Given Love to Give Love

Icons Speak: Beginning with Mary

In Mary, I found inspiration for my book called In Light of Women. After copying hundreds of images of icon images of the mother of God, I discovered not only the deep mystical Mary message held by tradition, but at least one valuable lesson waiting to be learned in our time. The definition for “Who is Mary?” has changed to suit various theological questions in the church. She was the simple Mother of God who became the Virgin Mother and then the Immaculate Conception. She is continually hailed as the queen of contemplation and her obedience to God is inspiring through her supreme act of selflessness. She is so “Holy” her very being is unattainable for any human being, yet I still imagine her as a women and mother like myself.

The image of Mary has changed along with her relevance, the church needed to continually transform her identity to fit with its desired image of women. For 2,000 years woman have been encouraged to be seen and not heard, to be bodies of perfect motherhood and endless committed service.

As Mary changed in history, I changed as I painted her image.

In my heart, I explored the grieving and weeping Mary of the Renaissance, I painted the best I could the mystical distant gaze of Mary in ancient iconography, and finally I came to understand that Mary is the container for the divine to be known. She became for me the church. She became the womb, the door of the church through which I enter, to learn to learn how to grace the world with my contribution of love. If Christ is love walking among us I go to the church to learn to become that which she birthed, I too am born in His image through her.

I find it ironic that Christian mystics, mostly men, have spoken and expanded the spiritual understanding of God for nearly two thousand years and, in doing so, have controlled and shaped our society without the help of women. Mary has used the spoken word, making our understanding of her elusive. Mary is a woman who, by her human act, gave birth to the most transcendent truth which is love.

Love is by far the very thing the world needs for its Healing.

This triptych of three icons illustrates what I discovered in Mary and her many images: Receive, Nurture, and Release. These three stages in the life of Mary teach us a new attitude towards creation: First, like Mary we are given divinity within, we create with what we have received, then we love and nurture what we have created. The first two are a challenge but nothing like the final image. Ultimately we are called to release and give away to the world our valuable creation. The metaphor speaks to our ego, loving what we think we own, what we think we created and our want to protect and keep it for ourselves. Mary’s journey is a replica of what we are called to, to fully love and nurture as she did and finally give it to the world, with no agenda or restriction. This is not easy but becomes absolute trust in God. Love is given for us to give Love in the world.

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Art and Image in Iconography

Ancient Image, Sacred Lines                  By Mary Jane Miller

NEW WEBSITE DESIGN

These are great resource for your church or school, books filled with spiritual imagery offering contemporary ideas with an old world feel for the divine. The images are bold, historical and fun to color, while the journal space beside each image is for jotting down reflections and insights. Purchase a collection for your congregations and support the arts in church

Ancient Image, Sacred Lines is an ideal option for members from the community who want to work on a commemorative project; for a love one who is about to move away; or a wonderful memorial gift for any one of your parishioners. If you’re a painter or like to color, the artist in you can pick the image you’d like to work with. Ancient Image, Sacred lines is also perfect for those who like to write in journals, take notes or just write down thoughts.

For children and adults alike.

This wonderful book of Ancient Image, Sacred Lines will prove to be a fun and interesting journey. Each of these 26 historical images can be used for meditation or as a template for those who have painted icons before and are looking for new ideas to experiment with. Enjoy!

Write a book of your own, where you color the illustrations as well as write the text. Experiment with markers, watercolors, crayons, pencils or pastels to create your own iconographic art.

Each image has a tiny message and an empty page to fill with text, encouraging you to write out your own insights and thoughts about the image. With time you will have a wonderful visual journal filled with memories.

A collection of images, ideal for those reflective moments in life; whether at home or in the hospital, this is something you can use during those WAITING moments in life. Ancient Image, Sacred lines is designed to offer caring spiritual support during difficult moments in life.

Mary Jane Miller is offering a creative idea, a way to slow down and concentrate on the beauty happening in your own inner journey to places unknown.

Icon Painting Technique, a meditation and guide to egg tempera explains the subtle relationship between the process of icon painting and how it reflects and enriches ones spiritual life. Mary Jane Miller discusses her technique, the history and meaning of icon painting.

The Mary Collection   This collection of Mary icons captures the great mysteries of the Madonna, drawing attention to the relationship between Mary and Christ, and the viewer. A wide range of imagination and potential is explored this tiny book.

 Search for author Mary Jane Miller on LULU.com or AMAZON,  The E books available too.

