23 September 2006

This Afternoon

This afternoon I spent several hours transfixed by the new images in St. Paul's. The Good Shepherd is a very subtle painting. When you look closely at the face of our Lord is both very loving and tender, and unspeakably sad. After all, think of the rest of the words: "I am the Good Shepherd; the Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep." He holds that lamb in His arms, and He loves it so much, but for love of that lamb His arms will be stretched out and nailed to the cross. He loves that lamb and all his sheep, and so for them He faces down the Wolf, Death, and lets it devour Him that He might destroy it for them forever. "I know my sheep and my sheep know me and I give them eternal life and they shall never perish..."

Similarly, in the picture of our Lord knocking at the door. The grape-vine, dripping in grapes, frames the door. An Easter lily blooms at our Lord's feet. "Behold, I stand at the door and knock" - but it is the look on our Lord's face that gives the rest of the verse, unspoken: "if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come and dine with him and he with Me." His expression shows on what we will be dining: His very Body and Blood, yielded up on the cross, in order to be our life. Sadness, yearning, love. They shine from His eyes as He looks toward us.

This evening at our Saturday Eucharist we blessed these pieces of Sacred Art. The words that begin that rite are worth repeating: "Beloved in the Lord, in His great love for us the eternal God has taken on human flesh and joined Himself to His own creation. Heaven and earth are now filled with His glory as He uses the things of this world to bring us His blessing. 'He has made everything beautiful in its time' so that we may behold the beauty of the Lord and inquire in His holy temple." The prayer that sets them apart asks in part: "Bless and sanctify these murals, which are offered in honor of Your only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Grant that all who behold them may, by Your grace, be strengthened in the true faith and worship You with a steadfast heart." (Lutheran Service Book Agenda, page 306)

Glory to our Good Shepherd! Glory to Him who knocks upon our door that we might eat with Him and He with us! Glory to our Incarnate Lord forever and ever!

1 comment:

Fr. Shane Cota said...

Thank you for your evangelical reflections on the new images. The building of the congregation I now serve had very similar images (Christ the Good Shepherd and Christ at the door) until the '60s when they remodeled. Looking at the old pictures makes me want to cry, wishing they were still there, where there is now nothing but blank wall. I've often advocated to restore them. I may use your pictures as an encouragement to do so here. They also took out the high altar, crucifix, and stained glass windows in the chancel. The old pictures are beautiful, but they fell to then current fashions. Several older members are still upset about the '60s "improvements."

The moral of the story: don't remodel anything in the '60s and '70s.