This morning, as I opened Richard Rohr’s newest book, The Divine Dance, I found myself in a moment of introspection. In just a few pages, Rohr, as he always seems to do, began to challenge my heart both with the loss of intimacy over my 43 year journey with Christ and my awareness of how diminished the beauty of Christ may have become as revealed by the Church.
Rohr uses the religious artwork of Fifteenth Century Russian Artist, Andrei Rublev, as a visual aid in the refurbishment of our somewhat eroded understanding of the blessed Trinity. As he puts it, “This particular form of artistic expression, attempts to point beyond itself, inviting in its viewers a sense of both the beyond and the communion that exists in our midst.” 1
Though I have yet to finish the Introduction, once googled, his selection seemed strategic not only in genre, but symbolic of my heart as well, given the centuries of preservation’s wear and tear upon this iconic image. As I read the online description of this multiple times refurbished masterpiece, it seemed to set off a deep contemplative sorrowing within me.
Now displayed in the Tretyakov gallery in Moscow, the words “close to” are used “because, after five centuries, the icon’s painting turned out to be severely damaged. The gold background was lost, the tree was painted anew within the old contours and the top layers of paint were washed off. Even the ground was partially disturbed and cracks appeared, the outlines of the Angels’ heads were partly altered. Notwithstanding the above, even in its present state the Trinity remains one of the best of all the Russian icons.”2
As I enter my 68th year on this struggling globe, now in its third millennia since the time of Christ, I must wonder at the appearance of Christianity as the world now sees it both through the Church, and in my life as well!
Perhaps we appear like this iconic piece of art, “the gold background was lost, the tree was painted anew within the old contours and the top layers of paint were washed off. Even the ground was partially disturbed and cracks appeared, the outlines of the Angels’ heads were partly altered.”
Godly sorrow works repentance! My challenge is to daily afford God access to the canvas of my life, so that the Imago Dei originally intended with the Master’s first brush stroke, deep in my mother’s womb, might always bear at minimum a “close to” resemblance to the art work intended for my life.
Rohr goes on to say that one artist became a follower of Jesus just from gazing at Rublev’s iconic work, exclaiming, “If that’s the nature of God, then I’m a believer.” May it be said of me before I pass.
1Richard Rohr,The Divine Dance, Whitaker House,2016, p.29.