After the death of Fr. Frans van der Lugt, who I’ve written about before, I painted this icon of him. I hope it captures just a small portion of his spirit and work, which have been so inspirational to me in the days since his death.
I am fortunate that the website of the Middle East Jesuits published my icon, with a description in Arabic of the symbolism. You can see the original Arabic post here on their website. I have translated it below.
Many thanks to my new friend, Tony Homsy, S.J., for wanting to feature my artwork on the site. He was a friend of Fr. Frans and will be traveling back to his native Syria to continue his ministry in the war-torn country. We pray that God will protect the Jesuits presence in Syria, and particularly in Homs.
It has been forty days since Fr. Frans’ murder. The fortieth day is a significant event in the mourning ritual of Middle Eastern Christians. Many believe that after a person’s death their spirit remains on earth for forty days and then ascends to heaven. Indeed, Fr. Frans’ spirit has been felt among us in the days since his death, reigniting my passion for promoting interfaith understanding. Now, as he comes face-to-face with the Father and intercedes on our behalf, let us find the courage to “move forward” and continue the important work for which Fr. Frans gave his life.
(The original post by Tony Homsy, S.J. can be found here.)
An icon of the patron of interreligious dialogue: Fr. Frans van der Lugt
From the pencil of Jordan Denari
Jordan, an American student from the Jesuit Georgetown University, surprised us with this painting which demonstrates her love of the Arabic language, her passion for interfaith dialogue, and her gratitude for Fr. Frans van der Lugt, S.J., who is considered an example of incarnate love in word and deed. Having graduated from Georgetown with a degree in Culture and Politics, she now conducts research on Arabic-language Christian media and its effect on an Islamic environment. Her blog can be found here.
Description of the elements of the painting:
The cross at the top-left of the painting is the symbol of Christianity, upon which Jesus was crucified and redeemed humanity. Fr. Frans wanted to follow his Lord by offering his life for the sake of his loved ones.
The bismillah (top-center Arabic text) is an expression that begins most chapters of the Qur’an. In English it reads “in the name of God, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful.” Fr. Frans saw in Islam and its teachings a call to coexistence and fraternity. On the top-right is a green crescent and star, a common symbol of Islam.
The phrase “Still, the world is good” (the Arabic text along the left side) is a simple phrase is a motto of optimism which Fr. Frans sent into the hearts of all to help them face their difficulties.
In the center is an image of Fr. Frans as we knew him, holding a book on the teachings of Zen. He was a master of integrating East Asian spirituality with Christian spirituality, and he had deep understanding of people’s personal spiritual experiences.
“For the greater glory of God” (the Arabic text along the right side) is the motto of the Society of Jesus and of Fr. Frans, who spent almost 55 years in Syria with the Society.
The phrase “Let’s move forward” (the Arabic text along the bottom of the image) is a saying used by Fr. Frans as a sign of resurrection and hope. After his horrific death, those who loved him took this simple phrase, which he used to end his speeches and writings, as they make their way through the darkness of death and hunger.
The image on the bottom right is the symbol of the Society of Jesus. The letters “IHS” represent “Jesus Christ, Savior of humanity.” The image on the bottom left is the symbol of Zen Buddhism.
The image at the bottom represents Fr. Frans’ two important ministries: offering personal spiritual guidance and leading an interfaith pilgrimage.
Fr. Frans, patron of interfaith dialogue, pray for us!