Saturday, January 17, 2009

"Jesus, who had participated in the design of 20,000 abstract designs on butterflies..."

Philip Yancey, "an editor at large for Christianity Today," on art: "What Art Can - and Can't - Do." In First Things magazine for February, 2009.

"In the Gospel of John we find the only scene from the Bible that shows Jesus in the act of writing.

"Jesus left us relatively few words -- a person could memorize them all -- and he spoke with such precision that each can be seen as a goad and a nail.

"Only once, though, did Jesus write, as far as we know.

"It came at the tense moment when Pharisees brought to him a woman caught in the act of adultery, demanding that Jesus pronounce the death penalty.

"Jesus stooped and drew figures in the sand.

"The Irish poet Seamus Heaney finds in that scene an allegory: The drawing of those characters [in the sand] is like poetry, a break with the usual life but not an absconding from it. Poetry, like the writing, is arbitrary and marks time in every possible sense of that phrase. [P]oetry holds attention for a space, functions not as distraction but as pure concentration, a focus where our power to concentrate is concentrated back on ourselves.

"Jesus, who had participated in the design of 20,000 abstract designs on butterflies and half a million species of beetles, left no lasting works for us to admire from his sojourn on earth [outside the Shroud of Turin he means? Heh, heh!].

"He chose as his medium not plates of gold or rolls of papyrus, which could be preserved by the Church and revered as icons, but rather a palette of Palestinian sand.

"The next rainstorm that came along obliterated every trace of Jesus' only written words.

"Jesus had come primarily to change lives, to write his words on the hearts of his followers.

"Following in those footsteps, the Apostle Paul would later say to the Corinthians, You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody.

"Both Jesus and Paul know that only one thing will survive into eternity from this planet: the souls of individual human beings.

"We deceive ourselves with delusory talk about the permanence of art: Of the seven wonders of the ancient world, six did not survive into the Middle Ages..."

Good point, seƱor!


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