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Annunciation after Luca Giordano in Process


Art and Synodality

This summer I have been participating in a series of conversations about Art and Synodality. Sponsored by the Catholic Artist Connection, the conversations are in conjunction with the Catholic Church’s  three year conversation on listening and walking together in its Synod on Synodality. This series of Art and Synodality conversations will culminate in a group exhibit at the Ignatian Family Teach-In in Washington DC at the end of October.

What is a synod? According the website of the Christian Brothers of North America, the word “synod” comes from a Greek word meaning “assembly” and The two Greek words that make up synod are syn meaning “together” and hodos meaning “way” or “journey”. So synodality is the process of journeying together. According to the Synod website, Synodality

“denotes the particular style that qualifies the life and mission of the Church, expressing her nature as the People of God journeying together and gathering in assembly, summoned by the Lord Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit to proclaim the Gospel. Synodality ought to be expressed in the Church’s ordinary way of living and working.”  

So the Synod on Synodality is a global listening session as to how we as a Church can journey together better.

This summer I  also re-engaged with the practice of doing small “transcriptions”. These transcriptinos are studies, of master paintings of the Annunciation. This series of my work began more than ten years ago. I periodically return to the practice when I am meditating on “what’s next” in my work. 

Listening to What’s Next

I had been struggling with what to make in response to these conversations on Art and Synodality. Towards the end of the summer, several days before the deadline to submit to the exhibit, it finally hit me: I had been working on my response already, all summer long. The process of these making these master studies is always about listening for what is next and what path to take. 

Annunciation after Gentileschi, Oil on Panel, 7″ x 5″ ©2023 Michelle Arnold Paine All Rights Reserved

The Annunciation is about listening. Synodality is about listening, and the Synod is a process of listening together. As I work on these paintings I am listening to the variety of means the narrative of the Annunciation has been told by those before me. I tell it in my own way in other paintings I create.

In the same way, we receive and listen to what the Church has handed down to us through the years. The truths remain the same, but the manner of implementation may shift. We have to go out and live it for this moment, in this age. As we listen to what has come before, we must also listen to the needs of where we are now. We must listen to how the Holy Spirit is moving to address those needs in its wisdom and creativity. If we can listen as Mary did, we can begin to move forward towards the Beauty (and Truth and Goodness) to which God has called us. 

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