As a former Southern Baptist, I shouldn’t like it. Baptists eschew all such icons, including crucifixes, because Jesus isn’t hanging on the cross anymore. And, there are clear Biblical admonitions against making any images to be used in worship. (One great advantage of my Southern Baptist heritage is a respect of Scripture, which has been a lifeline to me.) Still, I love this photo. Is that wrong?
“He said something like, ‘Can you imagine a fourth primary color? How about a fifth season? Where does the universe end, and how high do rational numbers go?’ The more you dig into any of the natural sciences, the more awesome the order is. You know?”
My brother (an architect) replied, “All colors are primary (and all numbers are divisible by any other number sans zero). . . .
“Same with four seasons. That's exactly like saying there are four time zones in the US. Sure, there are four zones. But the solar angle in any one of the zones varies WIDELY and the actual time delta from one end of a zone to another is vast. But we set up these artificial boundaries so the dummies in our midst can reset their watches after getting off the Southwest flight to Disneyworld.”
The more I thought about what he said, the more I saw that he was right. For years I had been accepting arbitrary divisions out of laziness, when the truth is so much more expansive. Then the calendar arrived, and as I looked at it, I wondered, why had I boxed myself into the arbitrary position that crucifixes are wrong? We NEED to remember that Jesus was crucified; we need to approach prayer and worship with that image in mind. And this beautiful art was created not to be worshiped, but as an act of worship.
Ah, my old self would say, but this is not a depiction of that reality. This is a cleaned-up, beautified, artificial representation.
Today I would reply: No. That crowned figure accurately represents that it was our God and King suffering on our behalf. And if I’m going to condemn that, then I have to condemn the Christian fiction I’ve been writing for 30 years which essentially attempts the same thing: portraying my personal view of God via my art.
That beauty leads to truth is the rationale behind thousands of years of religious art. This exposition on “The Beauty and the Truth of Christ” by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) is far too deep to adequately summarize, but he hit a nerve in me with:
“To admire the icons and the great masterpieces of Christian art in general, leads us on an inner way, a way of overcoming ourselves; thus in this purification of vision that is a purification of the heart, it reveals the beautiful to us, or at least a ray of it. In this way we are brought into contact with the power of the truth.”
The classics have endured precisely because of this power to draw us out of our little boxes, to lead us to look upward in wonder at the wideness of heaven and the unfathomable kindness of God to bring us into it.
So, thank you for the calendar, Clear Creek Abbey. I’m going to enjoy it.