A few months ago, our children gave Ron and me a weekend at the beautiful Broadmoor hotel. Located at the base of the foothills in Colorado Springs, this five-star resort is a little paradise on earth. Our get-away took place on a stunning fall weekend. The trees around the lake and nearby golf course were at their peak, giving Ron ample material for his photography. This is just one example of what we saw.
Photo: Ron Hendricks
As we strolled around the grounds, we kept encountering a trio of young women who were obviously enjoying a “girlfriend” weekend together. We saw them taking selfies in front of fountains and on top of balconies. Instead of viewing the trees, lakes, and sky that we were savoring, this is what they appeared to be seeing:
J4.mobifoxJ4.mobifoxJ4.mobifoxBy J4.mobifox (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
I am not dismissing the value of cell phones and tablets as I make ample use of them myself. Nevertheless, when our heads are in a constant downward posture (leading to what is now referred to as “cell phone neck”) or our cameras are continually turned inward, we miss the deeper reality of God’s presence. Visio divina is a spiritual practice that can counter these tendencies by inviting us to see with fresh vision. Photographs, paintings, sculpture, and icons are forms of sacred art that open up the “eyes” of the heart. A mindful walk in nature does the same.
Like lectio divina, visio divina utilizes four movements. The first is seeing (“divine vision”) in an intentional way. We set our eyes on the visual before us and take in its form, color, mood, and texture. Rather than embarking on a critique, however, we simply allow our vision to rest with the image. This leads us to meditate on what it might spark in us. Michelangelo’s Pieta and its sorrowful depiction of Mary holding Jesus’ limp and lifeless body always draws me back to the painful memories of my own child’s death. This, in turn, leads me to meditate on and then to pray for all the mothers in the world who have known the agony of such loss. As with lectio, the prayer in visio divina might simply arise in us and remain wordless, thus opening into contemplation. The visual image then settles into the heart where we allow it to rest in God. It’s a lovely spiritual practice that, when undertaken regularly, can change our entire line of vision.
Download my Prayer for Sacred Vision and share it in your family or parish as a way to open the “eyes” of your heart.