Artwork at Our Lady of Lourdes

Protection of the Mother of God

A gift of Alma Rose In memory of the Rose and Pucci Family

In A.D. 911, when the people of Constantinople were threatened by invaders, they fled to the Church of Blachernae and implored the aid of the Mother of God. During the All-Night Vigil, one of those there, Andrew saw a vision of the Mother of God approaching the center of the church. She knelt down and prayed tearfully for a long time.

Andrew said to his disciple Ephiphanius, “Do you see our Lady, the Queen of the World?” Ephiphanius replied, “I see her, my spiritual father.” After the Mother of God finished her prayers, she took off the shining veil, which enveloped her, and extended it over the people in the church. Though only Andrew and Epiphanius saw the vision of the Mother of God and her veil, all who were present felt the grace of her protection.

A Prayer to the Mother of God Steadfast protectress of Christians, constant advocate before the Creator: “Do not despise the cry of us sinners, but in your goodness come speedily to help us who call on you in faith. Hasten to hear our petitions and to intercede for us, O Mother of God, for you always protect those who honor you. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.”

More honorable than the Cherubim, and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim: as a virgin you gave birth to God the Word. True Mother of God we magnify you.

—Brian Nicholas Tsai, iconographer 2004

The Holy Trinity Icon

In honor of Waltraud and Richard Denten and Robert Peyre

Genesis 18:1-3  And the Lord appeared to him [Abraham] by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men stood in front of him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the earth, and said, “My lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant.”

Christian artists have depicted the Holy Trinity in a variety of ways. Early artists never depicted God the Father in human form, but as the Dextera Domini, the Hand of God. In the 9th-century apse of St. Mark’s, Venice, Christ stands below the Hand of God and above a dove. In the 16th century, God the Father, depicted as the Ancient of Days – a bearded old man in white garments – sat on a throne, with Christ the Word on his lap, and Christ holding a halo containing a dove.

In the Orthodox Church, the visit of the three men to Abraham is interpreted as a revelation of the Holy Trinity. Abraham and Sarah offered food and drink to the visitors who, in turn, promised the aged couple that the barren Sarah would bear a son.

In Andrei Rublev’s 15th-century icon, from which the icon before you is copied, the three angelic figures represent the three Divine Persons of the Trinity. The table has become an altar, and the meal has become the eucharistic chalice with the head of a sacrificial animal. In the background, Abraham’s tent is represented by a temple – the House of God. The Oak of Mamre is now the Tree of Life planted by God in Paradise. From it, according to Tradition, came the wood of the Cross. The mountain signifies spiritual ascent.

Which Divine Person is represented by which angelic figure? There are different interpretations. The interpretation that I understand is that the figures represent, from left to right, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The Son and the Holy Spirit are bowing their heads toward the Father, Who is the Source of both. The Son points with two fingers to the chalice, indicating his mission to become the sacrificial lamb, human and divine, through the Incarnation. The Father gives the Son a gesture of blessing. The Holy Spirit points to the rectangle in the front of the altar, the rectangle symbolizing the world. This signifies that the divine sacrifice is a sacrifice for the salvation of the world.

This icon perfectly represents the One Essence of the three Persons of the Trinity.

—Brian Nicholas Tsai, iconographer 2003

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Installed in Our Lady of Lourdes Church on January 19, 1997.
Stolen April 4, 1998 ( on the 30th anniversary of King’s assassination).
Found in Lake Merritt on Holy Saturday, April 11, 1998.
Blessing of the restored painting, August 2, 1998

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) Dr. King’s philosophy of nonviolence was strongly influenced by Mohandas Gandhi, the Hindu Nationalist leader of India. King expressed this philosophy in the language of Christianity. He was ordained a Baptist minister in 1947. He led nonviolent demonstrations and marches throughout the South. He was jailed, attacked, and his house was bombed.

Dr. King was martyred on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee.

I Have a Dream
On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his most famous speech, in Washington, D.C. The speech was based on Isaiah 40. Compare his passage from Isaiah to these excerpts from his speech: Every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, . . . I have a dream that one day, on the red hills of Georgia, sons of former slaves and sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. The rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, . . . I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. . . . all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of that old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, we are free at last!”

Christ at Gethsemane
The image of Christ at Gethsemane is based on a stained glass window at the King family’s Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. At Gethsemane, Jesus prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.” Dr. King would have meditated on these words as he gazed at the stained glass. The artist imagines that it gave him courage in times of fear. On the eve of his assassination, he delivered his last speech: “I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land.”

—Brian Nicholas Tsai, iconographer

Dorothy Day (1897-1980)

Dorothy Day co-founded the Catholic Worker movement, a movement which began in 1933 as a small “penny-a-copy” newspaper devoted to promoting issues of social justice and peace in the Catholic Church. (The Catholic Worker is still a penny a copy.) The “Catholic Workers” also began serving meals to the poor, and established houses of hospitality for the homeless. Today there are about 130 Catholic Worker farms and houses of hospitality across the United States and throughout the world.

Dorothy’s conversion to Catholicism changed her life, and it stuck with her for the rest of her life, even through the most trying times. She shared the joy of her conversion with those around her, especially the poor. When she helped the poor, she was helping Christ. For Dorothy Day, peace and justice were inseparable from her Catholic faith.

The Holy Trinity Icon was one of Dorothy’s favorite icons. Early Christians believed that the three men who appeared to Abraham at the Oak of Mamre (Genesis 18) were manifestations of the three Persons of the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. This Russian Orthodox icon emphasizes the single nature of the three Divine Persons, that they are equally significant. In the Greek Orthodox Church, this icon is called “The Hospitality of Abraham”, referring to the hospitality which Abraham and Sarah gave to the three men.

Hospitality was a theme of Dorothy Day’s life, a life which recalls the verse from Hebrews: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Psalm 113.  Dorothy quoted from this psalm at the end of her autobiography, The Long Loneliness. “I found myself, a barren woman, the joyful mother of children”. The verse refers to much more than the joy she received from her daughter and grandchildren. Her family was also the community of poor and homeless people, many of whom were drug addicts, alcoholics, and prostitutes; the people no one else wanted to help. Her barrenness was the emptiness she felt when she was separated from her sense of community, separated from her faith.

Note from the artist, despite Dorothy Day’s probabable objections, there is a movement in the Church promoting her cause for canonization. If she is canonized, I have allowed room above her name for the word “Saint”.

—Brian Nicholas Tsai, iconographer 1998