Wilfried Joye


Bernie Mullen

Songs from the Burning Furnace

Songs from the Burning Furnace...








Wilfried Joye was born in Dadizele, Belgium in 1939. He was ordained a priest in 1964 in the order of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. He has been working as a missionary in Potchfestroom in South Africa since 1966. He has often been exhibited in S A and in Belgium and his paintings often portray rural life and the human situation. His works are vibrant and appealing and he uses the fish as his symbol in most of his works. This is because the fish represents insight (it never closes its eyes) these remain open for the reception of life and truth. The mouth of the fish is always readily open and this symbolises capacity for the ‘food of life’ in its purity and fullness. The paintings of Joye are often religious and he presents to the world a journey of deep faith, the sacredness of life and the joy of hope. Fr Joye was a close friend of Fr Frans Claerhout and he often exhibited with him in South Africa and internationally.

From the Book of Daniel

In this series of paintings Wilfried Joye depicts the story of Nebuchadnezzar’s punishment of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who refused to worship the golden statue he had made and had ordered all in his kingdom to worship. All his prefects and governors complied expect for the three Jewish administrators in Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar, upon being told that he had three dissidents among his loyal government, flew into a rage and had them thrown into prison and then into a blazing furnace where he expected them to be totally incinerated and annihilated. They, because of their total faith in and love of God, overcame the flames in spite of the fire being stoked to a temperature seven times greater than before. Instead of burning to death the three sang praises to the God of Israel. Their focus on Love, on God, ensured that they rose above all that could harm them.

Then there came a man of great spiritual vision and wholeness St Francis of Assisi who was born in 1182 and who, as we know, devoted his whole life to the restoration of deep spirituality and a value system that gainsaid all that was happening in Italy at that time. He was in fact considered mad for his affinity with nature and especially with animals. These in those times were treated with extreme cruelty. Francis however saw all in creation as intimately linked in Christ’s Incarnation. All then deserved love and respect. There was nothing sentimental about the way Francis lived this truth. He was considered mad by many. However, he lived simply and beautifully as does one who lives and loves in the spirit of Jesus.

In September 1225 Francis, while surrounded by the sounds of running water and a forest and among his beautiful friends the birds and animals wrote the Canticle of Creatures. He like the three in the furnace was deeply aware of the divine that raises us up in Love so that we too become love. The fire that burned in Francis, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego was far more alive and intense that any physical fire.

Wilfried Joye was moved by the story in Daniel and by the Canticle of Creatures. In these paintings he expresses the courage, the beauty of the human heart and the power we are given to overcome all that befalls us when we are on fire with loving abandonment for our Creator. He is saying in these paintings that no matter what happens in our lives we are given the means to use it for our growth and fulfilment. We can remain faithful and buoyant in all circumstances if we live deeply in Love. If we trust Love completely we do not only survive even the most terrible sufferings in our lives, we learn to appreciate the fruits of suffering. We are completely enlightened and healed. We burn, not with physical flames, but with desire for God. We are able to turn to our creator for meaning in every life experience. We are able to rise above suffering and to see everything with the eyes of love. We are able in simple song to praise God for all in our life’s journey. We then reap the gift of true life; the joy of heaven.

The poems I have written for these paintings and the music I have selected for them are meant to help the reader and listener to begin their own journey into contemplation of them.

‘Sun and moon, bless the lord…’

Sun and moon,bless the Lord...

CD: All is Forgiven
Track: Loving Kindness (mantra)

Loving kindness
For all beings
From the One
Beyond the stars
Through the darkness into light
We behold the gift of peace
Here in the heart, all is well
Here in the heart, all is peace…


The Sacred’s arm enfolds
Moon of night
Sun of day
The Sacred’s hand
Journeys to the heart
The Sacred’s eyes see within
The human soul
To touch with tender love
The human mind
And human eyes reflect
The Flame; the Sacred’s light

The Sacred’s mouth in muted tones
Its holy Wisdom speaks
In silent words of Truth
That then becomes
The hidden house of prayer
For all who would care
To listen and to hear…

