Wednesday, 3 April 2013


French painter Georges Br 001

I hope you won’t cry “Apophenia!” or “Pareidolia!” once you read what I have written and that you will instead take it as my sharing a personal reflection.

It all started when I saw the photo at the top of this post, where Georges Braque, one of the fathers of Cubism, is seen looking at Vincent van Gogh’s self–portrait. The thought that came to me straight-away was that I too have seen that painting and that this, in some sense, places me beside Braque, albeit at a different time. You could think of it as asynchronous colocation and as a variant of Jung’s synchronicity, where it is not meaning (or causation) that provides the link but an object … I swiped to the next story in my Flipboard stream, but this thought of having more in common with Braque than I previously thought, and of us having - in some sense - shared an appreciation of van Gogh’s work stayed with me.

A couple of days later, during the Easter vigil’s Litany of the Saints I then felt a particular connection with some of the names as they were being called out. They were saints whose lives and thoughts I am familiar with and with whom I felt a particular connection - Peter, John, Gregory, Augustine, Martin, Francis and Teresa of Jesus being just some of the most prominent ones. I felt like their names alone were keys that enabled a connection - in some sense …

When the litany concluded, I thought back to the Exsultet, sung at the beginning of the Easter vigil, which spoke to me already when I first heard it, and I realized that a good few of the saints, whose names were so significant to me just then, must also have listened to it. In some sense I felt like I was standing beside them as we jointly listened to this profound hymn of praise. Not only did I feel a connection to these specific saints, but to all who since at least the 4th century AD have celebrated the resurrection to the tune of this hymn. When I returned home, and after my family has gone to sleep, I looked more closely both at the Exsultet’s content, which contains so many gems of synthesis (cf. “O happy fault”), and at its history, where St. Augustine is one of the earliest sources mentioning it and where St. John Damascene (another favorite of mine) is credited with being the author of the text used today.

Returning to the Easter vigil, it’s high-point came with the Eucharist, which tied this strand of reflection together for me. The Eucharist is Jesus, who is the head and heart of His mystical body. By receiving Him and thereby being received into Him, I am connected not only to Him but to all who ever have and ever will be connected to Him. Through Jesus-Eucharist I am in a real sense connected to all of humanity - past, present and future, since he is the finite-infinite, the atemporal now.1

The intuition of connections across time and space, via a proxy like the painting that Braque and I viewed, or via a hymn that the saints, my friends, and I listened to, helped me more fully appreciate their reality in the Eucharist on Saturday night.

1 To my delight, this topic came up again while talking to my überbestie MR last night.