Saturday, April 23, 2011

Lenten Reflections through Sacred Art

“I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you”.
"Hapag ng Pag-asa" (Table of Hope) by Joey E. Velasco
 Lord, you desire us, you desire me.
You eagerly desire to share yourself with us in the Holy Eucharist, to be one with us.
Lord, awaken in us the desire for you.”
-Pope Benedict XVI, Holy Thursday Homily 2011

Lord, I seek and desire you… my soul yearns for you…

I was deeply saddened that no retreats were available in our parish in preparation for the Easter pre-triduum this year. Last year, we spent three nights reflection with the Dominicans.

However, God surprised me by leading me into another form of prayer and reflection this year through sacred art. It was even more profound than I thought.

"Beyond Life" features Joey E. Velasco, a famous "heartist" as he fondly calls himself.

It was my brother who originally introduced Joey's works to me in 2003.  He gifted me with a poster on my way to my first mission abroad. As an artist, I've naturally seen many religious paintings of which I particularly like the Madonna and child theme. 

Joey's works, however, captivated my heart as they produce creative tensions, a sense of moral awareness, in what I see in his canvas.

 What made the impact more incredible was his journey through life and art.
Stricken with cancer, he underwent Kubler-Ross' DABDA...struggling for five years with his illness that affected his kidney. 

"That We May Be One" by Joey E. Velasco

He was not alone. He involved other suffering people in his art works. He looked for them...
And Jesus was constantly present there....

It was what his wife shared yesterday in the seventh last word reflection that struck me...
She asked, "Why him? If God loves him...why him?"
and the Pink Sister comforted her,
 "It is precisely because God loves him, that's why He chose Joey. God has His special purpose for Him."

“Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped, Rather He emptied Himself, Taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness… 
-Philippians 2,6-7-

The resistance could be overwhelming, I saw and felt how dying patients reacted to their illnesses...

but I believe that God also gifts us with the grace to accept and trust the process...

and Joey cooperated with God's grace... 

"He humbled Himself becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross."
-Philippians 2,8

“ Kenosis (self-emptying) is an invitation to be like an empty blank canvas, flat and seemingly insignificant; in total surrender to whatever He (God) really wants me to paint.-  Joey Velasco


  1. Really interesting Melissa..I loved what I could see of his work
    Thank you for bringing him to my attention


  2. Thank you dear Melissa for sharing this with us...we always question why me? I think this a way of The nephew has a severe hearing loss,but God has granted him with a compassionate heart and beautiful painting skills.

  3. IN the post I like most part is the pictorial presentation the drawing itself say much no need of words to say anything......Awesome post.....Can say that my knowledge increase...

  4. What beautiful and touching paintings. God certainly blessed Joey with an unbelievable gift...not only is he expressing the gospel and love of Christ through his work but He's communicating his compassion and empathy towards mankind, an empathy that could only have come about through his experience as dwelling among us in human form and living and suffering at the hands of this world's darkness. Poverty, sickness, violence...all symptoms of a diseased and fallen world...the very world Jesus chose to gave his life to save and bring hope to.

    I know you would have loved a retreat...they for sure are blessings and it is important to meditate and reflect on the significance of the season before it is upon us...I think viewing Joey's artwork definitely helped prepare your heart. Thank you for this beautiful post! I had never seen his work before.

  5. Yesterday was good Friday.I was excited and all but suddenly news came out that I have to take Call Simulation (a call center word that you have to go through if you didn't make it on mock call. Mock call is a kind of call where in you are being tested if you are qualified for a certain position). I was crying and I was about to quit. Imagine, I was one of the top 10 who will be doing some live calls and a rank A. I was one of those people who have receive an email of having a schedule. Then suddenly, I was one of those people who will be doing call simulation? I was confident that time that I will not.

    Then, I realize that maybe He is just testing my FAITH.

    My trainer told me that I'm actually rank A but someone wants to test my capabilities if I'm really rank A.He doesn't want me to quit. My team mates was comforting me. Giving me candies, encouragements, helping me how to handle my call .. everything. I was so touched.

    Now, I laugh whenever I remember that I cried for that reason.

    Yes, I was disappointed but hey, I'm still here and I know myself that I can do BETTER.

    Yes,It's a GOOD FRIDAY!! <3 Faye

  6. Hi Melissa, these paintings are really spectacular and almost come to life! I watched the movie The passion of the Christ last night and looking at these paintings are bringing back some of the scenes in the movie. Well done!

  7. But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.
    Joey has captured Christ’s passion for all children, and for those who have “become as a child.”
    Also, through identifying with the sufferings of Christ, he is able to paint pathos masterfully.
    Blessed Easter Melissa.
    Love always,
    ~ Debra

  8. Thank you for sharing this information. This was a wonderful testimony about what is possible in all of us.

  9. Thank you for sharing this Melissa. It is true God only chooses special people for special tasks.