Monday, February 9, 2009

St. Ignatius and Contemporary Iconography: Wounded at Pamplona

This week, I invite you to get to know St. Ignatius through contemporary icons.  At the Chapel of St. Ignatius at Seattle University, many would be familiar with the icons of Ignatius inside. Dora Bittau created 5 important scenes of Ignatius' life.  The Oregon Province Jesuits, however, actually commissioned her to do another set of 5, which was gifted to our novitiate the year I entered.  

Before I took my first vows, I thought it would be good to take pictures of these icons before I left for NY.  These aren't the best quality photos (for example, this one has a little flash on the right side), but I hope you may enjoy them, even finding them as tools for prayer.  To find icons that may move and inspire you.  

Icons aren't necessary art--rather, they are known more as "prayer windows", "meeting places of the divine and the world". The icon is itself a prayer, and its visual nature invites us to approach the mystery of God.  The Orthodox tradition is well known for its use of icons.  

Fr. William Hart McNichols, SJ, writes: 

"Icons change you from within, because they are a prayer.  They will at times create an atmosphere inside you to receive something new from God.  They will plough the field, or get ready the ground, so that you can receive what God is doing next...What you gaze at, you become."

In these Icons which I will be sharing this week, it is clear that Dora is prayerfully interacting with the story of Ignatius through the way she depicts things.  You will see in this first icon, for example, how she fuses the battle of Pamplona with modern images--most strikingly the image of two towers on fire, meant to connect to 9/11. 

This image, the battle of Pamplona, represents the turning point in Ignatius' life.  He was critically wounded from a cannon shot to his leg, leaving him with a limp the rest of his life. While he lay in bed, recovering, he was pretty bored out of his mind and wanted something fun to read, like romantic novels.  However, the house he was staying at had nothing to read except a book on the life of Christ and a book on the saints.  These readings were to profoundly move him that he wished to leave his past life behind of riches, honor, and womanizing, and to follow the path of Christ.  

So, our first icon of this week on the Spiritual Journey of St. Ignatius

Panel 1 of 5: Wounded at Pamplona

"Lord, teach us to be generous,
to us to serve you as you deserve;
To give and not to count the cost;
To fight and not to heed the wounds;
To toil and not to seek for rest;
To labor and not ask for any reward,
save that of knowing that we do your will."
      ~St. Ignatius


stevep said...

I decided to visit your site after seeing it linked on Ryan Duns' blog. I really like your writing so far. All the best!

Ryan Rallanka, SJ said...

Thank you! I appreciate your comments