Our Lady of Compassion


(c) Cat Charissage, 2017, a.r.r.

Dear Friends,

Greetings on this September Full Moon.  Now that the fall season has started, I intend to return to blogging regularly on the full and new moons.

Here is my most recent painting, the archetype of compassion.  There is much in the world right now that is tragic, from the rise of white supremacy groups and the immigration policies of the United States, to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma and the many wildfires in the west of Canada and the United States.  Those are just in my continent; many in the world have huge challenges around them.  And many of us have huge challenges within us, of heartbreak, trauma, and physical, psychological, or spiritual pain.

At previous times in my life I was quite active in small-p politics, working for the causes I believe in.  More recently my work is quieter, including this painting and writing and working with small groups and individuals.  I often wonder what might be the best response to the tragic.  Anger energizes, resistance with others brings solidarity.   Yet always, the best response is love, and compassion.  Compassion comes from the Latin, “to suffer with”, and I think that true loving compassion comes not when we feel sorry for, or pity others, but when something in their suffering touches our own hearts where we, too, have known pain.

For almost a thousand years, the Black Madonna of Christianity, in her hundreds and hundreds of forms, has stood witness to the suffering of humanity and our earth.  She knows the dark, knows our pain, and is with us in the tragic.  She holds the idea, the possibility, of the deep compassion that is possible within us as human beings.  The energy of compassion, the archetype of compassion, is huge, dynamic, almost more than we can understand.  To love is never all sunshine and lollipops.  Roses also have thorns, and are often the color of blood.  What makes them grow is bone meal.  Blood, and bones, then the possibility of beauty coming from what has been broken.

My lady wears the colors of alchemy, the black, white, yellow and red of transformation —- the spiritual journey of our souls and psyche.  The old alchemists’ attempts to transform lead into gold is, symbolically, our own attempts to bring something beautiful, whole, and precious out of something common, dull, and harmful. Lead poisons.  Gold is the sun of photosynthesis, of life.

When I paint faces, I only have partial control of their expressions.  Here, this lady, appeared almost fully formed — turning toward us with such love and acceptance, inviting us to come to her.  Yet she knows the tragic.  She knows the suffering, has lived it.

May we all, with the help of deep compassion, alchemize the suffering within and around us into healing, wholeness, an beauty.

With much love and many blessings,


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