Resurrection subjective?

A friend of the Owl wrote to ask, What does the resurrection of Jesus really look like? The Gospels give various answers. Jesus joins two of the disciples on the road to Emmaus; it looks like they are going back dejected to their old jobs. They don’t recognize him until he breaks bread at table with them (Luke 24: 13–35). Jesus comes into a room whose door is locked (John 20:19). Jesus eats fish on a beach with his men (John 21:1–14). Thomas, at first incredulous, can actually touch Jesus’ wounds (John 20:24–28). Not one of the Gospels describes Jesus actual rising from the tomb. All the resurrection appearances in the scripture take place away from there.

The wording of our friend’s question is revealing: What does Jesus’ resurrection look like. The actuality of the event is important. There are paintings like that of Piero della Francesca in Borgo Sansepolcro that depicts Jesus stepping out of the sepulchre, to the amazement of the soldiers on guard. He is heavy, tired, and still bleeding. It is meant to show that he was really dead.

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Life in God – Part II

Repentance

In part one we described the human proclivity for constructing personal identities for ourselves that are more comfortable and secure than it is to live free in God as protean beings before an indeterminate future. The following is an attempt to chart the way out of that temptation.

God is not taken in by our attempts to make ourselves good. He looks beneath our identities to the vulnerable self. He accepts us not as we might like, but as he made us, naked. If we are not willing to be seen as such, he waits, but he does not embrace a sham. Shams are sins to be forgiven, not retained.

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Performing Art

People who love painting often talk in the present tense about the figures in pictures. In Masaccio’s Pisa Altarpiece, the Virgin sits on a carved marble throne; the Christ child sucks the fingers of his right hand, and takes grapes from his mother’s hand with his left. Or: in Piero’s Resurrection, one of the four soldiers is falling back in dread; the Christ does not fly, but steps heavily from the sepulcher he is still bleeding; it has been a near thing. This way of speaking reflects an important truth about the pictures we use in worship. They are vital performers; they act; they have a liturgical role of their own which completes ours.

Not much is said about this in books on art history. Scholars dwell on materials, the evolution of technique, and perspective. Or more lately, they talk about sociological issues, such as the status of donors, and their probable political motivations. All these things are interesting, but they do not get to the heart of the matter.

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