“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”
Arsen Bereza (Арсен Береза) (Ukrainian, 1989–), The Salvation of Peter, oil on wood, size unknown
Visio Divina (Latin for divine seeing) is a prayer exercise in which you ask God to speak to the eyes of your heart as you meditate on an image.
The image can be artwork, a photograph, a scene, or even an icon. As you gaze at the painting below, consider the questions at the bottom in quiet reflection. Some parts may speak to you while others may not. Allow about 5 minutes of contemplation per section, but there are no hard and fast rules. Simply be present to the image and allow God to speak to your heart without any particular agenda.
The story of Peter walking on water has vexed me (Vanessa) for years. Jesus comes to the disciples at night—after he sent them off earlier in the day—and, seeing him from afar, the disciples are convinced Jesus is a ghost. Peter (dear, Peter) challenges him saying, “If it is really you, tell me to come to you on the water.” To which Jesus simply replies, “Come.”
We don’t know how many steps Peter makes it — was it 2? 10? 20? — before he looks around and begins to sink. Jesus grabs his hand, looks him in the eye, and asks, “Why did you doubt?”
I’ve always heard it taught that what Peter doubted was whether or not he could walk on water, but that wasn’t Peter’s preface. “If it is really you…," he says. What if Jesus’ question is not so much an indictment on Peter’s fear, but a reference to Peter’s doubt about who Jesus is? It’s worth considering as you meditate on this painting.
P.S. Have you ever wondered how Peter and Jesus made it back to the boat before they climbed in? We don’t have the rest of the story. And sure, the others could have gone to get them. But I like to think that the two of them walked together, whatever distance of sea remained, as Jesus, ever the good teacher, stayed by Peter’s side, and showed him how to do it.