Monday, 21 December 2009

O Rex Gentium

O King of the nations, and their desire,
the cornerstone making both one:
Come and save the human race,
which you fashioned from clay.

cf Isaiah 28.16; Ephesians 2.14

I struggled to find appropriate visual material for this. I've stuck with fairly churchy artwork so far, stained glass and that sort of thing, and I wanted to continue with that. But I also wanted to find a symbol of kingship that also implied unity, but without actually depicting Christ. I wanted to make it clear that in Isaiah's time people didn't have the images we have now, images of a narrative that has been told and re-told. I suppose a stained glass image of the cornerstone at the top of an arch would have worked, but I couldn't find one, and I'm not a graphics wizard so couldn't conjure one up out of mere pixels and imagination. So you get this instead.

It's about ineffability, I think, and timelessness. Eternity. We observe Advent knowing what is coming, or thinking we know what is coming. Same liturgical cycle every year, right? There's this temptation to think "the created world was one way, and then Jesus came, and then the world was another way." But I've never been able to swallow that. I've never thought God is limited by linear time that way, at least not when I actually stop and think about it. We're so used to being time-limited beings that we tend to view everything as historical. But even the Nicene Creed says that Christ is "of one Being with the Father; through him all things were made." The doxology, that staple of Christian liturgy, makes a similar statement: "As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be." And even if Common Worship has done away with "world without end" I find myself adding it in my head.

I look like I'm talking at cross purposes with myself, first talking about the not-knowing-what's-next of Isaiah's time and then asserting that Christ is eternal. But saying that God is not bound by linear time does not mean that we humans are also free of it. Our story is a historical narrative: the historical narrative of God's revelation to us, through time.

I'm not a cessationist, so I think that revelation keeps going. But it's as important to keep telling and retelling the narrative we've been given as it is to watch and wait and look for continuing signs. Else, how will we recognise it?

Speaking of linear time, I've managed to get this up a bit earlier than the previous ones, but must stop now to go and teach. It's snowing thickly in this bit of London and the pavements are going to be quite lethal, but I'm reasonably sure-footed, having grown up with this sort of weather, and I do enjoy it, the sheer wasteful abundance of so many snowflakes, all different, all beautiful. All cold and wet, but that's what hot chocolate and water bottles are for. Maybe I'll be able to make snow angels in my own garden after all!

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