The Holy Family with the Mayfly — 2021
by Michelle L Hofer
Mixed media painting on paper
Last fall, I woke one morning from a dream in which I sensed God was speaking to me. It was quite strange and the meaning was hidden. Normally, the dreams I can remember are related to what is going on in my waking life – my subconscious mind processing what the conscious had experienced. Dreams from God interrupt the identifiable pattern of connection just as this one did…
I am in a bright white room in which there is a large round glass bowl – so large it takes up the entire room. I am there working diligently to fill the glass bowl with all kinds of aquatic plants and moss and finally water. I am creating a giant container water garden. I am filled with great joy as I work. It is a magical experience… for suddenly a variety of creatures show up in the bowl of water among the moss and plants I have placed there. There are fish and a turtle and a magnificent squid. All of them are pure white in color. It’s stunning and I am watching in amazement.
Then, an extra large mayfly, also pure white, comes and lands on the water and the squid swims over to it, raises out of the water and opens his mouth. The mayfly proceeds to climb right on in. He seems to be a bit chalky, not like a mayfly – perhaps more like a moth, and a puff of dust floats up as the squid swallows the mayfly.
Like any dream that does not come with easy connections and understandings, it is best to record it and set it aside. At this point, I leave it up to the Spirit to reveal the significance of such a vision when she sees fit. Being the melancholy person that I am, I initially find encouragement in the fact that this dream was so joyful.
Several months later I saw a Facebook post for a new ministry startup called The Order of Saint Hildegard. Now being the saint curious Protestant I am, I was immediately interested in this venture. I attended three “meet and greet” online events and when the time came, I filled out the application for a position on the organization’s Wisdom Council and was accepted.
Prior to all this I knew very little about Saint Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) and have since been reading and studying her artwork. YES she was an artist as well as a musical composer, theatrical director, physician, biologist, in other words, your standard polymath. Smile. When I began to learn about her concept of viriditas or greening power, the water garden dream came back to me. It seemed an exact visual for the kind of Spirit-drenched life Hildegard calls believers to grow and tend.
When a forest does not green vigorously, then it is no longer a forest. When a tree does not blossom it cannot be fruitful without the vriditas (greening power) of faith. The soul that is full of wisdom is saturated with the spray of a bubbling fountain, God himself. — Saint Hildegard of Bingen
Also my area church conference invited me to lead an art night over Zoom. Though it was a topic I didn’t have a lot of experience with, I decided I would lead my workshop on prayer mandalas. This required me to do some research and study and who should I bump into again as a leading figure in Christian mandala making?… Saint Hildegard of Bingen!
The mandala prayer method* begins by drawing a circle and I again thought about the water garden dream and viriditas and the fact that the bowl was a large circle.
God hugs you. You are encircled by the arms and mystery of God. — Saint Hildegard of Bingen
At this point, I know without a doubt that God has given me the dream to encourage and affirm me in my work. This is an encounter with the tender side of God that never ceases to amaze me. Painting the dream became a way to declare God’s goodness and his special love for me. Then during my work on this piece I came across the following Scripture…
And God will swallow up the oppression that weighs us down. He will take away the heavy shroud that is draped over all peoples of the world. God will swallow up death forever. The Lord, the Eternal, will wipe away the tears from each and every face and deflect the scorn and shame His people endure from the whole world, for the Eternal determined that is should be so. — Isaiah 25:7-8
God swallowing up oppression and death like a magnificent squid swallows up an ugly dry powdery mayfly? AND that feeling of pure joy that I remember from the dream fits this removal of scorn and shame.
One more thing… After googling down the only famous artwork containing a mayfly, an etching of the Holy Family by Albrecht Dürer, I stole his title. It just worked for me.
*A short tutorial of how to create a prayer mandala is available here >