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Healing, Healed and Healer

This past week St Paul’s Anglican Church in San Miguel Allende hosted a panel discussion focused on; Healer, Healed and Healing. They unanimously concluded; humanity is imbued with a great capacity to know and desire its own wholeness which is found in an energy or natural order greater than any of us can fully conceive. Believe it, seek it and know it is always with you.

Humankind is most happy when we are “being whole” and “healthy”, yet that wellness is found in diverse and multi-dimensional ways. Healing — What is it? How does it happen? Where? When? Who gets to heal and who gets healed? What heals? What are the effective ways healing can happen? Is there a spiritual dimension to healing? The two-hour introductory panel discussion determined without a doubt to be healed we need to be connected to the divine power in and around us.

We are healed, healing and healers together,

seeking maximum harmony and a balanced life.

Awareness of health or illness begins when we close our eyes and become still enough to realize there is infinite space inside us, more than we can imagine. We all begin and end in that same space, our name, practice or perception may be the only difference.

Our panel participants consisted of three perspectives, given by three individual practitioners speaking about their faith/belief as it has unfolded in their respective lives.

Laura R. Torres employs her extensive academic tools found in Cultural Sciences — philosophy, hermeneutics, epistemology — in conjunction with her work as an Aj’quij, a Mayan spiritual guide — a counter and interpreter of Mayan sacred time.

Bishop William O. Gregg is the current parish rector at St. Paul’s Anglican Church in San Miguel de Allende. An interesting and diverse theologian, with a doctorate in theology from Notre Dame.

Susan J. Cobb, C. S., lifelong practitioner of Christian Science for twenty years. She was a chaplain in California jails and prisons and author of Virgin Territory: How I Found My Inner Guadalupe.

I want to recap some of their insights and add a few of my own conclusions gleaned from this important discussion. Laura mentioned an interior duality which requires a constant dialogue and listening to retain a balanced life style. William and Susan both expanded saying, the interior conversation strengthened their ongoing and daily relationship with God, the source of “be”ing. Whatever your practice is, commit to it and, refer to it every day as if it was your friend. We are guided by an invisible cosmic order we can talk to which guides and nurture us back to wholeness, whether it be illness of the body, mind or spirit.

The universe has a natural order, as Laura said, “things just are” I think she meant, in natural balance all the time and Susan added by saying, “I know I am whole and complete” and William went further by sighting St Paul’s biblical description of the “The Body of Christ” as being something we are inseparable from, we are part of the body like an eye lash or toe nail. All of them clearly spoke about Love being at the core of life as we know it; it is who we are and why we are here. Love teaches us we are not alone, it is the binding force and the greatest of healers.

Humans need an object to love, to nurture a relationship inside and out.

William reminded us we come upon this perfected love by degrees, gradually as we deepen our prayer and commitment. Laura advised we “softly” ask for assistance and guidance from the cosmic realm to love more and it will surely come. Susan shared her revelation and joy that she found in being cared for, by a loved one. I liked this part of the discussion, it seemed to me without love of self and love of other we are alone and isolated. Thinking we are isolated is the biggest and most savage enemy of illness. Illness feeds on being separate from the whole. We occasionally have thoughts like; “why did this happen to me?” or “I feel so alone” or “I am somehow imperfect “, yet I think attitudes like this cause us to die faster, we end up depressed and filled with anxiety. Individual spiritual practice and commitment to community brings us back into balance and as Laura said, “It feels like an alignment of two poles; heaven and earth, spirit and flesh, beginning and end ”.

Think about it for a moment, anxiety about death or fear of not being whole or healthy can be the ultimate separation. Fear of loosing control gets its power from wanting or thinking we are separate from ( fill in the blank) ____. I am independent of the group, I am fine alone, I can care for myself, and I cannot trust anyone, are all statements with no room for new energy, new wholeness, or no perspectives. William likened it to a two year old who says,” Me, Mine and NO ”. William told a story about a priest who detached himself from the activities in the congregation, he became isolated and ineffective. Again, like St. Paul the evangelist saying, we are all part of one body, we cannot live and flourish away from the whole.

As we came to a close Laura talked about a string with a knot in it; the knot messes up the string but it is temporary, with time and attention the knot might get bigger or it might disappear. Susan used the metaphor of cleaning a window. We see more clearly what exists outside of us if we continually keep the grim and dirt off the window.

I want to thank the three of you for sharing your insights and convictions. The afternoon was a delight and we hope to have another panel not too far in the future.

Susan left us with a question, “How big is your God?”

