Saint John in the Wilderness


Caption: St. John in the Wilderness, linoleum block print

I’ve been reading Anselm’s Prayer to Saint John the Baptist and working on several pieces that are about John.  Anselm’s poem is a long, heart-rending cry as he looks deep inside himself and struggles with his own nature.  He writes:

You refashioned your gracious image in me,

and I superimposed upon it the image that is hateful.

Alas, alas, how could I?

And, even more painfully,

If I look within myself, I cannot bear myself;

if I do not look within myself, I do not know myself.

The poem quickly moves from a reflection on John to a reflection on the soul.  This seems strange at first, but I think that’s the point.  John the Baptist wants us to repent – to reflect on ourselves so that we may change.  And because such reflection is painful, what he’s really calling us into is the death of ego and a wilderness in which we are meant to wander for awhile, undefined.  I, like Anselm, often want to resist this call.

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