The three faces of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are etched in furnace flames but they are set alight by the Sacred’s flame of love. They become intensely animated and beautifully surrendered to the call of Love. They are lifted far beyond their suffering to the bliss of becoming in God a song of joyful praise…

Canticle of the Creatures: Daniel 3: 52

Sun and moon, bless the Lord;
Praise and exalt him above all forever
Stars of heaven, bless the Lord;
Praise and exalt him above all forever
Nights and days, bless the Lord;
Praise and exalt him above all forever
Light and darkness, bless the Lord;
Praise and exalt him above all forever…

Canticle of the Creatures: Francis of Assisi:

Most High, all-powerful good Lord,
All praise is yours, all glory, all honour,
And all blessing.
To you, alone, Most High, do they belong
No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce your name.
All praise be yours, my Lord,
Through all you have made,
And first my lord Brother Sun, who brings this day;
And through whom you give us light.
How beautiful is he, how radiant in all his splendour;
Of you, Most High, he bears likeness.
All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Moon
And the stars; in the heavens you have made them,
Bright and precious and fair.

‘Everything growing from the earth, bless the Lord…’

‘Everything growing from the earth, bless the Lord…’

CD: Deva Primal:
The Essence:
Track: ‘Gayatri Mantra’

Lyrics: Translated:

Through the coming, going, and the balance of life
The essential nature which illumines existence is the
Adorable one
May all perceive through subtle intellect
The brilliance of enlightenment

Within the Sacred’s grace-garden
I am given life
I grow
I bud love
I bloom
I balance all burden.

O Birther of my being
O tender of my life-garden
Pull from me the weeds of doubt
And seed pure faith
Upon my fallow ground
In the beauty of your flower-fields
I will rejoice.

Within the Sacred’s grace-garden
I am given prayer;
The wind of love blows
In the essence of my being;
The Spirit’s living breath,
Becomes the air I breathe.
I am given all in the nothingness
Of death….

The bright re flame blanket softens around the figures that tell us of interior prayer: we move from paler hues of blue, from partially opened eyes to the wider eyes of light; complete reception. We listen and awaken with the closed eyes of contemplation. We are deeply drawn into the dark indigo of prayer. We experience death to all but Love. The furnace of turmoil does not pass us by but helps to transform us into the person we should be.

Canticle of the Creatures: Daniel 3: 74-76

Let the earth bless the Lord,
Praise and exalt him above all forever.
Mountains and hills bless the Lord;
Praise and exalt him above all forever.
Everything growing from the earth, bless the Lord;
Praise and exalt him above all forever…

Canticle of Creatures: Francis of Assisi:

All praise be yours, my Lord,
Through Brothers wind and air, fair and stormy,
all the weather’s moods
by which you cherish all that you have made.
All praise be yours my Lord, through Brother Fire
through whom you brighten up the night.
How beautiful is he, how cheerful!
full of power and strength.
All praise be yours, my Lord, through our Sister,
Mother Earth, who sustains us and governs us,
and produces various fruits with coloured flowers
and herbs..

You dolphins and all water creatures, Bless the Lord…

You dolphins and all water creatures, Bless the Lord…


CD: Sutras of the Heart
Milarepa; Peter Makena,
Disha; Madhuro
Track: ‘Magnificence’



There is so much magnificence
Near the ocean
Waves are coming in, waves are coming in…


In the silence of the deep
I look inside
With searching eyes
For the waiting Word of Truth

In the silence of the deep
My searching heart
Cannot rest
Cannot sleep:
My heart awaits the Lord
Who whispers into silence;
The breath of life
I must from Love receive.
This Love in holy reverence
I behold and keep.

In the silence of the deep
My hands, in love’s bright fire
Must open wide, must feel
Love’s flow

Must, like sea-weed candle flames
Wave and show ,
Must lead the way
To prayer’s most blessed peace

In the silence of the deep
My senses must receive
With undivided faith
The presence of the Lord in the fibre of all
That breathes and wakes and sleeps
My being in sea’s creation
With open eyes, open ears
And open mouth
Perceives with joy
The God I temple
The God whose wisdom
Would have me speak…

There are no signs of inflicted fire-pain. There is no alluding to torturous trauma. Instead three pairs of eyes are widely open with to the intensity of truth. They, with the eternally open eyes of fish, remain fixedly awake; immersed in the cleansing waters of transforming love. Their heart-focus is far beyond the experience of the self and is raised in joyful praise of their Creator.

