The Holy Family: A Stranger and You Welcomed Me

“La Sagrada Familia”

20x30in. Enhanced Wood Print, Acrylic, Flashe and Gold Leaf. 2016

“As long as that statue [of Liberty] stands, the tradition of immigrant hospitality and justice it symbolises will continue to haunt us. Will we whose ancestors respected no boundaries seek to erect impermeable borders? Will the descendants of Ellis Island bar the 'golden door', even as our economic and military policies around the globe continue to create 'tempest-tossed' populations? Or will we listen…to the voice of Christ speaking through the immigrant poor: 'Listen! I stand at the door knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and we will share communion' (Rev. 3:20).”

Ched Myers “Our God Is Undocumented: Biblical Faith and Immigrant Justice”

 

“Our Lady of Guadalupe”

“I am Your Mother”

12x16in., Enhanced Wood Print, Silver Leaf. 2020
 

“Refugees: The Holy Family”

18x24in., Enhanced Wood Print, Acylic, Flashe, Gold Leaf. 2019
اللاجئون العائلة المقدسة

I met this family depicted in this icon while in Palestine in 2008. At the time they lived in a terribly confined refugee camp in the West Bank. At one point the camp didn’t have a doctor and soldiers were blocking anyone going in and out. However, the pregnant mother's water broke in the middle of the night. The camp had a strict curfew and no one was allowed to be out in the camp streets at night, and feeling something may be wrong she had no one to help her give birth. Not wanting to put anyone else at risk they were able to sneak out, cut a hole in the parimeter fence and walked through the desert with their young son and arrived at the nearest hospital at dawn and gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. The family has been a beacon of hope and nonviolent resistance in the area. May peace be with them.

 

“Mary: Love Forever Being Born”

20x24in, Enhanced Wood Print, Acrylic, Flashe, and Silver Leaf. 2023

Inspired by this poem by Sr. Ilia Delio which was shared by dear friend Br. Jeff Macnab a day before he passed Christmas Day 2022.

This icon is Dedicated to him. One of the most loving people we’ve ever met.

"What do the stars say?

The light that meets our eyes after millions of years summons us to look beyond.

The dark that hovers over us is filled with light.

That underneath the appearance of the stable heavens is the bubbling energy of the universe.

We are forming, forming, forming and nothing can stop us.

There is a palpable power of attraction, pulling us toward we-no-not-where.

Love alone is the guide of the universe and the whole universe is in the human heart.

Tend to the heart and the power of love will name itself as God."

Love. The universe is being born over and over. Dying and expanding. In life there is inevitably death. Yet, in Death there is always new life.

 

“Cloud of Unknowing”

16x16in. Original Icon. Acrylic and Gold Leaf on Board. 2023

Named after an anonymous work of Christian Mysticism written in the 14th century. The book counsels a young student to not seek God through knowledge and intellection alone but through contemplation motivated by love and experience. By admitting God is shrouded in mystery and putting all thought under a “cloud of forgetting” the closer we will be to God through the heart.

That is not to say that we are not filled with the potential of knowledge but knowledge will only get us so far to being present.

It is about having inner silence about our convictions, our various movements, our inherited traditions, our favorite ideas which opens us up to the patterns of work, knowledge and experience we would not have seen in the other or ourselves.

The cloud of unknowing Icon started as an Icon of Christ the Pantocrator. The Icon was finished but I was not happy with how it turned out and put it on a shelf. After Finding the icon 2 years later I decided to Gold leaf over it to use for another Icon only to discover that Christ’s face was still faintly visible through it yet from a distance simply looked like a plain gold-leafed board.

Putting the larger version on exhibit in 2019 I enjoyed standing back and watching people pass it by again and again and then watching the few people who, seeing it from a distance, were curious and looked closer.

I will admit that I do not always know what I am looking at in the personhood of Jesus, or in considering God, and the Holy-Spirit. I will admit I sometimes do not know what I am looking at when looking at myself. Yet, this is the mystery at the heart of being an artist. By letting our work go it can become something we would never have thought of.

 

“Mother of God: Protectress of the Oppressed”

20x24 in. Enhanced Wood Print. Acrylic, Gold and Silver Leaf on board. 2019.

Russian Christians for centuries have called Mary the Protectress of the Oppressed. Mary here is depicted as one of the many asylum seekers placed in cages along the U.S. / Mexico border.

 

“The Holy Family of the Streets”

16x16in. Enhanced Wood Print, Acrylic and Flashe on board. 2019

“The Christian community, therefore, is that community that freely becomes oppressed, because they know that Jesus himself has defined humanity's liberation in the context of what happens to the little ones. Christians join the cause of the oppressed in the fight for justice not because of some philosophical principle of "the Good" or because of a religious feeling of sympathy for people in prison. Sympathy does not change the structures of injustice. The authentic identity of Christians with the poor is found in the claim which the Jesus-encounter lays upon their own life-style, a claim that connects the word "Christian" with the liberation of the poor. Christians fight not for humanity in general but for themselves and out of their love for concrete human beings." ~ James Cone, "God of the Oppressed"

 
 

"Our Lady of the Journey" 1 & 2

20x24in. Wood Print, 2020

These icons are both in a series of images with the same name, "Our Lady of the Journey" which was inspired by a trip to the St. Ines mission while visiting the Franciscan Novitiate community in California. Tucked behind a corner is a tiny statue called " La Pereguina" or "The Pilgrim". The date it was created and artist are unknown, however the community called it 'Our Lady of the journey' It got me thinking about all of the women in the world on a journey who are seemingly and often quite literally, in the wilderness. Refugees fleeing to safety, young women walking miles upon miles for drinking water, and Mother's trying to find shelter and a better life for their families. A mother grieving the loss of of a child. The gospel imagery of the Mother Hen isn’t used enough. These mothers are signs and images of the tender love, care, beauty, and presence of God.

