Imaging the Word

Art and Theology

 

At Good Shepherd, we embrace the Arts and affirm them as a good and proper means of communicating the beauty and truth of the Gospel.

 

Understanding how art can enable us to see God in new and different ways and at the same time foster the habit of contemplation, these devotionals are intended to help believers to contemplate the matters of faith through the lens of art. It is the aim and hope that these devotionals will serve to aid our members in growing closer to God.

8-16-22: Brendan the Voyager

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St. Brendan was an Irish monk living in the 6th century. According to legend, he and fourteen monks set sail from Ireland in a small ship known as a coracle or curragh, in search of the legendary "Island of the Blessed." The details of his fantastic journey, recorded in the 9th-century tale, the Navagatio, or "The Voyage of St. Brendan," survive in 120 manuscripts and was immensely popular in Medieval times. (more)

8-16-22: Celtic Metalwork

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Some of the greatest artistic treasures that have survived from Celtic Christian Ireland are vessels for celebrating the Eucharist.  The Ardagh chalice is one such treasury, ranking with the Book of Kells as one of the finest known works of “Insular art,” indeed of Celtic art in general. Thought to have been made in the 8th century, the chalice is part of the ‘Ardagh Hoard,’ that was discovered by accident in 1868 by two young local boys. It is now on display in the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin. (more)

8-9-22: Illuminated Manuscipts

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Among the artistic and spiritual treasures the Celtic Church has left to us, illuminated manuscripts— hand-written books highly decorated with flourishes such as borders and miniature illustrations— stand out as the richest and most interesting. Produced by monks working alone in the monastic scriptoria, these illuminated manuscripts, most of which are either Psalters or Gospel books, display interlacing knotwork and spiral patterns similar to those found on the high standing crosses.  (more)

8-2-22: Celtic High Crosses

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The painting of The Rich Fool (2007) by Texas artist, Jim Janknegt, is a complex and modern illustration of the parable from Luke, chapter 12. In the parable, a wealthy man decides to build bigger barns to store all of his grain and goods, only to lose his life that very night. The painting consists of a central panel surrounded by a border of related smaller vignettes.(more)

7-31-22: The Rich Fool

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The painting of The Rich Fool (2007) by Texas artist, Jim Janknegt, is a complex and modern illustration of the parable from Luke, chapter 12. In the parable, a wealthy man decides to build bigger barns to store all of his grain and goods, only to lose his life that very night. The painting consists of a central panel surrounded by a border of related smaller vignettes.(more)

7-14-22: Good Samaritan

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The Parable of the Good Samaritan, from the Gospel of Luke, which we read last Sunday, is one of the best known and best loved stories that Jesus told. Involving action as well as pathos, the parable has been a favorite subject for artists throughout the past millennium, with notable painters such as Veronese, Bassano, Millet, Delacroix, and Van Gogh, as well as many other contemporary artists, offering their portrayals of the story. (more)

6-2-22: Tower of Babel

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As part of the primeval history of the Bible, and thus among the foundational stories of the three major worldwide religions, the tower of Babel exists not just as part of biblical imagination, but as an ever-present metaphor. In the following survey of artistic depictions of the Tower, I like to observe how the same subject is taken up several times throughout history in an ever new and original vision, closely linked to the social and artistic period and to the individual sensitivity of the artists. (more)

5-26-22: Kiss the Son

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5-19-22: The New Jerusalem

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This collage by Nicora Gang, "Kiss the Son," is inspired by medieval Last Judgment triptychs. The left panel shows a heap of humanity’s various “golden calves,” those things we worship that only lead to death. This is contrasted on the right with the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21), where the Lion and the Lamb sit atop a cascade of glory. At the bottom of the central panel is the city of destruction, the destination of those who give Christ the betrayer’s kiss; the snake-like forms recall the Evil One who deceived Adam and Eve and plummeted humanity into alienation from God.  (more)
The book of Revelation is known for its wild and vivid imagery--images of heaven and the throne of God, of scrolls, lamps and plagues, of a great battle between a dragon and angels, of the renewal of creation and the coming of a new Jerusalem, for example. But for all its visual content, the imagery contained in the book defies artistic depiction. This is because, for one, the content of the visions is highly symbolic, referring in many cases to abstractions or spiritual dimensions of reality, which if taken literally not only miss the point but also result in grotesque depictions.  (more)

4-28-22: The Adoration of the Lamb

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The monumental Ghent Altarpiece by Northern Renaissance painters Hubert and Jan van Eyck is one of the world’s finest art treasures—every student who’s taken Art History 101 knows this piece, and it has been the subject of much scholarship. In the nearly six centuries since it was painted, it has been damaged, restored and changed hands on numerous occasions. It was once stolen by Napoleon and looted by Hitler. Yet it remains a revolutionary artwork due to its painterly realism. (more)

4-14-22: Easter Darkness

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In John’s account, Easter begins in the dark. Not in gladsome light but in the gloom of darkness. Mary’s Jesus is dead. He doesn’t just appear to have died. The few disciples present at his horrible crucifixion are absolutely sure of what they have seen. Jesus is dead. The darkness of the night indicates not only the time of day but the mood within each of their souls. It is dark, dark indeed. (more)

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The moment is filled with paradox. Jesus enters the royal city, proclaimed as “the blessed one who comes in the name of the Lord—even the King of Israel.” Luke says his appearance signals “peace in heaven.” As he arrives, he is keenly aware that tremendous confusion lies at the heart of the recognition he is receiving. And Peter Koenig’s painting captures this nicely. (more)

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Of Rembrandt’s masterpiece The Return of the Prodigal Son, it has been said that those who have seen the original in Leningrad “may be forgiven for claiming [it] as the greatest picture ever painted.” It is an image that beautifully and touchingly portrays perhaps the most significant moment in the life of any person: the moment of spiritual homecoming. (more)

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The bush that burns with fire but is not consumed–this is perhaps in all of Scripture the most arresting image of God’s holiness on earth. From the bush, God speaks: “Take your sandals off your feet, for the place you are standing is holy ground” (3:5). Not only is this a place where God speaks, but  it is the place where God comes down: “I have come down to deliver [my people] from the hand of Egypt and to bring them up from that land” (3:8). Here we recognize the essence of the gospel already expressed from the burning bush: God has come down to deliver us and to bring us to a land of promise. (more)

3-3-22:  Tempted

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In depicting the temptation of Christ, artists face the inherent challenge facing makers of sacred art: how do you depict as visible the intrinsically invisible realities of the spirit? Here, though, the question is acute: How do you depict not just abstract ideas of temptation but also the Tempter himself? This is no small problem—despite the horned caricatures, the Bible gives no physical description of the devil; Satan, we understand, comes in many forms so that he is not so easily recognized and thus rejected. (more)

2-24-22:  Mountain Transfiguration

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As we come together this Sunday to celebrate the Transfiguration of Christ on the mountaintop, I offer for your reflection not a painting or drawing, but an instance of architecture — the Chapel of the Transfiguration, in Grand Teton National Park, in the community of Moose, WY. (more)