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To read about the art piece "Out of the Remnant" and #art4sarah please visit my post: A Special Announcement #art4sarah

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Birth of Christ and the Sorrowful Mysteries

Art by Ruth J Smucker - Carrying of the Cross
The Advent season is a time of reflection.  A "mini Lent," it is sometimes referred to as.  This year my spirit is very aware of this.  As we grieve yet another Christmas without children here with us (all have been miscarried, and two just this year), and grieve other hardships we are experiencing.  Yet we look forward to celebrating the Christ Child and time with family and friends.

So much joy, and yet so much suffering around this time of year.  Grief is real for each of us in one's own way.  Whether that pain is of a loved one that has died, or of economic hardship, or of an addiction...everyone has something to grieve over during this season.   

Continuing on in sharing with you meditations on the Rosary that were given to me in prayer.  (Please refer back to the first post on the Joyful Mysteries.)  I am prompted to post about the Sorrowful Mysteries.

It is no secret that Mary "pondered" many things in her heart as the gospel tells us.  As the Christ Child was born, and she held Salvation in her arms, surely she knew of the prophecies regarding the Christ, the Messiah, and the suffering that lay before Him.

Look to medieval or renaissance artwork and you will see depictions of suffering and death intermingled into the nativity scene.  There is good reason for this.  Ultimately Jesus came to bring salvation to men through his suffering and death.  The profound mystery of the joy of His birth and sorrow of His death is vividly shown to us.  In icons of the nativity of Christ you'll find symbols of death as well, the swaddling clothes resembling burial garments, and so on.

We should not be surprised then when we find ourselves in a place of joy and sorrow at the same time.  Somehow it seems so unnatural and generally we wish to flee from these conflicting feelings.  Yet, can there be real joy without suffering?  Can one know true joy, joy that it is not mere pleasure or a hollow happiness, without the experience of pain?  Is joy not deepened through pain and suffering?  Is this not a part of the Christian walk, the journey to God?  Joy is a fruit of the spirit.  It is a fruit of the journey, the journey of crooked ways made straight by God.

So let us delve into these meditations on the Sorrowful Mysteries and ponder them.  I believe we can find healing in the Sorrowful Mysteries.  Perhaps it might even be helpful to ponder them alongside the Joyful Mysteries.  I have found much "food for meditation" in pondering two sets of mysteries alongside each other.  

First Sorrowful Mystery - The Agony in the Garden
(Christ prays alone in agony in the garden of Gethsemane while the disciples sleep.)
It is good for us to experience, and allow ourselves to experience the agony of the Son, the agony of those in the world around us, as well as the pain sin has caused us personally, and the pain of our own sin.  We must give ourselves time to weep in the garden with Our Lord.  We must be vigilant and stay awake with Him, regardless of the outlook.

Second Sorrowful Mystery - The Scourging at the Pillar
(Christ is scourged nearly to the point of death by the Roman soldiers.)
Christ's appearance was so marred by the whips...let us remember never to devote much time to vanity.  Our time is better spent in acts of service toward others.  Also, it is good for us to humble and deny ourselves for the service of others, that they may see our goodness in Christ, because it is by our love that we shall be known as His disciples.  We can look most like Him through our actions.

Third Sorrowful Mystery - The Crowning with Thorns
(Christ is crowned with thorns, dressed in a cape, given a "scepter" and roundly mocked.)
We must be willing to go before anyone and be held accountable for our actions and to suffer whatever persecution.  We must also be willing to admit our wrong doing and to hold fast to our moral convictions and hold ourselves to those morals.  Just as Our Lord was put on "trial" crowned with thorns and beaten, so we must also be willing to suffer whatever rebukes necessary.  We must take courage and remain strong no matter the circumstance, we walk a narrow road. 

Fourth Sorrowful Mystery - The Carrying of the Cross
(Christ carries His cross to Calvary by way of the "Via de la Rosa," the "Way of Sorrows.")
Christ, carrying His cross, passed the women crying and told them not to weep for Him but to weep for themselves.  He said to them that, for when they do this when the wood is green, how much more when the wood is dry?  He also said that there would come a time when people would say, blessed are women who have not borne children, whose breasts have not given suck.   The wood is dry. 

Fifth Sorrowful Mystery - The Crucifixion and Death
(Christ is crucified upon the cross with only a few faithful, including His mother, at His feet.)
Our Lady standing at the foot of the cross forgave those around her for what they did and were doing to her Beloved Son.  She forgave us too, each and every one, for our part in His punishment.  Just in as much God forgave us and took us to Himself through Christ, so Our Lady took us as her children.  Forgiveness is a grace we must share.  It was poured out on the cross for all, that we may all be bathed in His blood.  We must share that grace and allow others to be bathed by it as we have been bathed.  All have done evil in the sight of the Lord and must be forgiven. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Presence of Christ and The Joyful Mysteries

Art by Ruth J Smucker - Annunciation
Art by Ruth J Smucker - Annunciation
Before I even started to accept the idea of sharing my personal and spiritual writing, I had some meditations on the Mysteries of the Rosary that I felt I should share.  It's been laid on my heart since before my first post that these meditations would be some of the first writings I would post on this blog.  

