The Light of the World (detail), William Holman Hunt
c. 1900-1904

 

THE WORDS GALLERY

SEEING GOD / INTRODUCTION

"The experts in the (religious) Law and the temple leaders brought before him a woman arrested for a sexual sin. They placed her at the center of the crowd. 'Teacher,' they said to him, 'this woman was caught in the very act of adultery. Our laws instruct us that the penalty for such a case is stoning until death. What do you say?'

While they were speaking, Jesus bent down and drew with his finger in the dust. When they continued to question him, he looked up. 'If one among you is without sin, then let that person throw the first stone.' And he again stooped down and drew on the ground.

The Gospel of John (8:3-11) translated by William Barclay


FACE TO FACE

S
igns, symbols, and images of the One They Called the Son of God

PLEASE NOTE: You can click on many of the photos in this section to see a larger version.

Without the use of symbol and analogy, it would be difficult to interpret our quest and understanding of God. Throughout history we have used such tools to more clearly see God, or to understand the progress of our spiritual journey. While the quest for God is one that takes place within the confines of the heart, still we depend on, or have been given, profound imagery to mark or amplify the stages of our pilgrimage.
 
One could arg
ue that even the written record of the Hebrews, as well as the early Christian documents, merely employ word symbols to approach the nature of God. In fact, the name of God in the Hebrew scriptures is so sacred it cannot be pronounced; its letters, Y-H-W-H, have a title of their own, a tetragrammaton, the Greek word for "four letters." It can be truthfully stated that symbols and metaphors are used throughout the Hebrew writings, as well as in the Christian Gospels, suggesting that the nature of God is better understood by human minds when explained by parables or analogies that the imagination can take hold of.

 
Throughout his teachings, Christ instructed us about himself using parable and symbol. Two thousand years after his life on earth, our collective memory, from our reading or hearing the Christian story, may present specific details, such as where Christ was born, how many disciples joined themselves to him, and so forth. But we will also clearly recall the colorful imagery that decorated his teachings, so that two millennia later, when we meditate on the life of Christ, we may think of one who's life and words represent a door to God. Our thirsting spirit may yearn for the living water that only he can draw for us. Tired of life's struggles, we may come to rest in the shaded arbor of the true vine. Feeling lost or abandoned, we may find rescue in the caring arms of the Good Shepherd. We ponder his sacrifice as the perfect offering of God's sacrificial lamb.

These thoughts form the background reasoning for the following exhibition; a collection of images that have been employed since the first century to see and apprehend the true story of the Christian faith. More than paint, or cut stone; these images are saturated with a message that is divine, one that resonates with spiritual truth. Viewing them, we can, in our hearts, glimpse a part of the nature and identity of God. And in this particular story, it is of God who became man.

 


The Good Shepherd, late third or early
fourth century, marble, height: 100 cm,
Vatican City,
Vatican City Museums
 

"God wanted those who have sought safety with himself to have a powerful incentive to hold fast to that hope which is set before us. That hope we hold, and it is for us the anchor of the soul. It is both sure and certain."

The Letter to the Hebrews (6:19)
translated by William Barclay



Cross-anchor and fish (right); 3rd or 4th century AD




Sign and Symbol

In the Eye of the Masters