"All art that really draws us to look at it deeply is spiritual," wrote British religious sister, hermit, and art historian Wendy Beckett in The Mystical Now. "Art accepts all the sadness, and transforms it implicitly affirming that beauty is essentially the presence of God." In this time of mourning Sister Wendy's passing on December 26, 2018, we cannot imagine a better way to honor her than via the art she loved and shared with much of the world through her books and acclaimed BBC television documentaries on art history.
- In Sister Wendy on the Art of Mary, Sister Wendy speaks of art, like prayer, as an expression of longing.
- In Encounters with God, Sister Wendy gives soulful meditations on eight ancient icons "of such overwhelming power and freshness, and of such beauty and holiness, that to encounter them is to encounter a numinous reality which I have found nowhere else."
- In The Mystery of Love, she invites us into spiritual practices of listening, reverence, wonder, and yearning as mystical avenues of approach to the Beloved.
- In Sister Wendy's Book of Meditations, she links ancient and modern paintings with four themes important to all religions: silence, peace, love, and joy.
- In Sister Wendy's Bible Treasury, she takes us on a grand tour of the Old and New Testaments of the Bible as seen through the great painters of different eras.
- In Real Presence, Sister Wendy marvels at the many ways the earliest icons have "all the emotion and drama of early Christianity."
- In Joy Lasts, she draws us into an emotional and sensuous dialogue with art ranging from Cezanne to El Greco.
- And in Sister Wendy on the Art of Saints, she reflects on 14 popular saints portrayed in works of art that reveal their holiness and spiritual activities.
But we miss a great deal if we look at Sister Wendy only through the lens of the art that became her most visible vocation. The depth and strength of her faith comes through in quotes like these:
"We have a thrifty God who lets nothing that is good within us ever go to waste."
— in The Gaze of Love
"Art that is not specifically religious expresses this truth: if we do not see the Lord everywhere, however unconsciously, we shall find it hard to recognize Him when we look into His face at prayer time."
— in The Gaze of Love
"A true icon is as functional as a pen or a bicycle, and like a pen or a bicycle, it only works when put to personal use. You and you alone must ride your bicycle, or use your pen. No one can take this responsibility from you. Obviously, this is a far graver and more rewarding responsibility than anything material, but it is fundamentally a unique, personal offer of an encounter with God. Only you can respond to this."
— in Real Presence
And finally, in Sister Wendy on Prayer:
"Scripture tells us that one of the great joys of entering heaven will be that God will call us by our name. In fact, God is the only one who really knows our name, the full dimensions of our name, because it is only He who knows us absolutely. We do not even know ourselves (but sometimes make unpleasant discoveries). But God knows us through and through; all of us, good and bad."
We are quite sure that Sister Wendy heard her name spoken by God while living her heaven on earth, and she will hear that Voice eternally, too. Meanwhile, thanks to the medium of film and websites, we can still hear her voice, too, as in this uplifting take on the art of Mark Rothko and Andy Warhol: