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Sacred Stories Across Generations

“a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,
and from his roots a bud shall blossom.”
-Isaiah 11:1 (from the second Sunday of Advent)

Yesterday I gathered together all of the images I had found of my aunt and uncle (my mother’s siblings) as children and worked on creating something for each of them as a gift this Christmas.  I am not very close to my uncle so I am not sure how this will be received, but I felt the need and desire to create it.  This journey of reaching back across time and telling these stories through image and color has been so important to me, perhaps the most important spiritual work I am currently doing.

Genealogy is important in both Hebrew and Christian Scriptures.  Remembering from where you came was essential to understanding your identity.  I love the image of the Communion of Saints, the great circle of people who have walked this earth before us and are still present to us. Unfortunately we live in a time when the wisdom of elders is not valued and we are so distracted by the busyness of the present or the worries of the future, that we don’t hold the same awareness of these stories that flow through our blood from generations past.  We are disconnected from the struggles of our foremothers and fathers and the insights they offer to our own calling. 

I know I am just beginning this journey of discovery.  There is so much more waiting for me to claim.  I am beginning to see how story is really a series of concentric circles, beginning with my personal immediate experience.  The next ring is my ancestral stories, then next are the cultural stories that have shaped each of the people in my bloodline, and then the global story of the human race, and finally the cosmic story of how the universe itself came into being.  All of these levels beat within me making up the beauty and complexity of who I am and who you are.

As you prepare to gather with family this season, perhaps reflect on the questions you want to ask of relatives to begin piecing together the larger story.  You never know what you might discover.

-Christine Valters Paintner @ Abbey of the Arts

**(technical notes: there is a lot of light reflecting on these images and they are too large for my scanner, so they aren’t quite as clear as they could be and they look more yellow than they actually are.  I used two 11×14 inch wooden boards as the base and gel medium to coat them with white tissue paper.  Then I added light body acrylics in silver and copper, followed by the images, molding paste or garnet gel at some of the edges and some liquid acrylic ink for accents.  After they dried I added some stamping from stamps I have made before.)

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6 Responses

  1. You’re welcome DebraAnn and welcome to the blog and the Sacred Arts ring!

    Miss Eagle, thanks for your reflections on the communion of saints, definitely a concept to update and reclaim!

    Tess, the TV program sounds very interesting. One thing I am coming to realize is how pretty much my whole mother’s side is descended from England, although her father’s line has been here since at least the early 1700’s, but her mother’s mother apparently came here from Leamington Spa. So I think a trip will be in order the summer after this one since I’d love to go bak to Ireland as well.

    kigen, thanks for sharing that very moving image! I am blessed with extraordinarily thoughtful readers. :-)

    Thanks lucy for encouraging me in my first moments of birthing this project when I was feeling quite reticent. I hope your brother receives this gift with an open heart as well. Let me know where the journey takes you next!

  2. it is so wonderful to see the finished products here after having the privilege to sit with you as the collage for your uncle was birthed :-) it makes me smile. i sent my piece off to my brother yesterday with a little prayer that he will receive it in the spirit with which it was made. i pray the same for your uncle and hope that it may possibly be the key to open the door toward more conversation with him.
    i’m feeling those creative stirrings again myself. hmmmm…wonder where they will lead.
    wishing you a blessed and creative day! xoxoxox

  3. “‘Come unto me’ begins in every place.” ~ Emily Dickinson

    Jesus so loved his mother Mary, even on the cross
    he was much concerned to place her in the care of a

    At the same time he also says that all who hear the
    Word of God and heed it are his Mother, sister or

    There is a provocative woodcut by Mayumi Oda
    sent very kindly a while ago by a friend and
    which came to mind today after seeing Christine’s
    beautiful art and meditation on generations:

    In the print Mary has one hand cupped to her ear and the
    other hand cradling the Christ child. So even in the midst
    of child bearing, she is much concerned to attend to
    the voice within. This loving woodcut makes me feel that
    Mayumi Oda is my mother, my sister, my brother! And
    Christine, and so many people who comment at the Abbey —
    with an ear to the heart — make me feel that too!

  4. These are beautiful Christine, and I hope your uncle received his in the spirit you have created it.
    Yes, our lineage is important. I completely understand the impulse of people who have been adopted to track down their biological parents.
    In the UK, we have a television series which has been running for about three or four years called “Who do you think you are” in which various well-known people are helped to track back their ancestors. Even the most sceptical get caught up in the journey.

  5. What you say about the Communion of Saints resonates with my own thoughts. In the middle of the year I initiated a group in our church wish is called Dawn of Life. It is for those who have lost their life partner through death. In November, we had a speaker – whom we knew could speak from experience – and requested him to give us a new take on this old doctrine of the church. I think the respect for elders and those who have gone before is something we can learn from people who come from different but ancient cultures. Perhaps all their views and ways of look ing at things doesn’t jell with our Christian tradition, but there is so much that does. I think we need to look at that – and we have All Saints Day in which to commemorate it!

    Thank you.

    Blessings and bliss

  6. I have recently discovered a cousin of my mother that I am pretty sure she did not know. I don’t know why it is important for me to know my biological grandfather’s story but somehow it is. Thank you for reminding me that I should reach out again.