Wonder: Visio Divina

Festival of Lights, John August Swanson

Many of you have perhaps heard of the spiritual practice of Lectio Divina, meaning “divine reading.” On an artist retreat several years ago, a mentor introduced me to the practice of Vision Divina – you guessed it – “divine seeing.” While Lectio Divina emphasizes praying with words, Visio Divina explores praying with images or other visual media. 

As we continue to explore the theme of Wonder – I invite you to try Visio Divina as a way of cultivating spiritual sight. 

  1. Pick out an image. You may use the John August Swanson image here (click to enlarge), or find your own work. 
  2. Look at the image and let your eyes stay with the very first thing that you see. Keep your attention on that one part of the image that first catches your eye. Try to keep your eyes from wandering to other parts of the picture. Breathe deeply and let yourself gaze at that part of the image for a minute or so.
  3. Now, let your eyes gaze at the whole image. Take your time and look at every part of the photograph. See it all. Reflect on the image for a minute or so.
  4. Consider the following questions:
    • What emotions does this image evoke in you?
    • What does the image stir up in you, bring forth in you?
    • Does this image lead you into an attitude of prayer? If so, let these prayers take form in you. Write them down if you desire.
  5. Now, offer your prayers to God in a final time of silence.

For Reflection:

  • What is the artist’s role in “discipling the senses?” How can our artists teach us to see with eyes of truth?
  • Consider implementing some visual experiences with your congregation. For example, take a small group to a museum or gallery exhibition and practice looking, noticing. Are there theological or formative implications of the work, even if it is not “Christian?”

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