Friday, June 5, 2020

“But Watch Lest Foes With Base Alloy”

What I on earth have done and taught,
Guide all your life and teaching;
So shall the kingdom’s work be wrought
And honored in your preaching.
But watch lest foes with base alloy
The heav’nly treasure should destroy;
This final word I leave you.

Copyright © Edward Riojas

This illustration for Martin Luther’s final verse of “Dear Christians, One And All Rejoice” (Kloria Publishing), is a counterpart to the book’s cover illustration. There is greater meaning beneath the two pretty pictures, but because of the times, we are forced to understand it more keenly.

There is no social distancing among those who approach the Lord’s Table. More importantly, there is no social distancing between the Lord Himself and those of His flock. He is not concealed by a mask, and we, because of Christ’s sacrifice, fear neither sickness nor death as we approach Him.

Hence, we bow as the crucifix processes past us. In some traditions, we bow as the Gospel – or, more properly, the Word – passes. Hence, we bow at the altar, acknowledging the very body and blood of the Lord Himself. While human reason cannot grasp this truth, we take our Lord at His Word.

Here, the words of Luther’s stanza drive home. The Reformer’s thinly-veiled warning does not directly regard Satan, but rather a more subtle foe. By context, most of us get the gist of the phrase “foes with base alloy,” but Luther paints a picture, through metallurgical terms, of those who may be counted among the  Believers, but whose beliefs are tainted by questionable and impure doctrine; those who wonder why we can’t ALL kneel at the Lord’s Table; those who ask, in eerily-familiar style, “Did He REALLY mean “This is my body?””

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Giclée prints of images from ‘Dear Christians’ are available for purchase in two formats. To order or for more information, please e-mail me at edriojasartist@gmail.com.


Sizes/prices for giclée prints of “Dear Christians: Eucharist Spread:”
30” x 19” / $140
24” x 15.2” / $110
16” x 10.1” / $75




Sizes/prices for giclée prints of “Dear Christians: Eucharist Vertical:”
18.8” x 24” / $120
12.5” x 16” / $75

“Dear Christians, One And All Rejoice,” (Kloria Publishing) is available through Concordia Publishing House and Amazon.com 



Friday, May 29, 2020

“I Am Your Rock And Castle”

To me He Said:
Stay close to Me,
I am your rock and castle.
Your ransom I Myself will be;
For you I strive and wrestle.
For I am yours, and you are Mine,
And where I am you may remain;
The foe shall not divide us.
Copyright © Edward Riojas

Parallel trains of thought ran behind this illustration in “Dear Christians One And All Rejoice” (Kloria Publishing), and a section of the “Te Deum Polyptych” I created for Our Savior Luther Church, Grand Rapids, Mich. I hit a visual roadblock with the Te Deum’s “...we therefore pray Thee to help Thy servants...,” until I was reminded how the Lord helps us through an inundation of Word and Sacraments. Even observant artists don’t always see the obvious.

Martin Luther’s stanza in ‘Dear Chrisitans’ gave me similar pause when thinking of visuals. Unlike the understated phrase in the ‘Te Deum,’ however, Luther’s verse is packed with almost too much theology to illustrate. I understood what the words meant, but I could not easily envision it.

The solution lay again, in part, with Word and Sacrament. I also appealed to the historical approach I was using throughout the book by giving a nod to ancient architecture, and by using the type of decorative embellishment Luther might have seen in his day. But the slightly over-wrought design is more than simple decoration.

The last lines of the stanza echo Christ’s analogy of ‘The Vine and branches,’ illustrating how we are inseparable from our Lord. It takes a little straining of the eyes, but behind the Host, the Vine is cruciform in shape, hinting at greater truths behind the words, “ransom” and “strive and wrestle.” The complexity of leaves and tendrils point to the whole Christian Church that is nourished by The Vine.

See how true it is that, especially in these days, The Word and Sacraments  – and our longing for them – are our rock and castle! See how by them there is abundant life that flourishes beyond the telling! See how nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord!”

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Giclée prints of images from ‘Dear Christians’ are available for purchase in two formats. To order or for more information, please e-mail me at edriojasartist@gmail.com.

Sizes/prices for giclée prints of “Dear Christians: Chalice Spread:”
30” x 19” / $140
24” x 15.2” / $110
16” x 10.1” / $75



Sizes/prices for giclée prints of “Dear Christians: Chalice Vertical:”
18.8” x 24” / $120
12.5” x 16” / $75

“Dear Christians, One And All Rejoice,” (Kloria Publishing) is available through Concordia Publishing House and Amazon.com 






Friday, May 22, 2020

“Now To My Father I Depart”


Now to My Father I depart,
From earth to heav’n ascending,
And, heav’nly wisdom to impart,
The Holy Spirit sending;
In trouble He will comfort you
And teach you always to be true
And into truth shall guide you.

