Theme 2 : Artwork 2

Reflection Title: 
Reflection Content: 

Suffering comes at us in a hundred different ways. There is the suffering perpetrated by others—arbitrary violence, war, prejudice, and deliberate bondage. Natural disasters can change the circumstances of life in a moment. The failure of the body and mind, suddenly or slowly, means disease threatens to eat up the future. And there is the other, more common source of suffering. It comes from deep within our character, from unresolved memories, utopian dreams, and habits out of control. Our finest desires turn to appetites, our empathy to enmity, and our natural joy sours. We turn in on ourselves. The balance needed for the good life, with our capacity for spontaneous movement, like that of a fine dancer, withers. “O where to that immortal and nameless Centre”? 

Story Title: 
Flight into Egypt
Story Content: 

. . . an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, and said to him, “Rise up, take the child and his mother and escape with them to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the child to do away with him.” So Joseph rose from sleep, and taking mother and child by night he went away with them to Egypt.
. . . .
When Herod saw how the astrologers had tricked him he fell into a passion, and gave orders for the massacre of all children in Bethlehem and its neighbourhood, of the age of two years or less, corresponding with the time he had ascertained from the astrologers. So the words spoken through Jeremiah the prophet were fulfilled: “A voice was heard in Rama, wailing and loud laments; it was Rachel weeping for her children, and refusing all consolation, because they were no more.”

—Matthew 2:13–14, 16–18

Contemporary Story Title: 
Pulling Life from Death
Contemporary Story Content: 

On October 2, 2006 in Pennsylvania’s Lancaster County, a 32 year-old milk driver named Charles Roberts was about to put the Amish belief in forgiveness to the ultimate test. In a tiny schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Roberts, who had been troubled by his own past, opened fire, killing five Amish girls and wounding five others. 

The Amish have a profound ability to absorb adversity, they have a strong sense of yieldedness to God, a sense of acceptance of whatever comes, to not argue with God, to not debate or fight with God, to not get angry at God. As the families began to recover from the horror, they said, “we need to go over and talk to the Roberts family and make sure they know we’re forgiving them.” So, it wasn’t a matter of rational decision making, it was more habitual, it’s woven into the fabric of the culture, it’s woven into the fabric of the faith. One element of this that enables the Amish to forgive is the strength of the community, that they don’t need to defend themselves individually, they don’t need to retaliate. Retribution is not a part of their vocabulary, because the community helps them absorb the hatred, the community support helps them to deal with the anger that they might have. Ten days later, the Amish elected to raise the schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, they could not allow their children to return to that site. But while the school is gone, the memory of that day, and the challenge to forgive remains.

Artwork Title: 
Turning Around
Artwork Content: 

Dorothea Lange, one of the leading photographers of the Farm Security Administration from 1935–1939, documented the problems of farmers who flooded California during the Great Depression. Lange described meeting Florence Owens Thompson, a mother of seven children seeking work in the pea-pickers camp:
“It was raining, the camera bags were packed, and I . . . was on my way and barely saw a crude sign with pointing arrow, which flashed by at the side of the road, saying PEA-PICKERS CAMP. But out of the corner of my eye I did see it, I didn’t want to stop, and didn’t. I didn’t want to remember that I had seen it, so I drove on and ignored the summons.
“Having well convinced myself for twenty miles that I could continue on, I did the opposite. Almost without realizing what I was doing I made a U-turn on the empty highway. I went back those twenty miles and turned off the highway at that sign. . . .
“I saw and approached the hungry and desperate mother, as if drawn by a magnet. I do not remember how I explained my presence or my camera to her, but I do remember she asked me no questions. I made five exposures, working closer and closer from the same direction. I did not ask her name or her history. She told me her age, that she was thirty-two. She said that they had been living on frozen vegetables from the surrounding fields, and birds that the children killed. She had just sold the tires from her car to buy food. There she sat in that lean-to tent with her children huddled around her, and seemed to know that my pictures might help her, and so she helped me. There was a sort of equality about it.” 

—Dorothea Lange, (1895-1965). “The Assignment I’ll Never Forget: Migrant Mother.” 

Question Title: 
Who robs me of life?
Question Content: 

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just
walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the
torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
—W. H. (Wystan Hugh) Auden, (1907–1973)

Awful Beauty
Have you lingered in the presence of suffering—the suffering of another person, of a stranger or loved one, or even your own suffering? Have you glimpsed, fleetingly perhaps, the awful beauty that shows on a face even in the grip of anguish? Have you noticed that even in times of affliction, perhaps even more so, care and closeness seem to be all there is? Or, has the suffering driven you into the wilderness, the places of abandonment?

Music Content: 

The Flight into Egypt

Contemplating the widening disparity between the privileged and the less fortunate, John Harbison in conversation with musicians of the commissioning group, the Cantata Singers and Ensemble, chose to set a text reflecting the unsettling events that followed the visit of the magi. The work sets the full text from Matthew 2:13–23 (KJV). The excerpt given is the opening section (Matthew 2:13–15). In the complete work Herod’s slaughter of the innocents and the return of Joseph, Mary and the child Jesus to Nazareth follow. 

The Flight into Egypt won the Pulitzer Prize for music in 1987.

“The Flight into Egypt.” John Harbison, The Flight into Egypt and Other Works, The Cantata Singers and Ensemble, Roberta Anderson, soprano, Sanford Sylvan, baritone, David Hoose, conductor, New World Records 1990. Track 1. 


Vox in Rama [Voice in Ramah]

Gregorian communion chant for the Feast of the Holy Innocents, sung in sustained dissonances according to eleventh-century organum practice as described in the Micrologus of Guido d’Arezzi. (c.1025).

“Vox in Rama.” Eya Mater: Chant grégorien–Polyphonies des XIe-XIIe siècles, Discantus, Anne Guidet, mezzo-soprano, Brigitte Lesne, director, Opus 111 1995. Track 5.


God Bless the Child

Billie Holiday’s (1915–1959) expressive musical style and phrasing has inspired and influenced generations of jazz and pop musicians. Her mother was disowned by her parents when she became pregnant will Billie at the age of thirteen. Holiday lived off and on with her mother and other relatives. Her mother moved to Harlem in 1928 and a year later Holiday joined her there. She began singing in nightclubs at the age of fourteen. Her first recording was released four years later.

“God Bless the Child.” Billie Holliday, God Bless the Child - The Very Best Of Billie Holiday, Columbia/Legacy 2006. Track 1.

Image Theme: 
Image Thumbnail: 
Image Summary: 

Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California, February 1936. Dorothea Lange, 1895–1965. 

Story Audio: 

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