Canticle of the Creatures: Daniel 3:

You spring, bless the Lord;
Praise and exalt him above all forever.
Seas and rivers, bless the Lord;
Praise and exalt him above all forever.
You dolphins and all water creatures, bless the Lord;
Praise and exalt him above all forever.

Canticle of the Creatures: Francis of Assisi:

All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Water,
So useful, humble, precious and pure…

‘All you birds of the air, bless the Lord…’

‘All you birds of the air, bless the Lord…’

CD: Mirror of Perfection
Richard Blackford
Track: Canticle of the Birds
Sung by: Bo Skovhus

My Brothers, the birds,
You should praise your Creator
And always love him.

For he has given you,
Feathers to cover you,
Wings with which to fly,
And everything that you have.
He has made you noble
Among all his works.

My Brothers the birds,
You should praise your creator.
He has chosen for you a dwelling
In the pure region of air.
And without your needing to sow
Nor reap,
You are delivered form all care,
He sustains and governs you.


In the Sacred’s nesting heart
In the sanctuary of delight
With untold joy we sing.
Birds of air
Birds of earth
In tapestry of praise
The quivering voice of life
Is raised

In nature’s most wondrous
Orchestra of worship
We serve you and we praise
Our only God, our only King
Into the Sacred’s mind
We peer with our poor earth-eyes
Of human truth
Inflamed by listening
And by longing
We sleep in prayerful exaltation
Of you; our only God, our only King.

Our only God, our only King
With hearts caught fire
To you we fly with wings of freedom

The cacophony of song emerges from nature’s sleep. In widely open eyes of morning, lit by blessed birth are seen the untold and yet told love stories. The inflamed face of prayer sings the Word of Love in silent praise.

Canticle of the Creatures: Daniel 3: 80

All you birds of the air, bless the Lord
Praise and exalt him above all forever.

Sermon to the Birds: Francis of Assisi: 1220

My little sisters, much bounden are ye to God, your Creator, and always in every place ought ye to praise Him, for he hath given you the liberty to fly about everywhere, and hath also given you double and triple rainment; moreover He preserved your seed in the ark of Noah, that your race might not perish out of this world; still more are ye beholden to Him for the element of the air which he hath appointed for you; beyond all this, ye sow not, neither do you reap; and God feedeth you, and giveth you streams and fountains for your drink; the mountains and valleys for your refuge and the high trees whereon to make your nests; and because you know not how to spin or sow God clotheth you, you and your children; wherefore your Creator loveth you much, seeing that he hath bestowed on you so many benefits; and therefore, my little sisters, beware of the sin of ingratitude, and study always to give praises unto God.

‘All you beasts, wild and tame Bless the Lord…’

‘All you beasts, wild and tame Bless the Lord…’


CD: African Tapestries
The Heart of Africa


Deep within the Sacred’s womb
All creation’s life begins
In the wilderness of the wild heart
In the heart of the homed and tamed.
All within Love’s holy heart
In wondrous noise of joy
The Sacred’s song of praise
Will sing

Deep within the Sacred’s womb
I receive my green-peace dream.
In hymns of fire-flamed adoration
I hear the music of Love’s pure praise
There in Love’s pure vision
I see with eyes of faith
The truth of me, the truth of you.

Deep within the Sacred’s womb
The music of the wild,
The music of the homed
Is harmonised and most reverently played
In Love’s instinctive home;
The heart of me, the heart of you…

Although the furnace flames still dance beneath the feet and are evident in patches on all three faces, and even in the burnt orange background, we are given the deep green colours of hope, peace and above all harmony. There are no enemies here. The wild zebra’s back is crossed with the earthy colours of a domestic donkey, the known creature of burden. The donkey is lifted from its life’s norm. God lifts us up beyond our present and into Love’s perfect future. All in us that is wild and that is rebellious is brought to heaven’s harmony. The Lord of Love takes our fire of self centred desire and makes us his own.

