Beauty awakens the soul to act. Dante

Christopher Gonzales-Aden: The Holding

ArtWay Visual Meditation 19 March 2023

Christopher Gonzales-Aden: The Holding

The Gestured Gospel

by Elizabeth Khorey

Your hands made me and formed me;
    give me understanding to learn your commands.

Psalm 119:73

The seasonality of Lent has many textures. In 2017 I was co-pastoring an Anglican parish and tasked with the spiritual formation and curation of the worship environment. As liturgist one of many seasonal ways I ushered our congregation into liturgical embodiment was through visual art which contoured the contemplative atmosphere and invitational setting of each service. It was during that particular Lent I wanted to capture a tacit visual expression of being “imprinted” by the story of Jesus’ human journey as we traveled with him through the Lenten lectionary readings (Year A).

The thematic thread began to emerge as I gave myself to reflection on the art of being carved, imprinted, marked and made by the hand of God, who is the Divine Image-Maker. “The hand of God” anthropomorphisms and metaphoric idioms are replete in Scripture for the ways God intimately touches, makes, renews, holds, guides, and rescues humanity. Lent characterizes a time period when we give ourselves to spiritual practices of simplicity where the roadway into the wilderness teaches by subtraction and reduction and fosters humble gratitude for what is essential. As we do without and taste our need, we attune ourselves to what’s within. During Lent we carve out space in our being for new seeds of forgiveness, charity and largesse to spread and take root. We hollow out excess to help us embody the fullness of emptiness. During Lent, we learn to embrace human weakness and allow it to become the new faculty of understanding. During Lent surrender and death are not a concession, but welcomed as a place of encounter with the God who is God, who dies to usher in the eternality of life.

As someone who is interested in the spiritual theology of human formation in Christ, I often utilize the varied genres of art as an imaginative lens by which I translate the concrete into metaphor which helps me move down the road a bit, to learn, see and embody spiritual truth. Eugene Peterson explained, “Comprehension of the invisible begins in the visible. Metaphor is the witness of language that spirit and matter are congruent. Metaphor uses the language of sense experience to lead us into the world of the unseen: faith, guilt, mind, God.”

My reflections on this particular Lenten theme led me to look at the genre of wood-cut printing. The artist carves and cuts away at the surface of an organic material. The area cut away doesn’t carry the ink. The area that remains carries the ink, bears the image.

As I searched historical files for woodcut images to frame our Lenten liturgy and worship services, a friend referred me to artist Christopher Gonzales-Aden. Chris is a maker of woodcuts. Chris and I had a conversation about the Lenten theme I imagined. He told me of his recent linoleum print made at a Glen Workshop with American poet, Scott Cairns. After hearing one of Scott’s stories about meeting a monk at Mt. Athos, Chris was impressed by the way the monk talked to Scott about “holding” Christ in the center of the body and being. The Holding was printed in his room that night. Chris asked me if this is what I imagined in my musings on Lent.

The theme “Gesture: Language of the Heart” was birthed and Chris became our artist-in-residence. He shared his craftsmanship, he shared himself, and he shared his lived experience of Jesus and the Story. Chris took on the weekly readings as his own meditative practice. In the immediacy of his own reflections on the most impressionable aspects of the story, hand-gestured prints emerged. Some represent Jesus’ own human hands, others represent ours. Each week Chris delivered an image for our liturgical worship and several which the congregation could purchase. And, they did!

Each week, as a priest-spiritual director, I’d welcome our parish with opening acclamation, invocation, and gentle prompts to unfold, unwind as the Word, made visible by hand-prints, led us into silent reflection and response to God. After the Gospel reading expanded space for silence was offered to reflect on the Word, look again at the hand prints and meet with God. Our Lenten journey became less about words preached and more about the quietness of the heart’s native tongue speaking in ways the heart knows to speak. It was a communal experience of learning a new prayerful language as we leaned into silence and offered up holy hands in attentive response to Jesus. We held onto Jesus’ hand by way of Chris’ companioning art. We were tutored and marked by the resonance of the visual Gospel articulation. We understood intuitively we were being held by the hand of God and learned to hold others in the space we inhabit in God on earth.

I invite you, dear reader, to sit with the Gospel stories offered in the Lenten Lectionary for Year A noted under each hand-print. Pause to look at the gestured imprints. Let them prompt you into a posture of receptivity and responsiveness. Then, let words and wordiness drop away. In your own imaginative way, sign the prayer-language of your heart with your own hands and body to God. Blessed Lent.


