The Jesse Tree
Arts & Faith: Advent
Michelangelo Buonarroti, “Isaiah” Sistine Chapel detail, 1477–83
In the masterful complexity of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel (1477–83), a cast of figures surrounds the selected scenes of Salvation history: sibyls, prophets, ancestors in the genealogy of Jesus, angels, caryatids, and personifications of classical architecture. Among these, we spot Isaiah the prophet, who turns with surprised consideration to two angels behind him. One of these angels guides his attention with intensity to the scene above them: preparations for Noah’s ark. In today’s Lectionary readings, Isaiah and Noah again find each other side by side.
In Michelangelo’s depiction, Isaiah looks on the brink of a new thought, an inspired insight that reveals God’s grace in the course of history. As a prophet, his call was to invite God’s people with him into these moments of inspiration. Accepting his invitation, we wonder: was he thinking of Noah’s ark, resting atop Mount Ararat, when he handed on the vision of God’s holy mountain? In Isaiah’s vision, all people stream toward this holy mountain, a holy place of peace and reconciliation, where swords become ploughshares and spears become pruning hooks. Is this also a place where we might find our solid ground, after the rain and flood, storm and tempest? In these Advent days, what brings us up God’s holy mountain?
Commentary is by Daniella Zsupan-Jerome, assistant professor of liturgy, catechesis, and evangelization at Loyola University New Orleans.
Related Ignatian reflection on this week’s art
Moment of Inspiration Collage (Ages 9–12)
As a prophet, Isaiah calls others to an insight that reveals God’s grace in our lives, “a moment of inspiration.” Have children think about times in their lives when they feel God’s presence and grace, such as when experiencing nature or singing at Mass or volunteering. Using magazines and newspapers, have children make a collage representing their moments. Display the collages as a reminder that God’s grace can inspire us at any moment.
Where Is Our Solid Ground? (Ages 12–15)
Isaiah was a prophet who accepted God’s call to share the Good News. In his time, that meant traveling great distances to speak to others. Ask young people to think about what it means to be a prophet today, with modern technology to help spread the world. Have them design a technology-friendly campaign to spread God’s message to the public. Have young people include drawings of their design, as well as a description of how it will work and why it would be a successful mode of communication.