I suggest we continually seek to allow him or her or it to be big enough to include an unexpected healing, personal wholeness without an agenda and be thankful for the love in whose image we have all been created. Peace be with you

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Women in Christian Sacred Images

Being a practicing Christian all my life and dedicated to the practice of painting (writing) icons. One cannot help but make some startling observations and deductions. I would like to share some of the conclusions I have made while reading Biblical text, going to liturgy, and praying with as well as painting icons.

Let me begin with a the misunderstood Adam and Eve story: it is interpreted too often with Eve as being created second to Adam and responsible for original sin, which

Women Who Teach 2016

of course became all women’s greatest sin, causing men to be tempted by sexual sin. How do you go from eating fruit to sexual sin? How is it that for generations women hold the fault, not the men for acting on the “sin”. In 1 Corinthians 14:34 : “Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak…”, the new testament continues with verses that ultimately prohibit them from serving in positions of authority, the like of which has effected every women’s place in society. In actuality, beginning as early as the fourth century the dominant Christian leaders, all men, twisted and distorted Holy Scriptures to thwart the ascendant positions for women within the religious hierarchy and in christian societies in general.

Miller Art and Icon

The underlying teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, – all call for the proper and equitable treatment of God’s children. I have always known in my heart and soul, women are not inferior to men; without a doubt, God loves humanity equally. Tragically, as an iconographer of 25 years, self taught and inspired, I have not had to look far to see that in this great tradition that I so love, the place of women in the iconographers community or in the images depicted, they have been noticeably absent until recently; those Women in Christian Sacred Images.

Holy and Mystical Union 2017

Now ironically, women may be holding the means to this great sacred art forms survival. Those who are graced with the desire to paint sacred text, have an obligation as prayer practitioners to re-examine how or why Women are not mentioned in the great feast days like Pentecost, The Last Supper, or The Baptism of Christ, etc. It is not God’s commandment that they are not heard of in text or seen in sacred image.  When you stand before an icon for any amount of time you cannot help but see first the beauty they have as a work of art. A well done icon is a powerful tool and often provokes insights and visions. This interior conflict for women because of our absence within the fullness of societies and the church is a worthy discussion we all need to engage in. We live in an age of great bigotry, self righteousness and personalized isolation. Including more women in Icons stimulates new perspectives on a theological issue which is still in it’s infancy. When the feminine voice and new icon images are ushered into today’s church community, the addition will benefit us all.

Some might ask, why would I care about such details. If you are an iconographer you are supposed to transcribe the Bible word for word and uphold the theological doctrines which the church maintains. The problem for me is my thinking mind. The Virgin Mother Mary being portrayed as the perfected obedient servant and silent mother has been a hindrance to the development of women, their activities and their voice in the Christian church institution.

Desert Mystic 2015

I am asking for a simple review to rectify what we all are beginning to see as misguided behavior of the past. The attitudes of those in authority must change if we are to going to have a thriving church in the future. Inquisitive women like myself have always been around Christ listening to His message, they were there cooking and cleaning at the Last Supper, at the wedding at Canon and when He fed the five thousand. When Christ invited the children, you can be sure the mothers were there, too. These women were imbued with unrecognized human qualities: those who speak and those who contemplate, those who teach and those who administer and, finally, those who are mystics with their wisdom, living and walking among us. If we believe that God’s boundless presence is reflected through sacred text and in iconographic image, then the New Eve can and should live in communion with the New Adam to offset the gender imbalance in science, art, government, religion and all other facets of life.

World leaders have recently published a statement that declares: “The justification of discrimination against women and girls on grounds of religion or tradition, as if it were prescribed by a Higher Authority, is unacceptable.” It is time for the church “fathers” to draft a similar statement.

While I am painting new images of women in iconography, I am also challenging all denominations within the Christian church to re-frame parts of Holy Scriptures which have justified the superiority of men over women. We are told we are One body in God, called to be One mind in Christ. Let us live into that reality where Christian women will served as deacons, priests, bishops, apostles, mystics, healers, teachers and prophets, etc. through image and word. ” More of my images  San Miguel Icons

I welcome any and all comments. Creating Sacred Images is a strong and powerful practice, image builds our relationship with God and gives us new tools to explore liturgy. May we all keep this in prayer form and practice alive for God to guide to Iconographers, women and men, to create the Holy images for our time and culture today; look for new Women in Christian Sacred Images

May God bless you and keep you, and may His wisdom fill all that you think, say and do.

Amen!

