If you think of some of your most favorite works of landscape art, quite often, the artist will choose to paint a beautiful setting in the wilderness, across a body of calm water, where both the landscape and its mirror image reflection on the water, are portrayed. Bev Doolittle is a prime example of that technique in many of her best works. Ansel Adams, the famous wilderness photographer, also used reflected images in many of his award winning shots. Many of the great architects like to design reflecting pools into their complex structures, the most famous of which is between the Lincoln Memorial and the US Capital building in Washington DC.
The campus of Notre Dame has one at the base of a fourteen story mosaic on the side of the library, facing the football stadium. Millions of tiles create a backdrop of angels, saints, apostles and religious figures floating behind a twelve story image of Jesus with outstretched arms. Everyone calls it “Touchdown Jesus”. It is said that that the Notre Dame kicker can look through the goal posts and out through the tunnel entrance to the stadium and see Jesus signifying that the kick is good, with his raised, outstretched arms. At the start of every game, the football team captains always take the coin toss position on the field where they are finishing the fourth quarter towards the image of Touchdown Jesus, under the belief that it will give their kicker inspiration.
Many of the great Prophets, Prognosticators, Philosophers, Professors, Poets, etc., all liked to head off to somewhere in nature and reflect on a wide variety of contemplations to further their understanding of the subject at hand. Christ turned to many different wilderness settings, like the desert, Mount of Olives, Gethsemane, the Sea of Galilee, and others pristine places, to pray. A quote from Hosea, “the wilderness will lead you back to me where I will speak to you”, comes to mind. Where is your wilderness? Your Gethsemane? Your desert? In the Book of Kings, there is mention of great noises in the rush of wind, the roar of fire, the rumble of earth quake, yet none is as loud as the “Whisper of God”.
I was walking my dog around an inner-city wildlife area on a designated tar walking/bike path. We came to a small wooden bridge, spanning a widening in a drainage creek and, for some unknown reason; I stopped and glanced over the rail. Out ahead, my eye caught movement and focused on the reflection of two geese flying by, overhead, but I followed the movement on the water reflection rather than looking up. My eyes trained on the reflections of the clouds moving and floating past the tree tops, then down to where the marsh grass and their reflection met, as the creek turned and disappeared into the landscape. I glanced down at my own reflection, but then detected movement below the surface. My visual focus intensified on the wavering, below surface motion of underwater grass, bowing with the gentle current. I saw a crayfish crawl over some rocks and gravel, magnified by the glass-like water surface. Upon further intensity, a water bug oared around some tiny bits of debris, highlighted by the suns rays. No longer aware of the surface reflections, I gazed as deep as my eyes would allow, searching for the complete picture of all that was happening four feet into the pool.
Reflection is an interesting word in the context of a prayer form. It reminded me of contemplating the Mysteries of the Rosary. The initial visual of any given Mystery, as it is written or depicted by the Rosary guide books, is like the surface reflection on the pool. When you narrow the focus on any particular Rosary Mystery, you begin to contemplate or reflect on its significances to you off the surface. Below the mirrored surface, you ask how is it significant to the Catholic Faith, to mankind, to theology, or ultimately, how does it pertain to me, what does it mean, why is it a Mystery? Not all of them are obvious.