Seven Days, Seven Pages: Celebrating the Saint John’s Bible & the Papal Visit to the U.S.

This post was originally published as a seven-part series of posts, which has been combined here for readability.

In celebration of Pope Francis’s visit to the U.S. from Monday, September 21 – Sunday, September 27, 2015, seven images from the Saint John’s Bible and seven reflective essays were published on this blog over seven days. The William H. Hannon Library Archives and Special Collections Department invited members of the community and the public to view its copy of the Saint John’s Bible on display during those seven days. Contact Archives and Special Collections if you want to make an appointment to view the Saint John’s Bible.

Day 1 -Creation 2(Creation, Donald Jackson, Copyright 2003, The Saint John’s Bible, Saint John’s University, Collegeville,Minnesota, USA. Used by permission.  All rights reserved.) 

Illuminating the Mission

Day One • Page One: A Reflection on Creation

Dr. Barbara Sutton

In this illumination Donald Jackson, artist and calligrapher, dares to illuminate that which leaves us speechless. Seven days of creation, choreographed by God: heavens and earth, sea and sky, birds and beasts. With eyes of faith, a new ‘world view’ emerges. Chaos turns into order. God calls forth light from darkness; and then breathes life into human kind. In this first panel we see a sliver of gold shining in the center of darkness and chaos.  It explodes outward as if driven by a powerful force that wrestles the remaining days into order with God hallowing the seventh day.  These seven days, hinged with gold, open the doors of a greater mystery that rest in silence on the horizon. Silence is golden. Entering the seventh day requires courage to enter the silence as the Unspeakable shows itself as the thread of light that holds the web of life together.

While this illumination appears to be a well-oiled machine, brought out of chaos and hinged together by God, it is not.  It does not run on its own!  It has been ruptured by sin.  Pope Francis in his Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ suggests that human life is hinged on three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbor, and with the earth itself.  He writes, “The harmony between the Creator, humanity and creation as a whole was disrupted by our presuming to take the place of God and refusing to acknowledge our creaturely limitations.  This in turn distorted our mandate to ‘have dominion’ over the earth (cf. Gen 1:28), to ‘till and keep it’ (Gen 2:15)…our sin is manifest in all its destructive power in wars, violence and abuse, the abandonment of the most vulnerable, and attacks on nature” (66).

On the sixth day God looked at everything and saw it was very good. God wanted us to revel in the Garden and in love.  Woven into the sixth day of this illumination is Chris Tomlin’s coral snake leading us away from resting in God symbolized by the figures turning their backs away from the light.

We live in a world where constant activity is the norm. We run from one event to another, arriving at a new place before our minds and hearts are able to let go of what we were doing or where we were.  We pass through life and do not allow ourselves to experience deeply or be touched by people. We are in need of soul-searching.  We must learn again love, compassion and honor so that we might heal the earth. How might you be held in the light? Restore harmony to creation?


Day 2 - Abraham-and-Sarah

(©Abraham and Sarah, Donald Jackson, 2003, The Saint John’s Bible, Saint John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota. Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, CatholicEdition, ©1993, 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in theUnited States of America.  Used by permission. All rights reserved.)

Illuminating the Mission

Day Two • Page Two:  A Reflection on Abraham and Sarah

Rev. Michael Patella, OSB

The Menorah, the ancient symbol of Judaism, repeats across the double folio, dominating the illumination.  This is the moment in salvation history where the Lord seals the covenant with Abraham, a moment so important that it is recounted twice, once at Genesis 15:1-21 and again at Genesis 17:1-19.

While Abraham also has a son, Ishmael, through Sarah’s maidservant, Hagar, the Lord forms his covenant through Isaac, the son of Abraham and his wife, Sarah.  Their descendants include Isaac and Rebekah’s son, Jacob, and his twelve sons along with the whole royal line of David, a lineage that ends with Jesus.  For this reason, the Menorah also becomes the primary symbol in the Matthew frontispiece, which recites Jesus’ genealogy and confirms his connection with the Abrahamic Covenant.

