An Advent Gathering of Thistle Birds
Encaustic collage: beeswax, found paper, colored pencil, ink, oil pastel
Advent is a chance to intentionally gather our hearts, bodies and minds together. The twenty eight days of Advent give us time for a gradual collecting of all the disparate and disjoined parts of ourselves. Advent traditionally signifies a coming, especially of something extremely important. But Advent can also mean a coming into to place, view, or being. My prayer is that Advent would be a time for us to collect ourselves gradually toward the place that Christ makes for us; that Christ would come more beautifully into view; and that we would come more fully into being in Him. Traveling through the gradual collecting of Advent better enables us to be present to the celebration of the birth of Christ at Christmas. We have more of ourselves to give to Him because of the slow work of gathering. The feast of Christmas is made better by the quiet, meditational days of Advent.
The center of this beeswax panel contains a Chi Rho surrounded by fourteen Goldfinches. Dating as early as the 2nd century, it is one of the oldest monograms representing Christ. The Chi Rho is made up of the first two letters making the Greek word for Christ (khristos). Before it was used by Christians, pagan Greek scribes used the Chi Rho in place of the word “chreston” (which means “good”) to make note in the margins of important texts. Christians using the Chi Rho symbol would have been reminded of the pre-existent Christ and his earthly cruxifiction. According to the medieval bestiary, birds who are pictured with a Chi Rho symbolize human souls meditating on Christ. Goldfinches in particular represent victory over death. The goldfinch, which lives on a diet of thistles and thorns, reminds us of the suffering of Jesus and His resurrection. Sometimes called the Savior Bird, the goldfinch speaks to us of endurance, fruitfulness, and persistence. Embeded under the Chi Rho are pages from the gospels telling of pivotal moments in the story of Christ: His entry into Jerusalem, His first miracle, the Last Supper , the Transfiguration, His resurrection, and His return. At the bottom of the panel lies Latin verse from the Advent hymn "O Come Emmanuel", translated: " Be our soul advent, disperse the dreadful clouds of night. Come!" Purple and blue, the traditional colors of Advent, mark the panel as a reminder of the season in which it was made. Beeswax holds all the layers together and works as a symbol for the word of God, which, in rabbinical schools, is said to taste like honey. As I painted on over 25 layers of wax, my soul got quiet and my heart centered. My prayer is that your journey of Advent be full of the same quiet, gathering work.
Jesus, make us like a gathering of thistle birds.
Help us to gradually collect the pieces of ourselves around your coming, crucifixtion, and resurrection.
Be our soul Advent, our only place, our true view, our fullness of being.
Fill us with your honey, making us hold together inside your story.
Remind us of your goodness, you our amarantine Savior Bird.