Black Square, is a 1915 oil painting by Kazimir Malevich. Over time the solid black paint on linen has cracked and faded. It and other black paintings by Malevich are often displayed in a corner of a room rather than flat on the wall. This is a reference to the Russian Orthodox practice of hanging an image of Christ in a specific corner of a room.

Messiaen’s commentary on XVIII. Regard de l’Onction terrible (Gaze of the awesome Unction; referring to Christ’s coronation):

“The Word assumes a definite human nature, selection of the flesh of Jesus by the appalling Majesty…

An ancient tapestry represents the Word of God battling under the images of Christ on horseback: one sees only his two hands on the sheath of the sword, which he brandishes amid the lightning. This picture influenced me.

In the Introduction and the Coda, progressively showing note values are superimposed on progressively accelerating values and the reverse.”

Our joy in Advent comes while we journey through a broken world. The difference between the fleeting nature of happiness - based on our self-obsessed tendencies - and the eternal resonance of joy - based on the hope of God’s redemption -  is hard to manage at times.

Contemplate: in the Black Square, what do you see? What do you expect to see, or want to see, but cannot find? Follow the cracks. Do they form anything you didn’t see at first? Why might this show joy more effectively than familiar images of “happiness?”

Listen: What would it sound like to hear Christ’s coronation, an event that is overflowing with joy? Would our limited musical minds be able to handle God’s music? Allow yourself a blank slate upon which to imagine it without reference to music you’ve heard before or made a habit of listening to.

Prayer: Lord, we desperately need Your joy in our world. There is so much that falls short of Your standards, and our vain attempts at pleasing ourselves are often steps in the wrong direction. Allow us to know the joy that comes from your incarnation in Jesus, so that we can share it with all the people in our lives.