper relationship with him but also a redefinition of oneself.

Contemplating the wounds of Christ could also prompt medieval Christians to touch the wounds of the world. In his book on traditional religion in 15th- and 16th-century England, Eamon Duffy notes that “the wounds of Christ are the sufferings of the poor, the outcast, and the unfortunate.” He goes on to write that devotion to the wounds of Christ often translated into acts of charity. Such acts became a tending of the living, wounded, corporate body of Christ.

These imaginative approaches to Christ’s wounds, and the access they offered to medieval folk who sought intimate acquaintance with him, do not dismiss or justify the violence of the crucifixion story. Encountering these visual images, however, has challenged me to wonder what sort of doorway they offer to me, and to us, in these days that, as they ever have been, are so profoundly marked by violence.

I have come to see more clearly the ways that being in the world and loving one another—even from our most intact, integrated places, much less our less-intact ones—exposes us to wounding, to the giving and receiving of pain. Christ’s wounds exemplify this. They underscore the depth of his willingness to enter into our loving in all its hurt and hope and capacity for going horribly wrong. In wearing his wounds—even in his resurrection—he confronts us with our own and calls us to move through them into new life.

Christ beckons us not to seek out our wounding, because that will come readily enough in living humanly in the world, but rather to allow our wounds to draw us together for healing within and beyond the body of Christ, and for an end to the daily crucifixions that happen through all forms of violence. The crucified Christ challenges us to discern how our wounds will serve as doorways that lead us through our own pain and into a deeper relationship with the wounded world and with the Christ who is about the business of resurrection, for whom the wounds did not have the final word.

As Thomas reaches toward Christ, as he places his hand within the wound that Christ still bears, he is not merely grasping for concrete proof of the resurrection. He is entering into the very mystery of Christ, crossing into a new world that even now he can hardly see yet dares to move toward with the courage he has previously displayed.

As we move into this Easter season, how do we see the wounds of Christ in the wounds of the world? How might we be called to reach into those wounds—not to wallow in them, not to become overwhelmed by them, but to touch them and minister to them and help to turn them into doorways that draw us deeper into Christ?

In this season of resurrection, may you see the risen Christ all around you. May you be blessed in your seeing, and lean yourself into the new world that he offers to you.

P.S. For previous reflections on this passage, see Easter 2: Into the Wound and Easter 2: The Secret Room.

[To use the "Into the Wound" image, please visit this page at Your use of helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]

Beckwith and Duffy references:

Sarah Beckwith, Christ’s Body: Identity, Culture, and Society in Late Medieval Writing (New York: Routledge, 1993), 60.

Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England c. 1400-c. 1580 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992), 248.

A portion of this reflection has been adapted from Garden of Hollows: Entering the Mysteries of Lent & Easter © Jan L. Richardson.

Easter Sunday: Risen

April 20, 2011

Easter II © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Easter Sunday (April 24):
John 20.1-18 or Matthew 28.1-10

Easter Blessing

If you are looking
for a blessing,
do not linger

is only
a hollow,
a husk
where a blessing
used to be.

This blessing
was not content
in its confinement.

It could not abide
its isolation,
the unrelenting silence,
the pressing stench
of death.

So if it is
a blessing
that you seek,
open your own

Fill your lungs
with the air
that this new
morning brings

and then
release it
with a cry.

Hear how the blessing
breaks forth
in your own voice

how your own lips
form every word
you never dreamed
to say.

See how the blessing
circles back again
wanting you to
repeat it
but louder

how it draws you
pulls you
sends you
to proclaim
its only word:


P.S. For a previous reflection on Easter Sunday, see Easter Sunday: Out of the Garden. I am also offering daily reflections throughout Holy Week at the Sanctuary of Women blog and would be delighted to have your company there as well. And if you haven’t seen the videos that Garrison Doles and I recently released for Lent and Easter, I welcome you to check them out here: Listening at the Cross and The Hours of Mary Magdalene. Know that I’m holding you in prayer throughout this Holy Week, and I wish you a joyous Easter!

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