I was sitting in sharing time last Sunday, surrounded by my class of nine year old girls, when a member of our primary presidency brought out this painting.
It’s by Nicolaes Maes. A Dutch painter from the Golden Age who studied in Rembrandt’s studio. In his best period, from 1655 to 1665, he devoted himself to capturing the domestic. He painted life-size figures with deep, glowing color schemes and some of his art now hangs in Buckingham Palace.
This piece is called Prayer Without End.
I studied it as this thoughtful sister taught. And the more I looked, the more I found to love. The more I wanted to know this woman in prayer.
The lines in her forehead, the tiny creases between her eyes, the translucent color of her skin. All depicting age without resistance. Graceful, acquiescent.
The way her head is bowed and her hands touch each other in symbol of communion. Postures grown out of habit and years.
Her meal for one, on that small square of table. Was it always this size, this lonely? Or is she remembering those who used to share her bread?
The cat, claws caught on linen, vying for part of her bounty, while her devotions continue undistracted, unconcerned. Expressions of gratitude floating upward, uninterrupted.
Her open bible, read and read again.
The keys that keep her there, protect her things, secure her space. Maybe symbolic of keys to another place. A kingdom where no one goes hungry and all are welcomed, encircled, found.
And then there is the title. Prayer Without End.
Could this be the last meal she will eat alone, her own last supper? Could this prayer, born of lips and heart, soon transfigure into face to face communion? Where her hands will separate in warm embrace for her maker? He who knows the holiest of people. The quiet ones, who do not preach sermons from pulpits or pound truth into pages. They who walk the earth connected to him, living out their sermons in deed and way, wholly holy, perfectly in line with his will.
Dear woman, I wish I could sit at your table, hear your words.
Today, our extended Arveseth family will fill not just one table, but two. We will be thinking of those not with us. Of those gone on. Of those yet to join us.
I will hold each of my children’s hands, squeeze their palms in mine, and say thank you. I will put my arms around my husband’s waist and lean my head onto his chest and whisper thank you. And I will kneel as long as it takes to sincerely give thanks for my bounty, my life, God’s light, His love, and His forgiveness.
“Sincerely giving thanks.. unlocks the doors of heaven.” – Thomas S. Monson
That is what I want. Prayer that unlocks. Prayer that transfigures. Prayer without end.
Happy Thanksgiving friends.