Canticle of the Creatures: Daniel 3: 81

All you beasts wild and tame, bless the Lord
Praise and exalt him above all forever…

Psalm 8:

Oh Lord, our Lord,
How awesome is your name through all the earth!
You have set your majesty above the heavens!
Out of the babes and infants
You have drawn a defence against your foes,
To silence enemy and avenger.

When I see you heavens, the work of your fingers,
The moon and stars thast you set in place-
What are humans thast you are mindful of them,
Mere mortals that you care for them?

Yet you have made them little less than a god,
Crowned them with glory and honour.
You have given them rule over the works of your hands,
Put all things at their feet:
All sheep and oxen,
Even the beasts of the field,
The birds of the air, the fish of the sea,
And whatever swims the paths of the seas.
O Lord, our Lord,
How awesome is your name through all the earth!


God our Mother and our Father
You gave your servant St Francis
Great love for each of your creatures.
Teach us to see your design in all creation.
Teach us to love and revere all your works.

‘You sons and daughters, bless the Lord…’

‘You sons and daughters, bless the Lord…’

CD: Blown Away:

Track: Native Son
Sung by Miten and Deva Premal

Go lightly on this fragile earth.
We are all strangers on this shore.
Remember what your life is worth.
And what it is we came here for.
And hidden deep within our heart there’s a light that shines on everything.
On the right and the wrong.
On the weak and the strong.
On the prayers and the songs we sing.
Go lightly on this precious land.
We’re part of everything we see.
A teardrop on the ocean.
The wind whispers in the trees.
Go lightly.
Native son.

Go lightly on this sacred earth.
Go lightly on your way.
You are among the ones who took a second birth.
And we blessed more than words can ever say.
And maybe sometimes your heart is broken.
But it’s nothing that love cannot repair.
So with the gifts that you bring remember one thing.
It’s the love for yourself that you share.


In the Sacred heart of Love’s exposure
I am naked born
My eyes of life
Look out with expectation
Of complete fulfilment
My eyes of truth
In search of love to be
In human form
The love of God, re-born.

In the sacred heart of Joy
My human smile is born
And blooms the fragrant flowers
Of life’s brilliant bouquet;
In simple beauty all creation is received
And is reverently given.
In quiet contemplation of the Sacred’s Heart
I am with all creation, freed.

A picture of simplicity, harmony and joy. The cooler coloured background speaks of contentment while the bright lit face of the central figure reminds us that love is truly the enflaming furnace in which we are purified. Pure, burning love sets us on fire and wounds us until we are, as Francis was, completely united in Love and able to Love. Love ravishes us and in the dark, closed eyes of prayer we surrender to our transformation. We become co-creators of love.

Canticle of the Creatures: Daniel 3: 82:

All you sons and daughters, bless the Lord,
Praise and exalt him above all forever…
Prayer of St Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument
of your peace;
where there is hatred,
let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy;

Grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood,
as to understand,
to be loved as to love;
for it is in giving
that we receive,
it is in pardoning
that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying
that we are born to eternal life.

Closing Music:
CD: Mirror of Perfection
Richard Blackford
Canticle of Love 111

Love, love, who has so wounded me.
I can only utter one cry, love,
Love, love, I am united to you,
I can only embrace you.
Love, love, who has ravished me,
My heart grows weaker with love.
I am absorbed in you:
Love, let me abide with you:
Love in your goodness
Let me die of love.

Love, love, it is the cry of the whole world:
Love, love, it is the cry of everything:
Love, love, such is your depth,
The more embraced, the more desired.
Love, love, you are the circle around my heart;
He who posses you, loves you forever;
You are my food and my clothing;
He who loves you
Is happy to feel your sweetness,
To forever cry, love.

Love, love, you make me suffer so,
Love, love I cannot bear it.
Love, love you give me so much,
Love, love, I think I will die:
Love, love, you have such dominion over me,
Love, love, transform me into yourself :
Love, sweet languor
Love my desire,
Love, my delight
Bind me with love.

Love, love, my heart is broken
Love, love, my heart is wounded:
Love, love, draw me towards your beauty,
Love, love, I am ravished by you:
Love, love, disdaining life:
Do not forsake me,
For you have made me faint
All-embracing love.


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