 

"The Parable of the Mustard Seed”

20x24in. Enhanced Wood Print. Acrylic and Flashe. 2023

“He put before them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and rest in its branches." -Matthew 13:31-32

Jesus' parables are one of the ways Jesus trains his disciples. The parables, like the sermon on the mount, have always been crucial for the church to imagine the kind of community it is called to be. We discover again and again that Jesus' parables significance points to everyday life. The parables are meant to be lived.

The original audience may have been perplexed by this story. They would have known that no-one would intentionally plant a mustard shrub. In fact, the Jewish Mishnah forbade the growing of mustard seeds in the garden because they were 'useless annoying weeds'. In the Hebrew Scriptures the "birds of the air" can be a reference to Gentiles/Non-Jews, the foreigner. This parable suggests that the kingdom of heaven is available to everyone. Even those who may be considered outsiders or not "Worthy". Jesus is calling us to see the significance in the insignificant. The parables of the kingdom of heaven make clear that the kingdom of heaven is not "up there". Through the parables Jesus is teaching us to "be for the world the material reality of the kingdom of heaven brought down to earth." As Jesus is himself the parable of the father so the church is meant to be the parable of Christ. A people in space and time welcoming the outcast, the foreigner, and the stranger. These kind of communities will look like unwanted weeds to the world, or even to other christians. However, this may be exactly the church Jesus is asking us to embody.

All of the birds in this icon are native to the Holy Land

 

“Ruth and Naomi”

20x24in. Enhanced Wood Print, Silver Leaf. 2023

“I will never leave you, where you go I will go..."

Icon commissioned by my best friend Paul Clever in honor of his two wonderful girls with the same names.

"Ruth embodies the three classic biblical categories of the vulnerable person; she is widow, sojourner, and orphan-by-choice, having left her birth family to accompany Naomi to a foreign land, a small rural town (Bethlehem) where a Moabite woman would be viewed with suspicion. She is a model for me of someone who crosses borders for the sake of life — borders both literal and figurative, as she acts in unconventional and selfless ways to create a new community out of a situation of profound loss." ~ Ellen Davis

 

“Christ: The Mother Hen”

20x24in, Wood Print, 2022

“Circling around” is all we can do. Our speaking of God is a search for similes, analogies, and metaphors. All theological language is an approximation, offered tentatively in holy awe. That’s the best human language can achieve. We can say, “It’s like—it’s similar to…,” but we can never say, “It is…” because we are in the realm of beyond, of transcendence, of mystery. And we must—absolutely must—maintain a fundamental humility before the Great Mystery. If we do not, religion always worships itself and its formulations and never God.”

~Richard Rohr, "The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation"

I have often felt that we don't use the metaphor of Christ as Mother Hen enough. Inspired by Christs own words in Luke & Matthews Gospel and from a beautiful mosaic inside Dominus Flevit Church on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.


“Tent City Nativity”

32x36in. Original Icon. Acrylic, Flashe, Sivler and Fold Leaf on Board. 2022.

“Jesus was born in a makeshift shelter, too—

A place not really meant for human dwelling—

And yet it was there that he met us, in the lowliest refuge.

Two thousand years later, it’s good to remember

That Christ is still being born, here and now,

Most especially in places we’d rather not go,

Places from which we’d rather look away.

 

God of illumination and incarnation,

Open not only our eyes, but our hearts,

That we may open, too, our hands

And make generous offerings of love,

As your holy light reflects from nylon tent flaps,

Your holy song rises from a crackling campfire,

Lit against the cold, against the night.

Amen.”

Prayer Written by Cameron Bellm

Christ was born in a makeshift shelter in a stable, and in the  Gospels, the holy family is forced to flee their homeland for fear of persecution. This is the classic modern-day definition of a refugee. The Holy Family is still among us here and now, in the faces of the refugee, the immigrant, the poor and the oppressed.

 

“Dorothy Day and The Holy Family of the Streets”

20x24in. Enhanced Wood Print. Acrylic, Flashe, Gold and Silver Leaf on Board. 2021

“What we would like to do is change the world--make it a little simpler for people to feed, clothe, and shelter themselves as God intended them to do. And, by fighting for better conditions, by crying out unceasingly for the rights of the workers, the poor, of the destitute--the rights of the worthy and the unworthy poor, in other words--we can, to a certain extent, change the world; we can work for the oasis, the little cell of joy and peace in a harried world. We can throw our pebble in the pond and be confident that its ever widening circle will reach around the world. We repeat, there is nothing we can do but love, and, dear God, please enlarge our hearts to love each other, to love our neighbor, to love our enemy as our friend.”

