Great post from Reinkat today. This simple, short post tells me so much.
Check out her previous post on “Sacred Geometry” too. This is true Catholic culture that our religious minds are thirsty for.
Before the Incarnation, there were no images made of God. In fact, it was expressly forbidden. But because God took on flesh and became one of us, He then had a specific appearance in time and place, and thus it is permitted for us to make an icon of God as He appears in Jesus Christ. It has been said this way:
The inconceivable is conceived in the womb of a virgin.
The immeasurable became 3 cubits high; the unqualifiable acquires a quality; the undefinable stands up, sits down and lies down; He who is everywhere is put into a crib.
He who is above time gradually reaches the age of 12; He who is formless appears with the shape of a man and the incorporeal enters into a body.
Therefore, the same is describable and indescribable.
—from the writings of the Desert Fathers: St. Theodore the Studite
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The problem with making an image of God is the process of making an image. To produce the image, we have to reduce God to that which we can conceive. Since God is beyond our conception, what we can conceive cannot define or describe God. Therefore, any image we might produce lies about God.
Did the incarnation of God in the form of Christ Jesus change the rules. Are we allowed to picture Jesus? Yes, but we can only draw pictures of the flesh that Jesus occupied. We cannot draw Jesus.
Because the Bible does not describe the body of Jesus, we do not know what He looked like. Some are tempted to make much of this, but the Bible describes few, if any, of the people it mentions. What the Bible does portray is the character of people. With words the Bible does what we cannot do with pictures or statues. In our minds and with our imaginations, the Bible draws out glimmers of a possibility. The Bible asks us to imagine God as man.
Instead of the imperfect image of a man, Jesus left us the example of a perfect life.
In the Bible we discover the limits of our designs and our imaginations. The Bible shows us our limits and leaves us with one choice, faith, faith in the love of the Shepherd and Keeper of our souls.
As to whether we can draw Jesus, I suppose we need to make some distinctions. Can we draw the Second Person of the Trinity, per se? On the other hand, when we even think of God, man made flesh or he who dwells in inaccessible light, we always represent what we think, which incorporates the use of our imagination. That image we have in our mind is probably affected by visual representations we have seen. These imaginings, although they always fall short of the realty we try to conceive, are the human way of relating to the divine (and everything else for that matter), and God did make us with this capacity, after all. Without that capacity, we would be one step further fome being able to relate to our God, who made us to know him and love him. It is paradoxical, to say the least. We are infinitely short of the infinite God; Yet he makes us in his image so that we are in some way like him, yet distantly so. How can we access God if he does not give us some means by which we can access him?
So, artistic representations of God certainly will always fall short of the reality, but yet they also can serve as windows into the reality, which we perceive no as in a mirror, whereas in the next life, we will see them as they truly are.
Agreed. Nonetheless, we are what we are. We tend to put our faith in that which we see and touch. We must not forget the artwork does not exist for its own sake. It exists to remind us of that which we cannot see and touch.
When fanatics destroy religious art, that is a sin, but it is also a sin to worship the art itself. It is kind of like money. What we can do with money (or art) can be very good, but the love of money (or artwork) is evil and leads to destruction.
Agreed. The things we use to elevate the mind and heart to God are means to that end, not ends in themselves. Worshiping the work of human hands is idolatry.