How I came to paint icons – Part 2

. . . finding a connection

A detail from the Transfigiuration.  The first icon I painted.

Jesus the Redeemer, attributed to Andrei Rublev

The first icon to engage me spiritually was Jesus Redeemer by Andrei Rublev, a 14th century Russian Orthodox monk. It was one of several icons attributed to Rublev that Henri Nouwen used in a book of meditations called Behold the Beauty of the Lord.  The icon had been found in a garden shed in the early part of the 20th century, obviously heavily damaged over the years. Rublev’s most famous icon, the Holy Trinity, also in  Nouwen’s meditations, I find too esoteric.  But this Jesus looks straight at you.  I had a sense of him looking at me, seeing me in all my humanity.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have everlasting life.
John 3:16

There are many different views about this explanation for God’s extreme act to bring his people to the table, as it were.  It seems that there was always poor communications between God and mankind.  I like to believe that God was humble enough to see that, being God and perfect, he really didn’t get the humility and anguish of being human.  You could say it’s the original case of “privilege”.  Only a God that was human could accomplish this raprochement between God the Father and mankind.  Because only a God that was human could understand the condition of being human. And only a human God could also understand the mind of the Father.

Now, of course, a traditional Christian will be shocked by my thesis, but I mean no offense, truly.  Being a symbolic thinker, the odd set of “facts” that I’m supposed to believe is a lot weirder than the metaphor that moves me.  I stand with Joseph Campbell.

“Half the people in the world think that the metaphors of their religious traditions, for example, are facts. And the other half contends that they are not facts at all. As a result we have people who consider themselves believers because they accept metaphors as facts, and we have others who classify themselves as atheists because they think religious metaphors are lies.”
― Joseph Campbell, Thou Art That: Transforming Religious Metaphor

The power of Jesus to dispense the justice of mercy because he truly understands how hard it is to be human is no more factual than the official tenets of many churches, both conservative and liberal, but this view, to me, makes it a lot more rational for us to forgive one another with generosity.

Not that it makes forgiveness any easier – we’re human, after all.

I can see this is going to go to Part 3, so I will stop here, merely pointing out that the large picture at the top of the post is a detail from the Transfiguration and the first icon I painted.

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