The 𝑨𝒓𝒕 of Becoming – what does Art have to do with Advent?
Is Advent a Creative Journey? We explore this question with Sarah Zammit Munro and Mark Schembri – one a poet, the other a painter. Through their reflections and Art-Pieces (see below), they show us that Advent is essentially a creative time in which our Self is subtly re-generated and transformed.
1. You have been pursuing painting and poetry for quite a while now, what role, if any, has faith played in your journey? i.e., have you ever had any moments of spiritual doubt – and if so, what role has Art played in all this?
Sarah: I think that faith has always been combined with my poetry in some way. I have a tendency of writing vulnerable pieces, directly from the heart. Since my faith is important to me, I find myself writing about my struggles with God, my doubts, the times I don’t understand what He is doing in my life and reflecting about who He is and what He has done. I also think that writing about my faith gives me the opportunity to remind myself of why I believe in God and my journey in discovering who He is.
Mark: With Sarah, I’d say that art is a good opportunity to express myself, what I am going through, and what I want to say other than in words. But touching on the point of spiritual doubt, certainly, I too passed through moments of doubt which eventually led to moments of spiritual crisis. Jesus had his own people – who saw Him and who could hear Him speak – that still doubted Him. It is essentially more difficult for us who do not see him physically – Jesus himself noted this with His words to Thomas, “because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
Jesus understands our need for evidence, and he is willing to provide it if we ask for it with a humble heart! But believe me, you will find your strength where you least expect it – the secret is to pray, keep believing, and keep pushing through, a day at a time.
2. Do you think that Art and Faith closely relate to each other? If so, how?
Mark: For me, art and faith have been two distinctive areas in my life, but as I took my faith more seriously, creating art gave me the ‘quiet space’ necessary to be by myself and with God. Art is not just about grabbing a paintbrush and finishing a painting – at first, I used to feel the urge to finish a drawing/painting the same day I started it, and obviously, I would usually end up making a mess. I realized this is a replication of anything in life – including faith. I encourage anyone to be patient with themselves, with the process, with life, and to trust in God’s guiding presence.
Sarah: I agree with Mark. Poetry requires a lot of introspection so I cannot help but reflect when I want to draw inspiration or meaning. I think that struggling through questions of life, about God, and also battling doubts is closely linked to the words of the art I make, because it allows me to filter through the many thoughts and make sense of them.
I even find myself expressing my gratitude, praise, and thanks to God through poetry. I’m very inspired by the Psalms which were in fact songs of praise and poems that expressed every feeling one could have, including despair, disappointment, loneliness, anger, joy, peacefulness and more. I find that the images, parallelisms, and interpretations of King David allow me to formulate my own expression of my faith in poetry, just as he did.
3. How has Art affected the way you experience Advent?
Sarah: As a creative person, I think that having themes of writing (i.e., themes such as Advent) helps to inspire me in a specific way, providing direction to my thoughts. I cannot help but see signs during Advent and attributing meaning to them. There is something within me that allows this to happen naturally, so I think that experiencing Advent as a writer means adapting the thought process to extract meaning from everything related to this season and developing it into a relatable manner for readers to know how it impacts me and how it could impact them too! That’s also what I tried to do with this poem! (See Sarah’s poem below).
4. How can Art – any form of Art – help us during the Advent season?
Mark: Over the years, artists always loved including symbols and hidden messages in their artworks – be it Leonardo Da Vinci, Van Gogh, Salvador Dali, and the rest of the greats.
The creative process or the birth of an idea requires patience and waiting. And waiting can be daunting, we do not feel comfortable with that feeling of anticipation! I can relate this to the Advent season because we know something good is coming but Advent gives us the time to re-compose ourselves and wait. And waiting nowadays is something scarce – we want everything now, today, this minute. But I realized that in waiting we learn a lot about ourselves, our surroundings, what makes us comfortable, and we learn to appreciate just standing still. It is in this moment that we really feel vulnerable, alone, and possibly lonely; but it is also in this moment that we can start loving ourselves again, and it is the perfect opportunity to experience the love of God. This is a beautiful form of Art – and it makes Advent itself a form of Art.
So, this Advent, let yourself be made into Art! Allow yourself to wait, to hope, to receive God’s intimate love!
I walk in complete darkness as if
the star in the sky is leading me astray
rather than urging me to clasp
my hands to pray.
I long to know that what I’m striving for
will be met by an open door;
stepping blindly into the unknown,
I’m comforted I’m not alone.
While I look for the pieces within me
that seem to be missing,
that seem to be lost,
my heart waits, counting the gaping holes,
calculating the cost.
Following my heart has never been easy,
knowing I am doing what is right,
and the response within me remains a battle
that would now rather be fight than flight.
When the longing, the yearning,
the patience, the zeal,
bring me to a quiet place, a holy cave,
finally, I am free to open my hands
by Sarah Zammit Munro
– “I Waste so Much Time” – Getting Over Guilt of Wasted Time