TheoArtistry Reflection: A Pilgrim’s Canticle

Editor’s Note:  As part of the series leading up to and through the TheoArtistry: Text & Image  exhibition, TheoArtistry participant Karen Kiefer shares how her daily routine of prayer and walking during lockdown inspired her TheoArtistry collaboration and her piece for the exhibition. The prayer and the piece also particularly align with the season of Advent and recent posts celebrating pilgrimage and the last verses of The Benedictus.

Most Tuesday mornings during lockdown, I sat in the same choir stall in Saint Andrew’s church to say and broadcast morning prayer. From this vantage point, in the early-ish morning hours, I often was incredibly moved to catch the first rays of sunlight streaming through the high rose window above, casting light on the prayer book in front of me during my favourite part of morning prayer: the last two verses of the Canticle of Zechariah (Luke 1:68-79), ‘The Benedictus’:

The tender image of in-breaking light felt like an encouraging embrace, promising that the day is bursting with meaning and worth living to its fullest. In the last line I heard an encouraging sending forth on a kind of pilgrimage.

Afterwards, I would venture out, on my ‘lockdown pilgrimage’ – the labyrinthine walk that became an essential spiritual ritual. Hence, this morning prayer became a ‘Pilgrim’s Canticle’ for me, the dawn from on high inspiring and then calling me to move into the world. The promise of my feet being guided ‘into the way of peace’ felt like being equipped with a walking stick and map for the journey.

This canticle also brings to mind the Advent Antiphon O Radiant Dawn, as both texts point toward the light of the Incarnation.

Inspired by this prayer, meaning and movement, I fashioned a piece representing this pilgrim canticle for the TheoArtistry Text & Image Exhibition in St Andrews. Pilgrims often attach meaningful tokens, like shells, to their walking staffs.  I attached a shell to the staff I found on my lockdown route, then added the text from the Canticle from the Book of Common prayer we used everyday.  The staff serves as both an inspiration that I have ‘collected’ on the way, and one that guides my steps.  Included with it is a map with my lockdown route highlighted.  Letters circled along the route spell out part of these last two verses.

On 9 December, the exhibition journeys from the J&G Innes gallery space in town to Saint Andrew’s, St Andrews Church, and this piece will journey to the very choir stall from where it was inspired.

 

O Oriens (Radiant Dawn), splendor of eternal light, sun of justice, come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death.

And guide our feet… as pilgrims on the way

Author

  • Karen is completing a PhD program in the Institute for Theology, Imagination and the Arts after careers in corporate management and consulting, followed by service in pastoral, social and theatre ministry. Under the supervision of Trevor Hart, she explores theological and theatrical contexts of ’empty space’ and general human disposition toward it, with emphasis on improvisation and Holy Saturday. Since 2017, Karen has led or advised ITIA’s Transept group, a postgraduate student-led group of multidisciplinary practicing artists. Karen was on the editorial team of Transpositions from 2017 to 2022. As Editor-in-Chief, she fostered a closer partnership between Transpositions and Transept, hosted the In/break exhibition on the Transpositions site, and introduced regular series into the publishing schedule.

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