For personal reflection:


Matthew 4:1-11 “I Resist/I Receive”     John 3:1-17 “Lift Up”               John 4:5-42 “The Holding”

      (The Temptation)                  (The Son of Man will Be Lifted Up)            (The water of Life)



John 9:1-41 “Sent/Sight”                     John 11:1-45 “Come Forth”            Matthew 21:1-10, 27:11-24

 (The Blind man sees)                              (Lararus’ Resurrection)                  “Crown or Crucify”

                                                                                                            (Holy Week: Palm Sunday)



      John 18:1- 19:42 “Extreme Humility”                  Matthew 28:1-10 “The Rescue”

        (Holy Week: Good Friday)                               (Easter: Resurrection Sunday)


All lino prints were made in 2017 and are 4”x6”.

Christopher Gonzales-Aden: is an artist from Los Angeles, CA. Chris has a B.S. from Biola University in Drawing and Painting. He is primarily a charcoal and graphite drawer and printmaker but has also explored mosaic and sculpture. Most of his images involve the human figure. “The figure is the most personal and intimate yet universal and communal thing among humans. Its unique yet shared experience between individuals makes it the ideal vehicle to express and evoke ideas, feelings, and stories. I use the figure to understand my own experience and to understand the idea in my faith tradition of God taking on flesh in order to redeem mankind.” ; Instagram: chrisgaart ; Facebook: Christopher Gonzales-Aden

Elizabeth Khorey is an Anglican Priest, teacher, spiritual director, creator and curator of sacred environments of worship gatherings and retreats. She lives in Southern California and is completing her doctorate in spiritual formation at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (South Hamilton, MA, USA).



GLEN WORKSHOP – The Glen Workshop is a week-long summer conference/retreat featuring classes taught by professional poets, writers, and visual artists.  It began in 1995 as part of the practical vision of Image, a highly regarded American quarterly literary journal that publishes art and writing engaging Judeo-Christian faith. This year The Glen Workshop will be held in Seattle, WA, USA, July 16-22, 2023. More info

JONATHAN EVENS ABOUT DONATELLO ON ARTLYST – Donatello: The Divine Fused With The Human V&A, London, 11 February – 11 June 2023. “About one-third of the way into Donatello: Sculpting the Renaissance we encounter a ‘Virgin and Child’ tondo by Giovanni Pisano, a startlingly naturalistic image in which the Virgin emerges out from the frame of the tondo towards us while the infant Christ also directs his blessing in the same direction. The work of Pisano, who Henry Moore called “the first modern sculptor”, was undoubtedly studied by 15th century artists like Donatello and was a likely source of early inspiration.” Read more

MICHAEL GALOVIC RESURRECTION TRYPTICH – On Art/s and Theology Australia Kerrie Magee wrote about The Resurrection Tryptich by Michael Galovic. “The completed work would thus contain a central contemporary work in muted tones, a first panel drawing on images of objects coming from a collection that has been a part of Christian iconography with its central image, the crucifix, having been used since the fourth century CE and a third panel based on a medieval manuscript. This seemingly disparate grouping also needed to be created in a way that would form a coherent whole.” Read more

SUMMER COURSE MARY McCAMPBELL – 24 July – 28 July, 13.30 – 16.30 h, onsite & online, Regent College, 5800 University Blvd, Vancouver, BC: Summer Course Mary McCampbell: The Arts, Empathy, and Spiritual Formation. Our malnourished capacity for empathy flows out of an equally malnourished imagination. To truly love and welcome others, we need to strengthen our imagination, learning to see our neighbours as God sees them. To do this, we need stories–stories that illuminate and convict, take us beyond ourselves, and enable us to see the beauty and complexity of our neighbours’ worlds. Join us for an interdisciplinary exploration of narrative art in literature, film, television, nd music, as we discover how expanding our imaginations can embolden and empower us to love our neighbours as ourselves. Read more

BANKSY – On the Christian Art website: Banksy and Matthew 23:1-12, They do not practice what they preach. Read here

ONLINE EVENT ABOUT THE STATIONS – On March 20, Bridge Projects will host an online talk about Lucas Reiner’s “Fifteen Stations,” inspired by the Lenten tradition. Reiner will be joined by art historian Nora M. Heimann, who will lay the groundwork for a discussion of Reiner’s Stations by sharing about their presence in devotional settings, along with an exploration of the Stations’ importance in art and religious history. Learn more + register for this free event here

