Thursday, April 25, 2013

"Eyes of the Heart" -- A Review

Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a ChristianContemplative Practice, Christine Valters Paintner’s latest book, is moving, helpful, challenging and inspiring.  Which is not surprising, given Christine’s record of turning out such books (two of my favorites are The Artist's Rule: Nurturing Your Creative Soul with Monastic Wisdom and Awakening the Creative Spirit: Bringing the Arts to Spiritual Direction).

Christine, besides being an author, is a Benedictine Oblate, writer, artist, spiritual director, retreat facilitator, and teacher. She’s also the on-line abbess for Abbey of the Arts, an amazing site that you should know about, if you don’t already.  I’m a regular visitor to the site and participant in her “Invitation to Photography” spirituality exercises.  She’s going to guest blog here soon!

As a photographer, as soon as I heard about Eyes of the Heart, I knew I wanted to read it.  I was not disappointed.  Christine is a wise writer and grand guide into the idea of combining contemplation and photography.  I appreciate this as I’ve been doing what I call “praying with my camera” for years.  In some ways, Christine’s concept is similar to Sybil MacBeth’s concept of “Praying in Color” -- an active, visual, and meditative form of intercessory prayer.

We find that the title comes from Ephesians 1:18 when Christine writes, “Photography as a spiritual practice combines the active art of image-receiving with the contemplative nature and open-heartedness of prayer.  It cultivates what I call sacred seeing or seeing with ‘the eyes of the heart.’”  Of course, this resonates with me – having written myself about learning to see deeply as a spiritual practice (Mind the Light) and the integration of body, mind, and soul to experience the Divine as we move through this world (Awaken Your Senses). 

Eyes of the Heart is filled with thoughts helpful and inspiring.  “For me, both art and spirituality are truly about tending to the moments of life: listening deeply, holding space, encountering the sacred, and touching eternity.  For a few seconds I touch time beyond time and in that spacious presence my heart grows wider, my imagination frees, my breath catches, and I am held in awe and wonder.  These are the moments that help to make life full of meaning.”  Indeed.  Words such as that are an invitation to experience God breaking through – via the means of a simple tool that many of us have in phones even, a camera.  It’s a gadget that is often thought of just as that – a gadget – rather than a entry into eternity and spiritual experience.  Christine’s book helps us broaden our spiritual horizons whether through phone camera or professional DLSRs. 

Make no mistake.  This is no book solely for photographers.  It is for anyone who desires a fresh way of connecting the visible daily life with the often unnoticed Divine presence in it all.  It opens a new way of seeing God at work in and around us.  We behold beauty, life, truth and love as we learn to notice – as we accept Christine’s invitation to “see with the eyes of the heart.”

Sorin Books (2013)
152 pages, paper, $15.95

1 comment:

Faith Hope and Cherrytea said...

TY for this lovely post and your responses to the book!