"Bridegroom in the Garden”
8.5" x 11" print (watermark in store image does not appear on print)
Artist Writeup by Beth West
By the revelations of Scripture, the insights of saints and through human experience, it is clear that humanity is destined for union with God. Though this is only fulfilled in heaven, the Lord is constantly calling each person to become closer to him here and now. This painting combines spousal imagery and the imagery of a garden to show the communion which can be experienced when one is open to the Lord.
The woman in this painting is symbolic. She represents both the Church as a whole and an individual heart in relationship with Christ. The whiteness of the painting symbolizes her identity as the bride of Christ. But even more important than the color is her posture. It is one of surrender and openness. Her heart is dilated. She has given her yes. She has opened her garden.
The metaphor of the human heart as a garden is ancient and potent. A garden is beautiful. A garden is delicate. A garden is tender. If a garden is protected and tended and loved, it grows and flowers. It represents fertility. It represents the inmost part of a person. Think of the Song of Songs: “You are a garden enclosed, my sister, my bride” (4:12). The deepest places of a heart are not something to be taken lightly or exposed to many; By opening her garden the woman in the picture is being extraordinarily vulnerable.
The only thing that would lead a person to such vulnerability is perfect love. And that is what Christ offers; he offers perfect love. He is so patient, so tender, so kind. He deeply honors and respects every heart. He is both profoundly reverent and profoundly bold in his desire for intimacy with each of us. When our yes is given and the time is right, Christ plunges into his bride’s open heart without hesitation.
When Christ is in a person’s heart, it changes him or her profoundly. It brings healing and growth. In this piece, blood and water flow from the nail mark in Christ’s hand. The blood is on the left and the water is on the right, as they are in the divine mercy image which was revealed to St. Faustina. The flow of blood and water is grace, it is mercy, it is love. It cleans, purifies, and heals the open heart from the inside out. The presence of the Lord also calls the heart to be more alive. Notice that as Jesus reaches in, the flowers grow and spill out of the woman. His pursuit fosters the fertility of the garden.
Christ calls each of us to a personal relationship and a profound unity with him. Again, this is brought to completion only in heaven; however, the Lord desires to give us glimpses of it here and now. He is perfect love. He pursues us always. We need only say yes.