On Earth as in Heaven

On Earth as it is in Heaven

In response to our Holy Father Pope Francis’ call to dialog and action on Climate Change in his Encyclical Laudato Si’ On Care for Our Common Home, published in 2015, I offer this metaphorical painting, On Earth as it is in Heaven,  as a visual prayer to raise consciousness and to encourage dialog.

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The title of the painting “On Earth as it is in Heaven”  is taken from the prayer Jesus taught us. That is, the Lord’s Prayer, Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done, On Earth as it is in Heaven.

The painting is rhetorical in concept and presents us with only two possibilities.

One in harmony with God’s Creation. In other words, a future of justice, peace and sustainability in the natural world. Conversely, the other of plunder, chaos, and endless war. Subsequently, an ultimate collapse of nature and life on our planet home as we know it.

Moreover, the painting asks a question of the viewer, each one of us, whatever our religion or beliefs. Which future do we want to live in, leave to our children and future generations?

God is giving us a choice

From a Christian understanding, God gave us Free Will.  In the garden of Eden He gave Adam free choice to eat or not eat of the fruit He had forbidden him [Genesis 2: 16-17 ]. Furthermore, He gave him conscious intelligence. However, Adam chose not to listen to God and instead disobeyed Him.

Hence God gave us a second chance. He sent His son Jesus Christ to redeem us from our sins. Again, we did not listen; we (humanity) the powerful elite and the uninformed, rejected and crucified him.

Now God again is giving us a choice. He is clearly speaking to us through His Vicar on earth, Pope Francis, and above all through His creation. In other words, in the appalling species extinction since the onset of the industrial revolution compounded with the horrendous events of climate change, the suffering of the poor and our endless wars.

Will we once again NOT LISTEN to God, not do His will but rather do ours? Will we ignore Him and continue in our own foolish inevitably destructive path towards annihilation?

St. Francis beckons us

 Pope Francis speaks to us in his encyclical of Saint Francis of Assisi. He took his name as his own upon becoming Pope, naming the saint “as being the Patron Saint of all who study and work in the area of ecology”. (L.S. 10). Hence we see Saint Francis in the foreground of the painting with the faithful Ox, symbol of the Gospel of Saint Luke and Acts. He opens for us the full spectacle of consciousness of the fateful choice before us. Indeed a choice we must make.

Our choice begs the question, if we wantonly destroy God’s sacred Creation through self deception, apathy, pride and/or greed, do we not blaspheme against God? And thus would this not be as the sin of Lucifer? For he was God’s favorite angel who fell because of his envy and pride, as he dared to challenge God and rebel against Him.


Detail of painting "On Earth as it is in Heaven" by AVonnHartung


The metaphors of the egg and gold

At the center of the painting “On Earth as it is in Heaven”  we see planet Earth “Our Common Home” in a healthy, vibrant, livable state on one side. And conversely in a barren, scorched state of death on the other.

Christ, the Center of Creation, is superimposed above Earth. “Through Him all things were made” [John 1:3]. He holds seven stars In His outstretched right hand, symbolizing Hope. Above and to His right in outer-space, our habitation of the moon, signifying a future of endless possibility.

 Christ clutches the sealed scroll of the Apocalypse In the other hand. Lurking behind are the dreaded plagues waiting to be released, if the seals be broken.

Earth is painted in the form of an egg. This is to metaphorically symbolize the fragility of Earth’s ecosystem as well as her natural abundance and fertility.

The metaphor of the egg is also used to show a covenant broken and the resultant rupture of earth’s fragile ecology. Consequently humanity’s fall from grace has been caused by a flawed linear economic system based on the misuse of power and wealth. This is symbolized by the unholy use of GOLD.

In Christian symbolism Gold has traditionally been used to symbolize the uncreated light of God [divinity]. Similarly it can be seen in the halo of saints and in this painting, in the halo of Christ.

However, Gold here is used in the lower portion of the painting as if dripping and trickling down from the broken egg. Moreover, it is pictured as striking like a LIGHTNING bolt to symbolize envy and greed. In other words, the desire to achieve a seemingly ultimate dominance and control of the world’s natural resources and wealth. Thus, the gold defines the fracture and the Wall of Separation of the two possible futures.

Detail2 of painting "On Earth as it is in Heaven" by AVonnHartung

The Earth is defiled by its people

This Wall of Separation seems to cry out in pain and protest. Behind it lays a collapsing world painted in a palette of burnt siennas and umbers.  Indeed, burning and burnt out buildings collapsing in upon themselves.

 There is evidence of violence everywhere! [Isaiah 24:5] The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant.

