What is visio divina all about? Here’s my take:
The saying goes, the best camera is the one you have with you. I’d like to take a riff off this idea to also suggest—the best eyes are the ones that are open. Richard Rohr speaks about seeing as the mystics see in his book, The Naked Now. He suggests that there are three ways of seeing, or levels of experiencing a sunset for instance. In brief you have:
1) First initial “sense-oriented” viewing. This is where you take in the visual experience with your eyes, observing the colors and patterns perhaps, the tones and shades of light. You might hear a “wow” on your lips, or a “look at that!” if you’re with someone.
2) Second you begin to digest and analyze what you see like a good scientist and maybe make observations about the type of clouds passing before your eyes or movement of the sun as it dips below the horizon. You appreciate the balance of a composition before you, or perhaps the stubborn tenacity of the earth’s rotation around the sun and the seasons.
3) Third you begin watching slowwwly. This is where you pause and see more than you merely see with your eyes. And this is where, I believe, many people miss something. Rohr explains this level of seeing as a place where you remain in awe for an extended time in which “an underlying mystery, coherence, and spaciousness” emerges that connects the observer to the observed.
Rohr makes a profound assessment in this conversation, stating that the loss of this kind of “deep seeing” has contributed to much of the “short-sight-edness and religious crises of the Western World. I think he’s right. So what should we do about it?
Let’s open our eyes! Visio Divina, the theme of this year’s calendar, invites us to see at a more contemplative pace. It invites us to see all there is to see, exploring the entirety of an image. It invites us to see deeply, beyond first and second impressions, behind initial ideas, judgments, or understandings. It invites us to be seen, addressed, surprised, and transformed by God who is never limited or tied to any image, but speaks through them.
Thanks for joining me in this journey to recover our sight.