 

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Encaustic Artist in San Miguel Allende

August 7 to 11, 2017

RUBEN AMARO

Ruben Amaro is a patient and gentle instructor of this ancient art form. He is widely recognized on the continent for images of horses and Flamenco dancers. His skill and collections in Encuaustic are unique. He has studied extensively with Maestro Francisco de Santiago Silva in the traditional technique and offers us all time to explore the medium as beginners.

The workshop will be held in the historic colonia of San Antonio tucked away in San Miguel Allende, Mary Jane Miller will host Ruben Amaro as a Guest artist in her studio this August. We will have several of his original works on display. The atmosphere is quiet and ideal for the time we will share at this event. For more information

RUBEN will be offering two sessions;

Mornings 9 AM to 12 and Afternoons and  2 to 5PM     2,400 pesos per session

Glazing and Collage

A bit about the technique. Beeswax is a natural preservative, making it an ideal material for artists who want to incorporate fragile or non-archival elements in their work. The medium is a mix of pure filtered white beeswax and damar resin. Essentially, it’s encaustic paint without pigment. Add it to encaustic paints to increase translucency for glazing, or as an economical sizing for panels. On its own, it can be used for effortless collage work.

Absorbent papers, cloth, yarn, string and plant materials are all ideal components for a successful collage. Embedding flat objects will trill the edges of our creative spirits. In addition to collage we will of course learn to use the encaustic medium, mixed with the dry pigments with a wide range of colors, making the final work semi transparent. This is an ancient technique, one they seldom teach in art schools anywhere in the world. Come and join us,morning or afternoon session.

Email: arte.ruben.amaro@gmail.com 

follow him on FACEBOOK link  https://www.facebook.com/ruben.amaro.351

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday night we will have several professional presenters from the community of San Miguel to show their work, discuss the process and enjoy beverages, wine and cheese while we listen to tier stories. Ezshwan  and Kate to start us off… 7 PM ..

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Gnosticism; Futile Ground

Gnosticism is called a heresy by some.

According to tradition, a heretic is one who deviates from the true (christian) faith. But what defines that “true faith”? Who calls it that, and for what reasons? I have drifted way out on a previous post, Christ and Aliens, it demonstrates my desire to keep a flexible and somewhat humorous mind when it comes to truth. I quietly pause when I hear there is only one truth! The Gnostic ideas from Nag Hammadi texts, Dead Sea Scrolls and Akhmim codex at one time must have held truth for someone, the question remains for the established church is, should we build a religion around those truths?

The texts are evidence of a rich plethora of ideas which flourished before the time of Christ, up to 300 AD but unfortunately many texts were destroyed or hidden. The destruction of the Library in Alexandria Egypt wiped out much of the Essence recorded history. The fire in the time of Julius Ceaser, 48 BC, the Aurelian massacre in 270 AD and finally the complete destruction decreed by Coptic Pope, Theophilus in 391 AD which included the “Daughter library” contributed to more literary loss. Four hundred years later, the Muslims sacked and destroyed even more including icons and ancient manuscripts. And of course we have the library of the Vatican which is not been exactly accessible to all. So when we speak of “biblical truth”, we must remember it is a limited truth given to us through the filtered decisions and debates of a few dating back 2,000 years.

1,800 years ago Christianity had No formalized Doctrines.

Archaeologists over the past hundred years have been unearthing text might intensify and deepen our spiritual vocabulary, their findings allow us to rethink time tested slogans and preconceived understandings of who we think Jesus was. Hopefully, we will continue to look forward to the work of scholars who study and compare traditions, as their work promises to inspire a new eye for commonality and the evolution of the human spirit.

Many ideas that we associate with Eastern religions emerged in the first century through the Gnostic movement in the West, some roots are found deeper in the Hebrew teachings. Most would agree the Christian institution in general has condemned the Gnostic movement and their teachings. We are told to be cautious of Gnostic teachings, to never trust a heretic, the holy bible is God’s final word. Christians and Hebrews alike needn’t be threatened by rethinking and re integrating old teachings with new perspectives. The mature christian knows that thoughts are not always of the devil and doubt brings the mind into new perspectives.

Our Hearts and Minds are fertile ground

Essene means “sprouted bread”. The bread we have been digesting within the Judea-Christian traditional because of newly discovered text found within the past 100 years is waiting to sprout.