Pope Francis reminds us in Evangelii Gaudium, that this covenant between God and the Jewish people has never been revoked (247). As Christians we must honor the sacred roots that our identity has in Judaism. We are enriched by the complementarity of our concern for justice and well-being of peoples, which we have inherited from the Jewish tradition (247-249).

In what ways do you hold the covenant sacred over time?


Day 3 - TenCommandments

(Ten Commandments, Thomas Ingmire, Copyright 2002 The Saint John’s Bible, Saint John’s University,Collegeville, Minnesota USA. Used by permission. All rights reserved.)

Illuminating the Mission

Day Three • Page Three:  A Reflection on the Ten Commandments

Rev. Michael Patella, OSB

Human society and civilization depend upon right relationships, and those relationships can only succeed when there is proper respect shown to God and neighbor.  The Ten Commandments, as a compendium of laws foundational to the well-being of all humankind, connects the homage due to God alone (Ex 20:1-11) with the obligations and deportment shown to neighbor (Ex 20:12-17).

In Laudato Si’ Pope Francis proclaims that when we neglect to identify God as the all-powerful One who alone has created the world, “we end up worshipping earthly powers, or ourselves usurping the place of God” (75). When we place ourselves at the center of the universe, our personal and communal lives will disintegrate and vanish as do the letters at the bottom of the page. Only when we as humans recognize that God is the Lord of the cosmos and we are the fruit of his loving creation do human relationships function in a way that reflects the love and goodness of our Creator.

Exodus 20:1 says, “Then God spoke all these words…” What does God’s voice sound like as you hear the Ten Commandments? In what ways do God’s commands allow you to love more freely?


Day 4 - PetersConfession

(Peter’s Confession, Donald Jackson, Copyright 2002, The Saint John’s Bible, Saint John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota USA. Used by permission. All rights reserved.)

Illuminating the Mission

Day Four • Page Four:  A Reflection on Peter’s Confession

Rev. Michael Patella, OSB

In this illumination, Jesus is rendered entirely in gold. He is shown in the center with the enlarged text, “You are the Messiah the Son of the Living God” (Mt 16:16). He is alive, fully incarnate, standing in the midst of a contemporary representation of hell.

The Church is the sacramental presence of Christ in the world.  Just as Satan and the forces of evil tried in vain to eliminate Christ by death, they attempt, also in vain, to eradicate those baptized in Jesus’ name by the same means.  Christ’s words to Peter, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it” (Mt 16:18) is the guarantee that sin and death have long failed in subverting God’s ultimate plan of redemption.

Historians agree that we are in a period of Christian persecution greater in scope than the Church has ever before faced, even greater than the persecutions under ancient Rome. The faith and hope etched on the face of current martyrs, such as the Coptic Christians on the beach in Libya just before ISIS beheaded them, is proof that the gates of Hades (Hell) will not “prevail against it” (Mt 16:18). In Pope Francis’ recent homily celebrating the feasts of Peter and Paul, he commended these martyrs for their supreme witness as they died with Jesus’ name on their lips. Additionally Pope Francis implored that those of us, who are fortunate to experience peace and prosperity, continue to witness to Christ as well as set aside time to pray to God, who does not abandon his children. How else might you stand in solidarity with our Christian brothers and sisters undergoing persecution?


Day 5 - Multiplication

(Multiplication of The Loaves and Fishes, Donald Jackson, Copyright 2002, The Saint John’s Bible, SaintJohn’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota USA. Scripture quotations are from the New Revised StandardVersion of the Bible, Catholic Edition, Copyright 1993, 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.)

Illuminating the Mission

Day Five • Page Five:  Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes

Bailey Walter, M.Div

In Mark’s gospel, Jesus’ heart is moved by a group of people who are hungry.  Upon receiving the request to let the people go and buy food, Jesus tells his disciples to feed them. With five loaves and two fish, Jesus and his disciples feed the crowd.  This beautiful illumination captures the multiplication of the loaves and fishes with its abundance of gold and color that consumes much of the page, alluding to the abundance at the divine banquet. Today, our world contains a much larger crowd of hungry people than the 5,000 that Jesus encounters in this story; close to one billion people go hungry each day.