Copyright © Edward Riojas

I chose to showcase this illustration on the day after Ascension Day for obvious reasons. It was created for the book, “Dear Christians, One And All Rejoice” (Kloria Publishing), and illustrates a stanza written by Martin Luther.

Luther’s words condensed two ideas in this verse, which ultimately made for an unusual piece of art. I doubt that I am original in this, but a little visual research didn’t turn up anything identical. Sure, there are plenty of paintings depicting the Ascension of our Lord. Yes, there are paintings of the Holy Spirit descending. There are even paintings of Christ Jesus, reclining on clouds, watching the Holy Spirit descend, and there are paintings of the Holy Spirit [and The Father] waiting as Christ ascends into heaven. In the painting for this book, however, I intentionally did something different.

In a scene that, for lack of a better analogy, is very much akin to the workings of an elevator, Christ ascends, while the counterweight of the Holy Spirit descends with equal speed. The worm’s-eye view also helps to accentuate the feeling of motion. We strain our necks to watch the fast-fleeting Lord, even as the Dove comes down to earth.

Of course, we always associate the coming of the Holy Spirit with Pentecost, so there has always been a bit of a lag in the Church year between the two events. Those nine days have traditionally been a time of fasting. And waiting.

On the other hand, the Lord promised, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” It’s with that comfort that I depicted the Spirit passing Christ Jesus as the Savior ascended, and, if you catch the detail, Christ’s pierced hand is in a position of blessing. Even as He departs, He does not leave us as orphans.

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Giclée prints of images from ‘Dear Christians’ are available for purchase in two formats. To order or for more information, please e-mail me at edriojasartist@gmail.com.

Sizes/prices for giclée prints of “Dear Christians: Ascension Spread:”
30” x 19” / $140
24” x 15.2” / $110
16” x 10.1” / $75




Sizes/prices for giclée prints of “Dear Christians: Ascension Vertical:”
18.8” x 24” / $120
12.5” x 16” / $75

“Dear Christians, One And All Rejoice,” (Kloria Publishing) is available through Concordia Publishing House and Amazon.com




Friday, May 15, 2020

Signs and Confessions

“The Son obeyed His Father’s will...”

Copyright © Edward Riojas

These two page spreads do not appear back to back in the book, “Good Christians, One And All Rejoice,” (Kloria Publishing), but they are very closely related. The birth, death and resurrection of Christ Jesus is expressed by Martin Luther in two verses of his hymn.

It’s a bit hard to unravel the rich theology Luther weaves into the hymn, but visual strands of the whole can be seen when, for example, these two illustrations are placed side by side. In the one, a docile lamb rests. In the other The Lamb of God , obeying His Father’s will, is docile in death.

In the one, a seemingly insignificant sign, given by angels, is shown. In the other, the same sign is made manifest in the swaddled body of Christ, placed in a stone tomb.

In the one, a heavenly light points the way to the New King. In the other, our Lord IS the Light that draws the world to Himself.

Hopefully, the illustrations in this book give proper homage, as do Luther’s words, to the rich tapestry of the Gospel we confess.

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Giclée prints of images from ‘Dear Christians’ are available for purchase in two formats. To order or for more information, please e-mail me at edriojasartist@gmail.com.

Sizes/prices for giclée prints of “Dear Christians: Nativity Spread:”
30” x 19” / $140
24” x 15.2” / $110
16” x 10.1” / $75





Sizes/prices for giclée prints of “Dear Christians: Nativity Vertical:”
18.8” x 24” / $120
12.5” x 16” / $75








Sizes/prices for giclée prints of “Dear Christians: Easter Spread:”
30” x 19” / $140
24” x 15.2” / $110
16” x 10.1” / $75

Sizes/prices for giclée prints of “Dear Christians: Easter Vertical:”
18.8” x 24” / $120
12.5” x 16” / $75


“Dear Christians, One And All Rejoice,” (Kloria Publishing) is available through Concordia Publishing House and Amazon.com





Friday, May 8, 2020

“Bright Jewel of My Crown”

God said to His beloved Son:
It’s time to have compassion.
Then go bright jewel of My crown,
And bring to all salvation.
From sin and sorrow set them free;
Slay bitter death for them that they
May live with You forever.

Copyright © Edward Riojas

This illustration, created for “Dear Christians, One And All Rejoice” (Kloria Publishing), was the most difficult to conceptualize. I wanted to stay true to Martin Luther’s hymn text, but visualizing those words eventually went down and unusual path.

The stanza begins with a conversation between Persons of the Holy Trinity, to which we are oddly privy.

This divine dialogue shows up in Holy Scripture. Genesis 1:26a, declares, “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” Again in Genesis 11:6-7, regarding the tower of Babel, “And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another's speech.” The words “us” and “our” are significant.