CONTEMPORARY ART AND THE LOVING LOOK“The Loving Look” by Dr. Elissa Yukiko Weichbrodt. In this keynote address for the 2018 Beautiful Orthodoxy conference, art historian Elissa Yukiko Weichbrodt, author of Redeeming Vision: A Christian Guide to Looking at and Learning from Art, discusses how contemporary art—the type of art we typically want to look away from—can drive us to confession, empathy, and love. Sharing her experience with three contemporary artworks, she talks about art as a place where we can experience sanctification and common grace; how the Incarnation further invested our material world with significance; art as an invitation to embodied knowledge; art as part of how we order and understand our physical world; artworks as mirrors and shapers of culture; and how viewers, not just artists, are called to faithfulness.

BOOK ABOUT FAITH AND ART IN BRASILArt and Spirituality: The Christian and Brazilian Culture by Rodolfo Amorim, Marcos Almeida and David Lake. A portrait of the beauty, truth and goodness present in Brazilian cultural manifestations. Few themes are as fundamental for Brazil today as the ability of Brazilian Christians, especially evangelicals, to deal with the rich and challenging complexities of the national culture. Projected as the largest national religious group of the next decade, how can evangelicals understand and relate to Brazilian culture and its historical legacy? The answer could largely define the horizons of Brazilians' lives for generations to come. In an innovative way the book presents how Christians can relate to the national culture from a point of view that considers both the cultural possibilities of the Christian faith and the historical-cultural realities that form the nation Brazilian. The authors (two academics and an artist) touch on themes as varied as the historical and current situation of women, blacks and indigenous peoples in Brazil to the contours of baroque, modern and contemporary art produced. A work that reflects on how artistic and cultural artifacts feed the Brazilian imagination and contribute to its identity formation, and how this relates to the theological concept of common grace. In Portuguese only (Arte e espiritualidade: O cristão e a cultura brasileira), more info see here.

EXHIBITION THEODORE AND CATHERINE PRESCOTT – Until 20 April, Barrington Center for the Arts, 255 Grapevine Road, Wenham, Massachusetts: Matter and Substance. This husband and wife retrospective by Theodore & Catherine Prescott recently opened at Gordon College. Discover their unique perspective on sculpture and portraits. Their individual works often draw on Christian themes and seek to reveal a connection with each other. Mo – Sa, 9 – 19 h.

DAN CALLIS STATIONS: RESURGAM EXHIBITION – Until 31 March, The Earl and Virginia Green Art Gallery, Biola University, 13800 Biola Ave., La Mirada, CA: Stations: Resurgam, grief, lament, and meaning making by Daniel Callis. Stations: Resurgam is a collection of work that explores grief, lament, and meaning-making themes informed by the writings of Kubler-Ross, Kessler, and Weller. Drawing on historic liturgical practices of Western Christian and Moroccan Islam, Callis has constructed a methodology of production employing a variety of organic grid forms and net patterns sourced from vertical and horizontal orientations of the weaver’s loom. These configurations point to the human/divine stories of the New Testament gospels. The exhibition includes a series of 15 works that take their structural and narrative cues from the Christian praxis, known as the Stations of the Cross. According to Callis, “The works in this exhibition serve as a prayer offering and an attempt to chart the unchartable. They are about pain and the absurd insistent pursuit of hope.”  9:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m. (Monday - Friday).

KUNST IN DER PASSIONZEIT IN LUZERN SWITZERLAND – 22 Februar – 10 April, Peterskappelle und Matthäuskirche, Kapellpl. 1a, Luzern: KUNST IN DER PASSIONSZEIT mit Barbara Jäggi. Was haben Metallfindlinge, ein tropfender Ast und eine Wolke aus Sumpfbinsen gemeinsam? Auf den ersten Blick nicht viel. Ausser vielleicht, dass sie von derselben Künstlerin stammen – der seit vielen Jahren in Luzern arbeitenden und lebenden Barbara Jäggi. Und doch führen alle Objekte mitten in die biblische Passionsgeschichte hinein. Sie laden ein, Passion und Auferstehung Jesu neu zu sehen und zu erfahren. Öffnungszeiten:

For more exhibitions, lectures, conferences etc., click here

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