This artwork by Anish Kapoor is titled Svayambh. I prefer factual descriptions of artwork over interpretation when I first encounter an artwork. The fabricators of this piece describe it as, "...a mechanically driven object covered in red-pigmented wax, which moves noiseless and imperceptibly slow through several galleries of the museum. When the body crossed the spaces the wax layer is moulded and shaped by the archways as to give the impression that the form was extruded through the gallery. ‘Svayambh’ is a Sanskrit word, meaning something that is 'created out of itself.'"

Svayambh at Musée des Beaux Arts, Nantes. Image © Anish Kapoor.

Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992) was a French composer, renowned for his sensitivity to color, birdsong, and his Catholic mysticism. His epic cycle for solo piano, Vingts Regards sur l’enfant-Jésus (“Twenty contemplations on the infant Jesus”), spans two hours. The work was completed in Paris in 1945, shortly after the city’s liberation. Not unlike the associations we build with music in movies – for example, think of Howard Shore’s memorable tunes associated with various characters in Lord of the Rings – Messiaen assembles a number of musical leitmotives that symbolize various ideas and personalities in the Nativity.

In the first piece (provide Messiaen’s description), the theme of God expansively sets the stage for the cycle. Do not listen for a story or a narrative; instead, through the repetitions of the five-chord motive, center your mind upon timelessness that might feel like “too long” or “too slow” in human time. Use it as a chance to focus your mind and spirit on God the Father.

Messiaen’s commentary on I. Regard du Père (Gaze of the Father)

“The statement of the Theme of God in its entirety. And God said: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased …”

At the beginning of advent all I can think about is the arrival. I begin to think about the annunciation and then the journey to Bethlehem and that humble manger. My mind jumps straight from annunciation to birth with a, "hark!" and a, "hearld!" followed by angels singing without letting the gestation of Christ to set in. Mary accepts the angelic hosts offer and then she must wait and bear the son of God in her womb.

This pairing of artwork and music begins our journey of advent. A massive hulk of blood like wax is molded by the doorways as it slowly enters different rooms of the museum. The piano slowly builds as the notes and cords feel like they are being held back from exploding forth all at once. What was it like for Christ to form in Mary's womb? Was it painful to submit to God's knitting and molding as he is forced into the incarnate form? Was it like a piano that can make hundreds of notes at once calmly submitting to the sound of a single key?

I don't know Sanskrit but I do know the only being who was created out of Itself. The promise of Advent is hope for all who are of the nature that Christ incarnated.