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Posted August 8, 2013

Book: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice: Eyes of the Heart
Author: Christine Valters Paintner
Sorin Books. Notre Dame, IN. 2013. Pp. 143

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

In this first book to explore photography as a spiritual practice from a Christian perspective, Christine Valters Paintner builds on the process of contemplative creativity she introduced online at Abbey of the Arts and in her book The Artist's Rule. She considers how a camera can help readers open "the eyes of the heart."

Paintner adapts the monastic practice of lectio divina (sacred reading) into a form of visio divina (sacred seeing). A spiritual director and Benedictine oblate, she guides readers through a new way of spiritual observation --- through the lens of a camera --- and in receiving images, not simply taking them.

An Excerpt from the Book:

Viriditas and the Greening Power of God

Opus Verbi Viriditas/ The work of the Word is greenness -- Hildegard of Bingen

There is nothing in creation that does not have some radiance --- either greenness or seeds or flowers, or beauty --- otherwise it would not be part of creation. -- Hildegard of Bingen

And how would God be known as the Eternal One if brilliance did not emerge from God? For there is no creature without some kind of radiance --- whether it be greenness, seeds, buds, or another kind of beauty. -- Hildegard of Bingen

Hildegard of Bingen

Hildegard of Bingen, the twelfth-century Benedictine abbess, offers us another example of the deep spiritual significance a color can have. Viriditas is the Latin noun for "greenness" and is derived from vivere, meaning "to become or be green" and indicating vitality, fecundity, lushness, verdure, or growth. Hildegard used the term to describe the greening power of God, the animating life force within all creation that gives life, moisture, and vitality. Viriditas is the life energy that brings fullness to human beings in our quest to become more truly our authentic selves. It indicates vigor, fertility, and health. Viriditas is not just the property of what we would normally think of living things but also the property of such inanimate objects as rocks. The natural world is not simply inert but filled with life and power.

Hildegard describes the "green finger of God," indicating that this vitality is a manifestation of God's activity in the world. The life that suffuses the world flows forth from God who is "the hightest and fiery power" and "has kindled every living spark" (DW 1.2). Viriditas is Hildegard's singular idea to illuminate the dynamic interconnectedness and intercommunion of all levels of created life with each other and with God as Source. Her emphasis on greenness symbolizes the inner dynamism of life in all its burgeoning growth, vibrancy, freshness, and fecundity as emanating from the life-creating and sustaining power of God.

Table of Contents:

1. Seeing with eyes of the heart

2. Practices and tools to cultivate vision

3. The dance of light and shadow

4. What is hidden and what is revealed

5. The symbolic significance of color

6. What is mirrored back?

7. Discovering the Holy within us

8. Seeing the Holy everywhere