Fear Meets Hope; East Meets Hope.

When I was in seminary, I was introduced to the artistry of James He Qi. Dr. Richard Melheim said to think of He Qi’s art as, “Chagall meets Matisse meets Picasso meets the East. Vibrant. Energetic. Breathtaking. Biblical. Humorous. Whole-world art. He hopes to help change the “foreign image” of Christianity in China by using artistic language, and at the same time, to supplement Chinese Art the way Buddhist art did in ancient times. His brilliant, colorful and highly contemporary paintings emerge unmistakably from ongoing Chinese contexts. He Qi blends Chinese folk customs and traditional Chinese painting with the western art of the Middle and Modern Ages, but adds his own spin, techniques and style. I believe He Qi may one day be seen as the Michelangelo of the next 1000 years of Christian art.” I tend to agree!

From that first encounter, now so many years ago, during the time we were looking ahead to Easter, but still in the midst of a deeply penitential Lent, I saw hope. His work was entitled, “He No Here”, and featured the women arriving at the tomb of Jesus after His resurrection, the stone was rolled away and Jesus was gone. The women exclaimed as the men approached in their fear, “He no here!” And so, it was. Jesus was risen.

I have maintained a relationship with the artist ever since that day in seminary so long ago. In my prose, my homilies, and from within my heart. His art has given me inspiration and hope. That is why, in the midst of this pandemic, I turned to James and the beauty of his pieces, as much as I do to scripture and prayer. One of his latest works is today’s featured image for my Blog, and will be featured during the Musical Edition of the Stations of the Cross on April 2nd (whether in person, if permitted and safe, or via livestream, the show will go on!)

This beautiful artwork is entitled, “Carrying-Cross”, (used here with permission of the artist) and will also adorn the walls of my office soon as an artist proof. It serves to remind me that even as Jesus walked the streets toward that hill – bloodied, battered, exhausted, frightened, scorned and rejected – that would surely claim His mortal life, He would soon resurrect and claim us, too, but this time for eternal life.

This image, and the story it tells, reminds me that despite whatever will come our way: pandemic, floods, quakes and more, we will always be safe and find our way, because the One we worship and adore led the way first and killed even death itself.

So, even though I will not see you in person this Sunday, I will see many of your faces attached to the pews, (Please see the post at our Facebook page to send in your photos!) and all of you will be in my heart. I pray I will be, too. Please support the work of Saint Miriam because one day, we will all want to return to a place that gives us such hope and peace, just like the beautifully moving work of James He Qi does for me.

Be safe, be well, be still and know God is here.

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