I sometimes pray while I work around the home and garden, and many times I pray the Holy Rosary.  This is how these particular meditations came about.  There was a period of time last year that these meditations came to me during prayer in my work.  I quickly took time to jot them down, and later used them for reference for my own personal reflection.  Also, after my experience during prayer last fall, of which I wrote in my first post, these became a guidepost for further and deeper reflection for me. 

Yet, these were not just written for me.  The plural "we" is often used in what I wrote down, "we" being Christians, but more specifically Catholic Christians.  Many times in my writing, as in my art, I am given the gift of being able to  step aside, allowing the work to develop, I myself not fully understanding it in the moment. 

The rosary has played a very profound role in my life since even before I was Catholic.  It was part of my conversion experience, and has completely changed my relationship with God.

For those not familiar with the rosary, put basically, the rosary is a prayer of meditation on the life of Christ through the eyes of Mary, his mother.  It can be very beautiful to pray through the four sets of mysteries: Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful and Glorious.  Oftentimes, one prays just one set at a time, though one can certainly pray all four together.  There are five mysteries in each set.  

I will share the first set of these meditations that came to me.  These are meditations on the Joyful Mysteries. Overall, what you'll find in these meditations is a focus on our relationship with Christ as Christians, and His presence, especially in the Most Blessed Sacrament.  There is a call to humility, to greater faith, and a willingness to search and to suffer for Him, all so that we too might come to possess Him as many of the Saints, St. Theresa of Avila for example, have written about and as the book of Canticles in the Bible so beautifully illustrates in its poetry. 

First Joyful Mystery - The Annunciation
(The angel Gabriel comes to Mary and she conceives Christ in her womb.)  
Each one who is baptized has received the Holy Spirit and is made pure just as Our Lady was conceived without sin (the grace given to her by Christ through the cross, same as ourselves) and was overshadowed by the power of the Most High.  The problem is, we don't have the same humility of heart.

Second Joyful Mystery - The Visitation
(Mary goes to visit her cousin St. Elizabeth who is pregnant with St. John the Baptist.)
We marvel at how St. John the Baptist leaped in his mother's womb at the Visitation.  We have forgotten how our hearts too leaped for joy when we first received our Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament.  St. John too later when in prison sent out his disciples to "double check" the identity of Christ, to be sure that Jesus was indeed the one sent by God to redeem Israel, the Messiah.  Oh how little faith we have at times, when Christ's identity is so clear.  He gives sight to the blind, the cripple walk.  

Third Joyful Mystery - The Nativity
(Jesus Christ is born to Mary and Joseph.)
The shepherds had an incredible humility of heart, as did the Wise Men who came in search of Christ.  It seemed mostly obvious to them who Christ was and where he was.  God too leads us in the direction of His Son.  Most importantly, Our Lady, if we let her, will take us to Him and grant us the grace from God to hold Jesus in our hearts.

Fourth Joyful Mystery - The Presentation at the Temple
(Mary and Joseph take Jesus to be presented to God at the temple in Jerusalem.)
Simeon and Anna, had to endure much waiting for Our Lord.  Persecution from others and their doubt may have at times clouded their thoughts, but when the Holy Family came to the temple, presenting Our Lord, they recognized the babe.  Their own eyes had seen Salvation.  Our eyes too see Salvation in the Eucharist and after much struggle we will hopefully behold the Beatific vision.

Fifth Joyful Mystery - The Finding in the Temple
(Mary and Joseph find Jesus in the temple after loosing him for three days.)
Sometimes it may feel as though we too have lost our sight of Christ, as though He was not close to us.  There are reasons for this.  Generally, it is for our own purification.  However, Christ will always allow Himself to be found.  We can gain comfort in knowing that He is not far away, and that we need not worry.  God is in control.  Also, regardless of whether we feel His presence we can always find His True Presence in the tabernacle.  

Friday, November 7, 2014

A Special Announcement #art4sarah

Art by Ruth J Smucker - Out of the Remnant.
I am excited to share here that I have prints of three different art pieces now available online.  (These are pictured throughout.) 

I am excited about all three, however, there is something very special about Out of the Remnant.

Out of the Remnant is the first of what I call "after paintings."  These "after paintings" come about in a very particular way.  While painting other larger pieces, I often have leftover paint on my palette that I don't have time to use up in that session.  I take the paint, and praying that something might come of it, I smear it onto paper with a palette knife.  It's not until later that I begin to see an image develop out of the smearing of the paint.  Once I see where the piece is going, I go back and bring it to fruition. 