Dorothy Day

This advent let us remember the poor, the sick, the dying, the grieving, the unemployed, those unable to pay rent this week, the homeless, those persecuted simply because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, creed, or nationality, the imprisoned, the refugee, and the immigrant. To dismiss the image of God in anyone is a complete denial of the incarnation.

The Maryhouse Catholic worker on 3rd Street in New York City

 

“La Sagrada Familia NYC”

24x32in. Acrylic, Flashe, and Gold Leaf on Wood Panel.

A new icon of an asylum-seeking family living in New York City. Made possible by Heavenly Rest’s connection with their outreach partner, LSA Family Health Service.

 

“St. Joseph with Baby Jesus”

20x24in. Wood Print, 2020

This icon was commissioned during the pandemic. While creating it we couldn’t think of all those who have been quietly taking care of their families during that time.

Those who guided and protected their loved ones through sickness, loss of work, lack of food and forced evictions.

Those healthcare workers silently tending the sick and dying, holding hands, looking into eyes, and being present to the most vulnerable.

I think of all of those people in my own life who quietly ( and sometimes quite unknowingly) kept me going.

St. Joseph has shown us that even the most quiet ordinary acts can be signs of hope in the world, reminders that the world bears within itself the seeds of genuine love.

 

“The Good Shepherd”

20x24in. Wood Print, 2018

This icon is very special to me. It was painted for a Parish that is dear to my heart, The Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Athens, Ohio. The people of the parish were an integral part to our mission, work, and community life of the Good Earth Farm were I lived and worked for six years. The community at the farm grew and gleaned produce for the many food pantries in the area, inviting anyone in the Athens community to join us planting, harvesting and delivering food, to collecting eggs, feeding pigs and searing sheep. There is much to be said about the conversations and connection that comes from weeding an entire row of carrots with a complete stranger.

Our real work was about communion. We hoped our work as farmers brought us a greater connection to Creation and the marginalized. We hoped to be a sign for the dignity of work and the reverent use of resources. We wished to balance the roles and responsibilities that uplift the common good while respecting the individuals need for creativity and autonomy. To be signs of peace while working side by side.

Most Shepherds in Jesus’ day would spend weeks with their flock out in the wilderness. The Shepherd would even drink the milk of the ewes for sustenance. He needed them as much as they needed him. The Good Shepherd is not a sign of a Jesus who rules over us, or telling us what to do, or of our almighty benefactor. Rather, it is a sign that the world-like humanity-is a place where God communes with us. The relationship of humanity to creation isn’t just to ensure its flourishing, or prevent its extinction or worse, consume our allotted share of it and dominate it. It is to bring creation into the relationship of praise and thanksgiving, and see it all, and our very lives, as gifts.

 

  • “ La Sagrada Familia” 20x30in. Enhanced Wood Print, Acrylic, Flashe and Gold Leaf, 2023 -  $1,200
  • “Our Lady of Guadalupe” 12x 16in. Enhanced Wood Print, Silver Leaf, 2020- $650
  • “Refugees: The Holy Family” 18x 24 in. Enhanced Wood Print, Acrylic, Flashe, Gold Leaf. 2019 - $850
  • “Mary: Love Forever Being Born” 20x24in. Enhanced Wood Print, Acrylic, Flashe, Silver Leaf, 2023- $850
  • “The Cloud of Unknowing” Original Icon, 16x16in, Acrylic and God Leaf on Wood Panel- $1,000
  • “ Mother of God: Our Lady of the Oppressed” Enhanced Wood Print. Acrylic, Flashe, Gold and Silver Leaf. 2019- $850
  • “The Holy Family of the Streets” 16x16in Enhanced Wood Print, Acrylic and Flashe, 2019- $650
  • “ Our Lady of the Journey 1” ( Blue) 20x24in, Wood Print. 2020- $850
  • “Our Lady of the Journey 2” ( Gold) 20x24in. Wood Print. 2020- $850
  • “The Parable of the Mustard Seed” 20x24in. Enhanced Wood Print, Acrylic and Flashe, 2023- $850
  • “Ruth and Naomi” 20x24in. Enhanced Wood Print, Silver Leaf, 2022- $850
  • “Christ: The Mother Hen” 20x24in. Wood Print. - $850
  • “Tent City Nativity” Original Icon. 32x36in. Acrylic, Flashe, Silver and Gold Leaf on Board, 2022- SOLD
  • “Dorothy Day and The Holy Family of the Streets” Enhanced Wood Print. Acrylic, Flashe, Gold and Silver Leaf. 2021- $850
  • “ La Sagrada Familia, NYC” Original Icon. 24x32in. Acrylic, Flashe, and Gold Leaf on Wood Panel. 2023- SOLD
  • “ St. Joseph With Baby Jesus” 20x24in. Wood Print, 2020- $850
  • “ The Good Shepherd” 20x24in. Wood Print- 2018- $850