When I rise up
Let me rise up with joy
like a bird
When I fall
Let me fall
Like a leaf
This short prayer, one of the Sayings and Prayers of the Mad Farmer, by Wendell Berry is a favorite of mine. I have quoted it at many funerals in the past thirty-eight years of my priesthood. It re-framed walking through the dead and dying leaves of fall.
Today I was introduced to one of the greatest British artists of the 20th Century: Sir Stanley Spencer. The City Gallery of York is hosting an exhibition organized by the Tate Liverpool Museum. One of the interesting things to do when traveling, for me at least, is to visit local galleries.
A self portrait of Stanley Spencer (1891-1959) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Today was a joy. Spencer painted largely religious themes even though they may not have been obviously so. I particularly liked “Saint Francis Talks To The Birds” pictured below. Apparently the idea came to the artist one day when he saw his father feeding the birds in his dressing gown. So here Saint Francis speaks to the birds while wearing carpet slippers and a monk’s robe that looks more than a little like a bath robe.
I particularly like the fact that the ducks and chickens are very attentive, hanging on every word of the Saint. All living creatures have more in common than humans like to admit. The birds of the air are not in need of redemption as humans are but they do need redemption from our choices.