Exclusive bio-sphere bubbles

Among the structures in this wasteland are pyramids (reminding us of the cult of the dead). Additionally, the prominent dome of a biosphere is meant to symbolize an attempt to create habitable inner-space as well as to counterpoint the viable outer-space exploration as seen in the outpost on the moon.

This bio-sphere suggests that the only living space to be realized in such a depleted future might well be the heavily guarded privatized dwellings of the super wealthy.

Surrounding this “Bubble” are evidences of the price of keeping such an enterprise exclusive and secure. Specifically, a commerce of slavery enforced by brutal domination and fueled by the trade in pilfered body parts and tissue of the vanquished through unimaginable horrors of dehumanization.

The seven deadly sins are implied, although partially veiled through the use of semi-abstraction. By and large, it points out the complete loss of moral values and the ephemeral (ever changing) nature of modernity.

The folly of not doing God’s Will and heeding the call to change and live in sustainability is expressed in the feeble attempt of the proud and powerful to save what’s left of Creation through the building of an ark. Moreover, the absurdity of this is evidenced in the need to build a second one.

 The flourishing side of the painting contrasts this Hellish visage. By comparison, it shows a future symbolized by the ever flowing life-giving waters of the rivers that nourish creation. These are the waters of Baptism and the water that flowed from Jesus’ wound.

Detail3 of painting "On Earth as it is in Heaven" by AVonnHartung

A sustainable world

 We see beside these waters the cultivation of sustainable agriculture and aquaculture. In addition there are buildings constructed into the earth in order to save on energy, and for protection from natural disasters.

The landscape is serene and seemingly lightly populated. In other words, it suggests self-sufficient intelligently designed communities. Hence, constant commuting and super-highways are unnecessary. This is a world in harmony with itself!

In the midst of this Vision of Hope we see a company of angels accompanying The Horsemen of the Apocalypse.  Although they are advancing, they are held in check by the Angel who (we might imagine) whispers to them, Wait! Humankind still has the time and the Free Will to change its ways and to do the will of God!

Detail4 of painting "On Earth as it is in Heaven" by AVonnHartung

This can only happen if we give up our fantasy of predatory unlimited  linear economic growth. In other words, of being all powerful, and separate from Nature.

We must find the wisdom and heed the vision of St. Francis, the prayer that His Holiness prays for us in his encyclical Laudato Si’. For these are words of Love and Wisdom that respond to “both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor” (L.S. 49) and the prayer that Christ himself taught us in the Lord’s Prayer.

“Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done On Earth as it is in Heaven…” Hence, it beckons us to change our ways, do Justice, live in right relation with each other and Nature. Therefore, in harmony with our planet, God’s creation and gift to us all, “Our Common Home” (L.S.)




In April 1996, this painting “Hagase tu Voluntad/Thy Will be Done” was displayed at San Ignacio Church. Here are my reflections, published in “El Nuevo Dia” 22 April 1996



2 Responses

  1. Dear Mr. Hartung,
    My name is Martha Mador. My husband I met your brother and grandniece at Mass today at St Joseph’s church in New London, Ct. Caitlyn is an incredible little girl and due to Neal’s influence is embracing our faith in the church and Christ.
    Neal told me about his brother who has a piece of art at the North American College at the Vatican. He is so genuinely proud of you and your talent. Neal also gave us your web site and I have spent a couple of hours this afternoon viewing your work and reading your commentaries. I am so impressed with your faith and dedication to your art.
    Of all your paintings and sculptures, I am particularly fond of Forever Young . I was a high school English teacher at Montville High School for the last 13 years of my career. The first 12 years I was a teacher at the Juvenile Detention Center in Montville, CT. No wonder my favorite painting features Christ surrounded by young people of the modern age.
    I was also greatly impressed with the Stations of the Resurrection. Oh, they are so beautiful. Brilliant colors and representations.

    I wish we had the means to be an art patron who could contribute to your endeavors, but believe me I will speak to friends who I know will also love your work.

    I wish you well, Mr Hartung, and I am so grateful to your brother for introducing me to your art.
    Sincerely yours in Christ,
    Martha Mador

  2. Martha…
    The Peace of our Lord be with you!
    Thank you so very much for writing such a thoughtful response to my brother and Caitlyn’s evangelizing of my work for Christ. They are indeed a powerful team for our Lord!
    I was so grateful to receive the commission to paint “Forever Young”, and knowing how important it is to have vibrant contemporary Sacred Art in our schools, and knowing how it is prohibited in Public Schools, at least we should make it a point to exhibit in our Catholic Schools.
    The painting “Forever Young” is in the hallway just near the entrance and the main office, and all the kids go by it each day; I’m told they feel very much a part of the Blessed group depicted in it.
    God Bless you and your husband.
    In Christ’s Name…
    A.Vonn Hartung

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