In his Message for World Food Day in 2013, Pope Francis called world hunger a global scandal. Many of us who live in developed countries view food as a luxury and have access to it in abundance. Catholic Social Teaching and Pope Francis remind us that the primary function of food is to nourish our bodies and sustain life. Food is a basic human right for all people. We each have a responsibility to heed Jesus’ instructions that he gave to his disciples when he said, “You give them something to eat” (Mk 6:37). There are many ways in which we can help: participation in a local food shelf, getting involved with national relief efforts such as Catholic Relief Services, and being conscious of personal food consumption and waste, just to name a few.  How will you respond to Jesus’ call to feed the crowd?


Day 6 - TwoCures

(Two Cures, Aidan Hart with contributions from Donald Jackson and Sally Mae Joseph, Copyright 2002,The Saint John’s Bible, Saint John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota USA. Used by permission. All rights reserved.)

Illuminating the Mission

Day Six • Page Six: A Reflection on the Two Cures

Rachel Gabelman, M.Div Candidate

Perhaps like the apostles, who witness the hemorrhaging woman interrupt Jesus, we are annoyed by the untimely needs of others. Or perhaps like the crowd, who scoffed when Jesus insisted to see Jairus’ daughter who they claimed had already died, we are hopeless and believe that any efforts to help others are futile. However, both of these attitudes cause us to forfeit tremendous opportunities for personal and communal growth.

In Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis writes, “Jesus wants us to touch human misery, to touch the suffering flesh of others. He hopes that we will stop looking for those personal or communal niches which shelter us from the maelstrom of human misfortune and instead enter into the reality of other people’s lives and know the power of tenderness. Whenever we do so, our lives become wonderfully complicated and we experience intensely what it is to be a people, to be part of a people” (270).

As the illumination depicts, healing takes place in the context of a community not in isolation. Jesus makes it possible for us, united in the Body of Christ, to venture beyond our fears, to reach out to the most vulnerable in our society. We must do so with confidence as a community that our pastoral outreach will make a difference, fostering life and dissolving the divisions among peoples that allow wounds to fester. It is our responsibility as Christians to alleviate unnecessary suffering. What initial step can you take today to combat the pervasive temptation to overlook those who are suffering in your community?


Day 7 - Pentecost

(Pentecost, Donald Jackson, Copyright 2002, The Saint John’s Bible, Saint John’s University, Collegeville,Minnesota USA. Used by permission. All rights reserved.)

Illuminating the Mission

Day Seven • Page Seven: Pentecost Reflection

Rachel Gabelman, M.Div Candidate

This illumination of Pentecost elicits a heightened sense of vitality. Notice the sharp tongues of fire that starkly contrast the free-flowing brushstrokes. To gaze upon the prominent gold band, which breaks through the cool colors in the atmosphere, is unsettling. This visual representation mimics how startling it can be when the Spirit enters into our hearts, dynamically transforming us, bestowing his creative energy upon us, and sending us out to evangelize all peoples. It is neither an easy nor predictable endeavor, but when we partner with the Spirit, we will be “amazed and astonished” (Acts 2:7) at what is possible. As Christians, we must always refer back to the moments of personal conversion in our lives so that our willingness to evangelize does not become stagnant. We must trust that the Spirit will give us the ability to draw others into the richness and fullness of human life and promote the restoration of peoples in unity with one another and with God.

Pope Francis teaches in Evangelii Gaudium that the Church grows through attraction when Christians “appear as people who wish to share their joy, who point to a horizon of beauty and who invite others to a delicious banquet” (15). He furthers his point when he exclaims that Christians must not appear to have just returned from a funeral (10). Perhaps instead we can imagine proclaiming the Good News to others utilizing the enthusiasm and vigor that we often witness in sports fans. In this illumination we see fans raising their arms and waving their flags at a Saint John’s University football game. Parallel to the way that the fans’ enthusiasm is contagious, our spirited fervor for Christ increases the fervor in the lives of those around us. The Good News is not ancient history; it is alive and personal as well as communal. What experiences from your life and journey in faith can you recollect and renew so that all who encounter you will witness the glory and splendor of the Risen Lord?