Transparent but not invisible
Posted by wlebolt
I don’t know much about art. The arts appreciation sessions of my youth were probably mostly lost on me. Oh, I can describe what I see: the colors, the form, the brush strokes, the character, his expression, her touch. Perhaps, if the artist is clever I can even sense three dimensions even though the canvas is flat or the mosaic set in concrete. In this way it has more life but it’s still, well, art.
Recently, though, I’ve been introduced to the “icon” in Christian art. (An icon, according to Wikipedia, is “a religious work of art, most commonly a painting, from Eastern Christianity and in certain Eastern Catholic churches. More broadly the term is used in a wide number of contexts for an image, picture, or representation; it is a sign or likeness that stands for an object by signifying or representing it either concretely or by analogy.”)
Icons are different. They invite me into what is beyond them, even while they stand their ground. They symbolize a whole, yet they are not whole. They tell a complete story, yet their end is not the end. By their very nature they say, there is more. More than meets the eye. They invite me to explore the more.
I am reading John’s account of Jesus healing the blind man on the Sabbath. (John 9) The disciples, accustomed to ailment or injury as signifying sin, ask, ““Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.”
Born blind and now he sees. We remark on the miracle, which surely it would be were it to happen today, but there’s more. He was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed. We think of him as damaged goods, disabled, needy. Jesus says this has a divine purpose, to reveal what’s beyond. His blindness is iconic. Given to him so that others might see through it to the workings of God.
Was I born with something that was meant to do this? How would I fill in this blank?
she was born _____ so that God’s works might be revealed in her.
A gift, a collection of gifts, an ability, a dis-ability? My uniqueness is my allotment. If I hold them up to the daylight of God, what do I see?
Now I wish I had paid more attention in the arts appreciation sessions. What I hold in my hand doesn’t look like much. Doesn’t shimmer or reflect. Really quite plain. Dusty from lack of use. Pretty heavy to hold up for long. I’m tempted to just tuck it away and pull it out again when it’s sunnier.
But I’m curious. There is a place it fits just so. Never tried it there, but why not? The moment I snap it in, it starts to rumble and shake. There’s a small sound and a bit of light. Does anyone else hear it? Does anyone else see it? It propels me into words and into action, into conversation and activity. My goodness, this _______ seems to have a life of its own!
Can’t people see it has bored a hole right through me? Right through my torso, from front to back, a big gaping hole!
But no, apparently not. They’re not bothered. They say things like, “Thank you, that makes sense.” and “Oh, my knee feels pretty good now.” and “So good to have you aboard.” and “We are excited to work with you.”
Who is this they are speaking to? It’s not me. It’s the one they see through me. My goodness, this _______ has become transparent. Through it, they can see the One who made it, made me. Do you suppose it can help them see the One who made them?
Are we all meant to be “icons”? Windows through which others can see and be with God Himself? I thought I was just supposed to get out of the way. Make myself invisible. Duck, so those in the back can see. Perhaps the ______ adds a certain transparency.
About wleboltLife comes at you fast. I like to catch it and toss it back. Or toss it up to see where it lands. I do my best thinking when I'm moving. And my best writing when I am tapping my foot to a beat no one else hears. Kinesthetic to the core.
Posted on January 30, 2014, in Body, Deeper Sensation, In Action, Mind, Sermon Response and tagged art appreciation, Bible, blindness, Christian art, God, icon, iconic, Jesus, John, spiritual formation, spiritual gifts, witness. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.
I like this one. Jim has announced his retirement. For more on icons, you might enjoy Frederica Mathewes Green’s book, Facing East. Her husband was an Episcopal priest and became Eastern Orthodox. Not sure her name is spelled correctly. Stay warm!
Thanks Mary Anne. Congratulations and a big Wahoowa! for Jim. I’m probably not destined for deep study on this topic. Just eye-opening to think about our responsibility as “portal” for others. Jesus was the only one who knew Himself to be completely transparent. The rest of us…well, that is our work in progress.