Thomas Cole, The Voyage of Life: Childhood, Youth, Middle Age, Old Age (1842), on display in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. Cole’s Voyage of Life, charts the journey of someone from infancy through youth and adulthood to death, depicting the idealized forms of these stages of life while also warning of the dangers inherent in life, especially the dangers of self-sufficiency as visualized by the risks of the traveler’s river journey. Cole suggests in the final image that it’s only prayer and divine assistance that will save the traveler from the dangers of life. I chose this quartet because of the resonances it has with our Epistle for this weekend, Ephesians 3:14-21. Paul prays that the Ephesians might know the height, breadth, length, and depth of God’s love, suggesting that God’s love is so great that it extends to the farthest reaches of time, space, the chances and changes of our lives, and even to encompass eternity. Perhaps what’s most miraculous about Paul’s prayer is not that God’s love is like that, but that we can know it in our own lifetimes through our own prayers.

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