Visualizing the “jewel” in Luther’s stanza teetered between brilliance and heresy. Admittedly, it is impossible for mortals to fully understand the mystery of the Holy Incarnation, and it is lunacy to claim as much. It is with that lack of full understanding that I dared to show the preincarnate Christ as a tiny fetus while still descending from heaven. However, I stand behind the truth that, as a seemingly insignificant Being, the Son’s preeminence was – and still is – blindingly significant and brilliant. He is, indeed, the bright jewel of the Father’s crown.

While reminiscent of a cross-topped crown, the gold ornamentation around the fetal Christ is actually formed in a tri-radiant nimbus, confessing that Christ Jesus is a Person of the Holy Trinity. In Honor of Him, the angels dare not even look on His countenance. And in a preemptive, divine action against those who futilely strive toward the perfection of heaven, The Father's Hand of blessing brings down to us His greatest Blessing – The Son.

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Giclée prints of “Dear Christians: Procession,” are available for purchase in two formats. To order or for more information, please e-mail me at edriojasartist@gmail.com.

Sizes/prices for giclée prints of “Dear Christians: Crown Spread:”
30” x 19” / $140
24” x 15.2” / $110
16” x 10.1” / $75





Sizes/prices for giclée prints of “Dear Christians: Crown Vertical:”
18.8” x 24” / $120
12.5” x 16” / $75


“Dear Christians, One And All Rejoice,” (Kloria Publishing) is available through Concordia Publishing House and Amazon.com



Friday, May 1, 2020

“My Own Good Works”

My own good works all came to naught,
No grace or merit gaining;
Free will against God's judgment fought,
Dead to all good remaining.
My fears increased till sheer despair
Left only death to be my share;
The pangs of hell I suffered.

Copyright © Edward Riojas

Martin Luther continues his dark train of thought in this stanza of “Dear Christians, One And All Rejoice,” pointing to the Reformer’s state of despair. The book of the same name was produced by Kloria Publishing.

In the illustration for this stanza, Luther walks past a morality play in progress. Such productions were often a strange conglomeration of drama, dark humor, and questionable theology. They typically included unsuspecting actors being swallowed by the ugly maw of hell, as is shown here. The threat of damnation must have been a constant companion for those who depended on their own good works for salvation. In Luther’s case, it was an unbearable weight. To highlight his emotional and spiritual state even more, I’ve included a couple of blissfully-ignorant children, whose relative innocence has not yet been polluted by the teachings of Rome.

Even the invented, misplaced hopes so deftly promoted by Rome did little to ease troubled minds. In a silhouette behind Luther, a banner bearing official Papal seals urges the faithful to buy indulgences.

Luther could not escape these ever-present reminders of his own insufficiency. Thanks be to God, neither could he escape the Hound of Heaven, Who pursued the Reformer with the Light of the Gospel and eventually led him to discover the Grace of a loving Savior.

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Again, I don’t plan to offer giclée prints of this particular image unless someone twists my arm.

“Dear Christians, One And All Rejoice,” (Kloria Publishing) is available through Concordia Publishing House and Amazon.com 





Friday, April 24, 2020

“So Firmly Sin Possessed Me”

Fast bound in Satan's chains I lay;
Death brooded darkly o'er me.
Sin was my torment night and day;
In sin my mother bore me.
But daily deeper still I fell;
My life became a living hell,
So firmly sin possessed me.
Copyright © Edward Riojas

Not every waking moment of the Christian’s life is filled with joy and exultation. Sometimes life seems to have little meaning. Oftentimes Satan wheedles his way into the nooks and crannies of our being and threatens to undo us at every turn. Sometimes life just sucks. It is very comforting for us, therefore, that Martin Luther opened up and revealed the less-heroic corners of his mind.

Illustrating this stanza of “Dear Christians, One and All Rejoice” (Kloria Publishing), was a bit of a challenge, and it was also one of the reasons I decided to use a historic approach to the book. Most of us are familiar with the intense doubt, the fear of damnation, and the self-flagellation which consumed the Reformer.

Besides Death visually looming over Luther, there are other clues to his inner turmoil in the illustration. I intentionally included an unlit candle. The man could not yet see the Light of the Word in its fullness. Divine Wisdom was not yet his. Although volumes lay before him, he lived in the dark; he was constrained and tortured; he was “Fast bound in Satan’s chains.”

It is almost as if the viewer of this illustrations WILLS the plagued figure to simply raise his head and see the image of Love and Grace before him; we want him to look to Christ as the all-atoning sacrifice, not only for Luther’s sins, but for the sins of the whole world.

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Thus far I don’t plan to offer giclée prints of this image – that is, unless someone twists my arm.


“Dear Christians, One And All Rejoice,” (Kloria Publishing) is available through Concordia Publishing House and Amazon.com