Contemplative Vision: A Guide to Christian Art and Prayer, By Juliet Benner
Contemplative Vision
  • Length: 183 pages
  • Dimensions: 5.5 × 8.25 in
  • Published: December 21, 2010
  • Imprint: IVP Formatio
  • Item Code: 3544
  • ISBN: 9780830835447

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While working as a docent in an art gallery, Juliet Benner began showing people how to meditate on Christian art treasures that are rooted in a passage of Scripture. She taught a way of encountering the Word behind both the words of Scripture and the artist's meditation on Scripture. This became a way of seeing art as an aid to contemplative prayer.

This process resulted in her much-beloved "O Taste and See" columns that appeared in the spiritual formation journal Conversations, now expanded into this book. In each chapter you'll encounter a passage of Scripture and a corresponding piece of art. You'll be guided into deeper levels of meaning and reflection through the text and the questions at the end of each chapter. In the process you'll find yourself entering into a new experience of prayer and meditation in God's presence.

"Juliet Benner's Contemplative Vision is a feast! Using her impressive scholarship gently and graciously, she invites the reader to see our familiar story with new eyes. This is a book to be read slowly and savored, a book to be kept close at hand to be picked up again and again. Her suggestions and questions for reflection make it ideal as a theme for small groups or as the focus for retreats. "A delightful and lavish feast, it left me hungry for more!"

Margaret Guenther, author of Holy Listening and At Home in the World

"When as a novice I first began not many years ago to sketch and paint, I discovered not only an avocation--but a calling to see in a whole new way. That is what Juliet Benner's beautiful book does--helps us to see God's story with freshly cleansed eyes. Contemplative Vision is a guide that deeply engages the mind and heart and imagination. It takes us into the transforming presence of the God who unveils himself in Scripture as seen through the eyes and hands of gifted artists. Do read--and gaze--and see for yourself!"

Leighton Ford, president, Leighton Ford Ministries, and author of The Attentive Life

"Where there is no vision people perish. In Contemplative Vision Juliet Benner enlivens us to see in the visible those things that are invisible. Her icon-mediations left me with a lingering sense of wonder, awe and reverence."

Trevor Hudson, South African pastor and author of Discovering Our Spiritual Identity

"This is a beautiful and inspiring work that will help you reflect and respond to God not just with your mind but also with your heart and soul."

Ruth Haley Barton, president, Transforming Center, and author of Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership

"In this creative guide to prayer and meditation, Juliet Benner draws from the deep wells of Scripture and art appreciation, guiding us toward spiritual transformation. Benner has shaped an important resource for Christians, especially those interested in contemplative living."

Judith Couchman, author of The Mystery of the Cross and The Art of Faith

"It is hard not to say 'I told you so.' The first time I read Juliet Benner's 'Oh Taste See' column for Conversations journal I knew she had a rare gift for seeing--what others may miss--and describing--in a way that touches the soul--and I was pretty sure a wonderful book would follow. Here it is! A blending of biblical passages and the visual representation of the stories; lectio on contemplative steroids."

Gary W. Moon, M.Div., Ph.D., Richmont Graduate University and author of Apprenticeship with Jesus

"This book is a unique gift for those involved in spiritual direction and biblical reflection. Juliet's delightful insights and thoughtful meditations bring the gospel stories to life. Her understanding of the artwork gives new perspectives as well as invites the reader into sacred space."

Irene Alexander, spiritual director, psychologist and educator, Brisbane, Australia

"Juliet Benner?s new book provides a rich and insightful account that may well help us begin to recover the value of image for the faith journey."

Imago Newsletter, Spring 2011

"Benner's gentle guidance will likely spark some ideas in you as well, and may well help you develop God's gifts of seeing eyes and a spirit ready to respond in joyful obedience."

Michelle Van Loon, Englewood Review, Lent 2011


Introduction: Christian Art and Transformation

Part One: Transformed Awareness
1 Awakening
Bruegel the Elder, Census at Bethlehem
2 Coming Aside
Moretto da Brescia, Christ in the Wilderness
3 Gazing in Stillness
Johannes Vermeer, Jesus in the House of Mary and Martha
4 Attuned to God?s Presence
Jean-Fran├žois Millet, The Angelus

Part Two: Transformed Vision
5 Called to See
Nicolas Poussin, The Adoration of the Shepherds
6 Immanuel, God with Us
Rembrandt, Christ in the Storm on the Lake of Galilee
7 Seeing and Believing
Caravaggio, The Incredulity of St. Thomas
8 Recognizing Christ
Caravaggio, The Supper at Emmaus

Part Three: Transformed Living
9 The Way of the Cross
Ridolfo Ghirlandaio, Procession to Calvary
10 Called to Follow
Caravaggio, The Call of St. Matthew
11 Seeing Christ in Others
He Qi, The Visitation
12 Bearing Christ
Rubens, Descent from the Cross
13 Seeing and Serving
Luca Giordano, The Good Samaritan

Epilogue: Transforming Vision
Appendix 1: Suggestions for Group Discussion Leaders
Appendix 2: Suggestions for Use in Spiritual Direction
Image credits


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Juliet Benner

Juliet Benner is a retreat and workshop leader whose travel in recent years has taken her to Singapore, Malaysia, Norway, Denmark, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Hong Kong, and Indonesia. Benner has taught high school English and art and worked as a teaching leader with Bible Study Fellowship, International. While raising her family, she trained and worked as a calligrapher. She has also worked in art education, serving for twelve years as a docent at the Art Gallery of Hamilton (Canada). Her primary training in spiritual direction was at St. Joseph's Centre for Spirituality (also in Hamilton, Canada). In addition, she has served as a consultant in art and spirituality at the Carey Centre on the campus of University of British Columbia (Vancouver) and Tao Fong Shan Christian Centre (Hong Kong). She lives in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, with her husband, David, who shares her passion for hiking, nature, art, and music.