– Juliet Benner, IVP, 2011

The connection between prayer and image is longstanding, whether we consider the icons of Eastern Orthodoxy or the role of image in the church during pre-reformation times. Art as something to be contemplated has been a common approach within the tradition of western art. However those in the Christian community – particularly Protestants – have resisted this resource for the journey of faith. Juliet Benner‘s new book provides a rich and insightful account that may well help us begin to recover the value of image for the faith journey.

To be clear this is a book about cultivating a relationship with God and not a book about art. But the works of well know artists
serve as the vital means for this spiritual discipline. There are three sections in the book, Transformed Awareness, Transformed Vision and Transformed Living each addressing
key elements for the spiritual journey. The author has much to say about “seeing” or the “gaze of faith” a theme common in the biblical stories. Each chapter is a thoughtful weaving together of scripture and image calling the reader to “pay attention”. Census at Bethlehem by Bruegel the Elder is an image that calls us to think of the rush of life and consider what we may easily overlook. Vermeer’s Jesus in the House of Mary and Martha (detail on the cover) sets the context for “gazing in stillness”.

A reflection on Rembrandt’s Christ in the Storm on the Lake of Galilee, draws on the theme of “God with us” in the ordinariness of life. Two works by Caravaggio call us into consideration of “seeing and believing” (The Incredulity of Thomas) and recognizing Christ (The Supper at Emmaus). Finally on the theme of transformed living the images include Rubens Decent from the Cross, and The Visitation by contemporary artist He Qi. This is a book for all who value the call to attentiveness as part of the Christian pilgrimage. It is a work that draws upon the rich heritage of the visual arts to open to us a fresh route into deeper contemplation of scripture and be a valuable portal for experiencing God’s presence.

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