The place of writing an icon is important, at least it has become so for me. On the surface with paint tubes, brushes and papers strewn everywhere the place can appear to be nothing more than a cluttered mess. In fact though it is a place of prayer and reflection – a place of encounter between one human soul and that which is much deeper and more true – the Divine.
My icon writing “place” is a drafting table. A gift given by some friends a few years ago. Currently the table occupies an area in my office at the Catholic Center looking out the front windows. Sitting at the desk with the blinds open I look straight out onto the front porch of the house and beyond that onto Locust Street. I many ways – I have come to realize – I look out onto life. Across University Parkway from campus with well kept sidewalks, beautiful old houses (large and small) and large shading trees the tree streets neighborhood is very inviting to many people.
So far during my first five months at this residence I have seen a July 4th parade pass by (replete with children on tricycles and even a fire truck with flashing lights) and a Halloween costumed group of revelling, college students walk by – to the next house party I assumed. Everyday I see college students ride by on bikes going to a from campus. I have seen whole families out for a stroll and have even witnessed a grandmother pulling two infant grandchildren in a red wagon. Couples hand in hand, young and old, find the trees streets to be a very inviting place to stroll. And always there are children either carrying book bags or baseball bats…
A few days ago I looked up from my desk in order to catch the sight of a gust of wind moving a swirling cloud of fall leaves down the street. “The Spirit blows where it wills…” I thought.
Place is important – where God has put us at this moment, at this time in our lives. Wherever this may be, God has us here for a reason. For me, my place is now the Catholic Center at ETSU in Johnson City, TN. – my hometown, being close to family and ministering to this community.
I also hold that the move to make a space for God is also important because allowing God a space sanctifies the place we happen to find ourselves occupying. Whether “making space” means setting aside fifteen minutes a day to pray, making a prayer corner in one’s home (and using it) or having a drafting table to write icons on – the space allows God in. The space allows God to touch the movement of our lives and to bless it.
Mary and Elizabeth – the two women embracing in the icon of the Visitation – allowed a space for God in their lives. They let God in and they knew joy for it.