(I once was what you are and what I am you also will be). This memento mori underlines that the painting was intended to serve as a lesson to the viewers. At the simplest level the imagery must have suggested to the 15th-century faithful that, since they all would die, only their faith in the Trinity and Christ’s sacrifice would allow them to overcome their transitory existences.
According to American art historian Mary McCarthy:
The fresco, with its terrible logic, is like a proof in philosophy or mathematics, God the Father, with His unrelenting eyes, being the axiom from which everything else irrevocably flows.
Source: McCarthy, Mary (August 22, 1959). “A City of Stone”. The New Yorker. New York: 48.
HT: Tim Challies
Meditate on I Cor. 9;24-27, then read this short piece my son, David, sent me:
“Fame means millions of people have the wrong idea of who you are.” Erica Jong
This was originally posted on May 30, 2013, but there sadly is a need to get some things clear in our collective conscious!
Since Anthony Weiner is back (again!) in the news, I thought it good to reflect some on his undoing.
Let’s get things clear from the get go. I find Weiner’s behavior inexcusable and to employ a word I have not yet heard: sinful.
It is a good thing Weiner resigned from the Congress. The spectacle that preceded it was unfortunate. It only seemed to underscore the very problem that got Weiner into trouble to begin with, namely his narcissistic tendency toward self-promotion. As some preachers I’ve heard proclaim, “Sometimes we have got to repent of our repentance.”
It is interesting to hear the commentary by the media and members of Congress, but not so much for what has been said. Rather, it is what was left unsaid that has been striking.
For example, why are so many up in arms over what Weiner did? If there is no God, as Dostoyevsky famously declared, then all things are permissible. I imagine there are several in the media and in Congress who find the “fear of the Lord” a quaint maxim of a bygone era. Nevertheless they are quick to pronounce absolute judgment on Weiner. No one seems troubled by this inconsistency.
For those of us who do believe in the “fear of the Lord” it is crucial to do some honest soul-searching. Sure, our sins may not be public. They may also occur in more socially respectable areas of life: food instead of sex, gossip instead of hubris, and lying instead of lying. Wait a second. We are more like Weiner than we care to admit!
As a Christian, I believe God can redeem anyone. The death and resurrection of Jesus takes the hideousness of sin and the hope-filled reality of a changed life seriously. The Bible is loaded with unsavory characters who found redemption. King David was a murderer and adulterer. And yes, King David also lied. He outdid Weiner on many fronts.
One’s understanding of redemption in the Christian sense starts by recognizing our real problem: sin. Failure to appreciate our own sin results in simply casting stones at fellow human beings. Instead of seeing redemption as a real possibility we gladly cast the pariah to the margins of society. With the offending party gone from our midst we are freed from having to ponder our own compulsions, dysfunctions, hubris, self-satisfaction, arrogance, and what can be the umbrella term for all: sin.
When a society loses the language to depict the realities of sin, it has lost more than it can possibly know. When sin is gone from the scene, so is redemption. And when redemption is gone, where does that leave us?
Thomas More wore a “hair shirt” underneath his fancy garb. The discomfort of the shirt reminded him to not be enamored with all the fancy trappings of man.
Though Christ fully atoned for our sins and we hardly need a “hair shirt,” there are warnings in Scripture to not be enamored with the various ways the world seduces us.
Two passages in this regard which have meant a lot to me over the years are Isa. 2 and Prov. 23:1-3.
You may not have anything approximating a “hair shirt,” but what truths in Scripture help you keep your eyes on Christ and not the enticements of the world?