Today I am going to share an essay that I wrote for one of my University classes: Teaching ESL Writing. The task was writing an essay about a picture, and I chose a very special picture for me: Iesu Amor (the painting I made for imaging God’s Love) being exhibited in the Art’s Festival of the World Youth Day in Brazil. This essay explains what makes me “the happiest teacher on Earth.”
Here is the essay:
The Happiest Teacher On Earth
This picture is the portrait of the exhibition of a painting that I created, titled “Iesu Amor” (“Jesus Love” or “Jesus Charity” in English).
How I had the idea of creating an icon that imagined the Love of God? Everything began in an exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. The Eucharist was exposed for viewing, clearly visible to my sight. I had the idea of creating an icon that “imagined” God as Love in order to “discover” my vocation, which was supposedly lost (or so I believed in that moment). I was a moment of crisis in my life. I had no idea of where I belonged, where and how I could serve with my talents, or if I could be able to live my faith as catholic.
I began reading the encyclical Deus Caritas Est, of Pope Benedict XVI, and contemplating it in prayer, in front of the Blessed Sacrament or in my own room, through adoring God’s presence with my whole personal growth. Little by little, each form of the painting began to be discerned through this contemplation. I can’t mention all the symbols that the painting contain, but I can mention the first ones that were clear in my heart once I began to create a “visual imagination” of God’s Love.
The first shape of the painting to be discerned and formed was Jesus himself: the way that human being is able to “imagine” God’s Love is through Jesus, the incarnation of that Love. This choice of this imagination is inspired in two very concrete sentences of the Deus Caritas Est: “We have come to believe in God’s love: in these words, the Christian can express the fundamental decision of his life. Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” So, the image of a God that is Love must be a Person: Jesus of Nazareth. This is the most basic form shaped in Iesu Amor.
The next shape to be discerned was how to imagine the nature of the “breath” (being) and “do” (action) of Jesus in unity. I discerned that with a figure of a resurrected Jesus that was in a wall behind the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament: I realized that I could imagine Jesus’ nature as light, both in the sense of light as being and light as verb, by painting him like a “living star of Heaven”, a resurrected Jesus that was a morning star, like the Book of Revelation’s star. That way, I chose to paint Jesus radiating light from the eyes, from the tunic (the own body) and from the lamp. Discerning this was harder than it seems. It was not simple for me finding a way to paint the nature of Jesus that I was contemplating through the reading of the Deus Caritas Est.
The next form to be discerned was the “giftedness”, the personal self-giving through communion. Because Jesus’ self-giftedness to the Church is complete, the painting must be a gift to the whole Church. I imagined this form in a very particular way: instead of painting this giftedness, I made the whole painting an “ecclesial gift”: I proposed it as a gift for Pope Francis. It never materialized that way, and as a matter of fact it was a way too simple painting to be considered a gift for the Pope, I knew it, but the important thing for God was the disposition. All this is inspired in the sentence of the Deus Caritas Est that says “Since God has first loved us, love is now no longer a mere “command”; it is the response to the gift of love with which God draws near to us.” The encyclical says that “In a world where the name of God is sometimes associated with vengeance or even a duty of hatred and violence, this message is both timely and significant”. To that I add: in a world where the name of God is often associated with profit and worldly success, personal giftedness, learning to give us as freely as Jesus gives himself to the Church, is a timely message.
Finally, is a part in the Deus Caritas Est that says: “Love of God and love of neighbor have become one: in the least of the brethren we find Jesus himself, and in Jesus we find God… Love of neighbor is a path that leads to the encounter with God and that closing the eyes to our neighbor also blinds us to God.” I shaped this idea in a very particular way: Jesus is walking towards the center, towards the person, towards the neighbor… He is not walking to the right nor to the left, but towards the front, were the person who is contemplating him is. Also, the eyes are wide open, looking to the person and radiating light.
Although I did finish the painting itself, and shared it in the Arts Festival of the World Youth Day of Brazil (were this picture was taken) this creative project became the project of my life: to shape God’s Love in my own personal formation. Therefore this photo means a lot to me: it imagines the creative goal of my life, sharing and radiating God’s Love, humanely and ecclesially. As an ESL teacher, this means that teaching for me is an act of love, that I contemplate every student as person in the process of becoming a work of God’s Love and that I am called to help them to be, to do, to grow and to radiate unconditionally, and to learn to love them through my lessons as God loves us. This is a responsibility, but also a gift that makes me the happiest teacher and person on Earth.