Shortly after I created Out of the Remnant, I knew it belonged to a particular mission.  

Sarah Ewing is a precious little girl with Apert Syndrome.  She will undergo numerous surgeries throughout her life.  She was born to Ben & Jeannie Ewing in 2013, and we were some of the first to get to meet her.

Art by Ruth J Smucker - China and Me.
We were extremely privileged (as providence would have it) to be delivering Holy Communion to the hospital the weekend after Sarah's birth, and knowing that Ben and Jeannie and Sarah were there, and knowing that Jeannie would want to receive Holy Communion if possible, we had a chance to meet Sarah.

We knew in a profound way that this little one was very special, not just because of her syndrome, which had not even been diagnosed yet, but because of what we saw in her eyes.  A steadfast, loving, gentle spirit.  We knew that Ben and Jeannie and anyone who would meet little Sarah would never be the same.

Proceeds from each art print of Out of the Remnant will be  donated to Sarah Ewing to help fund her surgeries and care. 

All of the prints are high quality giclee art prints of the original pieces.  Each print is officially numbered, titled, and signed in pencil by myself, and are marked by myself with my own "RJS" mark.  Each print comes with a certificate of authenticity stating the details of the print, and is signed by myself as well.  More information is featured in the description of the piece when you visit my online store.

Art by Ruth J Smucker - Muerte-C'est la vie...
Prints of Out of the Remnant also come with further information about Sarah. 

You can read more about Sarah and her family at Jeannie's blog

To order prints, visit my online store, or contact me.

Follow the developing story on the At the Smucker Homestead page on Google+.   

Use #art4sarah on Google+ and Twitter.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Opening a Book: An Introduction.

Thanks to Mother and the Rosary - Mixed media on paper - 3 1/2 in x 5 1/2 in
Art by Ruth J Smucker - Thanks to Mother and the Rosary. 
First, I feel like it is important that I introduce myself a little bit. 

For a more complete picture of myself and my history, I would suggest you visit my Biography page and the About page on the At the Smucker Homestead website.  I’ve written there about my personal history and what I am up to in life. 

Second, why am I suddenly blogging online?  It really is for a spiritual reason. 

Up until very recently I have led a quiet life online.  It’s funny that for many years I have been helping others with their online presence, and I myself have not maintained a presence of my own.  When I first graduated from college I had a somewhat comprehensive website about my design work, and later, for a while I did the Facebook thing.  When others would ask about my own online presence, I would often reference the case of the cobbler’s children going without shoes. 

What changed?  I had two experiences in prayer.  

If you read the Biography page, and the About page, you will find that my husband and I became Catholic in 2007.  We converted from Mennonite to Catholic.  Part of that conversion had to do with a particular Rosary I prayed in late 2006. 

At the time my husband and I were on the fence, and we knew that if we were not to be impaled by the fence, we had to get off of it and choose to be Catholic or to remain Mennonite.  Making that decision was excruciating. 

Then, during that Rosary in late 2006, a clear call to do artwork for the Lord was given to me.  It was laid on my heart that He had artwork for me to do for which I would need the strength given to me by receiving the Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion, and that I could only receive His True Presence in the Catholic Church.  That solidified it, we made the jump off the fence and over into the Catholic Church. 

Since then it has taken me seven years to open myself up to that call, and to begin to be able see where God was calling. 

Late in 2013, I had yet another experience in prayer that clarified that call received in 2006.  I will not write of the experience in particular.  That is between myself, and those within the Church that I have consulted regarding that experience.  I will share however that it shed light on my artwork, on my journaling, on my relationship with God and my relationship with others.  It changed everything. 

I have much penance to do for the “lost years” in between 2006-2013, but at the same time, I don’t think I could embark on what I am doing now, if it were not for all of the experiences of those years in between.  As the cliche goes, God writes straight with crooked lines. 

So, what is this “open journal” idea? The idea is to open up and share my journaling. 

I have been journaling for years.  I began doing a little journaling in high school, then even more so in college, and then after college I seriously worked through the book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.  It is several weeks of intense exercises and writing, and had been recommended to me by the Mennonite pastor (a former graphic designer) who officiated at our wedding.  It was through my personal work during The Artist’s Way course that I really began to discover the Catholic Church, and since then, I have hardly not journaled.  It was encouraged too by my spiritual directors and confessors. 

What my experience in prayer in 2013 really called me to, regarding my writing, was to begin to share my life’s story and spiritual writings from my journals with others.  The best way to do that at this place in time, and given my background in design and multimedia, was blogging. 

I hope this gives a premise for what I am about to begin on this blog. 

I hope my sharing on this blog will give to those who God allows to fall upon it something to warm their heart and help them grow toward Him.