The Essene communities were considered to have been lead by a group of “Teachers of Righteousness”. They were groups of philosophers, living in Palestine, Syria and Judea. There formation was a sect of Judaism that flourished from the 2nd century BCE to the 1st century CE. It is logical to think friends of Jesus would have known of them and had opinions about their ideas. Most scholars believe that the community named the Qumran (also named Sadducee ) allegedly produced the Dead Sea Scrolls and might have been an offshoot of the Essene. These lost teachings have been unacknowledged by christian traditional church and synagogue.

DEAD SEA SCROLLS consist of some 981 different texts, discovered between 1946 and 1956 in Qumran, Egypt written by the Jewish sect called the Essence 300 BC to 100 AD. I find it significant that these texts took more than 30 years to became public in 1991, when the Biblical Archaeology Society was able to publish the “Facsimile Edition of the Dead Sea Scrolls”, after an intervention of the Israeli government and the Israeli Antiquities Authority. Since they seem to have a significant Judea-Christian message, now may be the time to reflect on the passages for guidance and insight by both and look towards reconciliation between the faiths.

Opportunity for change

I believe deep meditation, listening to the spirit and a good deal of silence teaches without words, this is the core behind Gnostic and Contemporary Ideas. The practice can and will guide us, and at times change and shift tradition. These texts were discovered in 1945 at Nag Hammadi, Egypt also called the Nag Hammadi Codex II, dated to the 4th century.

Earlier still, the GOSPEL OF MARY discovered in 1896 on a 5th-century papyrus codex is considered an apocryphal book. Originally written in Greek, the Akhmim Codex was found in Cairo Egypt and published 1938 and 1983 It is interesting not only this text was found earlier than the others mentioned above but it is not considered a REAL gospel, rather a non-canonical gospel. The term ‘gospel’ is used as a label for any written text whose primarily focus is on recounting the teachings and/or activities of Jesus during his adult life. These texts are said to be only fragments but the words and message fall within the modern context, we live in an age where the church community reads and writes. Gnostic and Contemporary Ideas are intriguing not to be feared or discounted.

Stretch the mind.

Page 55 Gnostic Gospel of Philip  Read these fragments and tell me if it does not harbor some insights into our behavior, spoken like a ‘new age’ attitude for this millennium.

All that is composite will decompose and return to its origin, but those who are awake to reality without beginning or end know the un-created the eternal.

All the words we hear in this word only deceive us. If they were in the temple space, they would keep silent and no longer refer to worldly things, in the Temple all is silent.

Light and Dark, life and death, right and left are brothers and sisters. They are inseparable. This is why goodness is not always good, Violence not always violent, life not always enlivening, death not always deadly. Page 55 Gnostic Gospel of Philip

Great questions arise from words like  these. Gnostic and Contemporary Ideas are not new, only the teaching sounds new.

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Unexpected Transformation

Making seen that which is unseen.

I have come to see the world as a metaphor, nearly everything which happens to us is screaming to be understood through the eye of spirit, we just need to reflect long enough to hear the message. The awe of the unexpected opens us up in a moment but its significance can hover throughout our life trying to reveal its great wisdom.

In 1976, I first met my husband’s mother, Dometila on the ranch, in a black soot filled kitchen with a low roof and dirt floor in Mexico. The community all agreed she made the finest cheese anywhere. I did not know the significance of her fame for making cheese till one day we sat together as she made some. I had come into the kitchen after she had prepared the goat milk by boiling it on an open wood hearth and it was cooling in the metal can in the corner with a towel over the top. She situated the large can of milk by the door and straddled herself on a low stool just behind the bucket. She dropped a tiny piece of dried goat stomach into the milk and sat there looking at me.

 

After 5 minutes or so she leaned forward and gently submerged both hands deep down into the very warm milk up to her elbows. She sat there with me never saying a word and only one or two small movements with her arms in the milk. It looked to me like she was adjusting her spine or shoulders as she sat still as stone for about 15 minutes. Then with no warning or explanation she slightly leaned back. She pulled her arms up out of the milk, between her two dark wrinkly old hands came a perfect ball of white curd, shinny smooth ready to put in the bag to press out the whey.

 

Amazing! Icons are like that!

They are made by millions of tiny quiet intentional brushstrokes, which become beauty and nourishment for the soul. The story is significant for me because she seemed to have made something out of nothing, she transformed liquid into solid, she made flesh out of spirit.

I was raised up like that lump of curd from warm milk, lifted out of my 60 years of effort and made into a walking icon; I didn’t even notice what was happening. The thing is, we all come from the same kind of milk, the good stuff is turned into cheese and nutrition for others, and the whey is left behind.

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