Unless I see the marks « Unfolding Light

“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands,and put my finger in the mark of the nailsand my hand in his side, I will not believe.” —John 20.25

Just before we leave the Second Week of Easter let us take one more look at Thomas. Steve Garnaas-Holmes is a United Methodist minister who writes daily. I am grateful for his insights and his willingness to share.

Here, I have excerpted his meditation  “Unless I see the marks.” You will want to read the entire meditation (more than once). It has opened my eyes to see Thomas in a different light.

Oh, Thomas was no doubter.…

”Oh, more, not less than all the rest,
Thomas believed in love, and how it bled. …

He didn’t ask to see his smiling face,
[his] famous, radiant eyes;
he didn’t hope to see him break the bread
the way he always did.
No, he asked to see his wounds,
the marks of love, the wounds of one
who weeps with those who weep,
who has walked with us through the valley
of the shadow of death.

Oh, Thomas, I’m with you: …

Read the entire meditation: Unless I see the marks « Unfolding Light.

B Easter 2, Art for April 15, 2012

DÜRER, Albrecht
(b. 1471, Nürnberg, d. 1528, Nürnberg)
Click to open Web Gallery of Art Artist Biography and to explore other works by this artist.

Small Small Passion: 33. The Incredulity of St Thomas
1511
Woodcut
British Museum, London
Click to open Web Gallery of Art index page. Click selection 33 for large view.

Woodcut series: The Small Passion (1511)
by Albrecht DÜRERClick to open Web Gallery of Art presentation of the entire Small Passion series of woodcuts.

Related art commentary by Hovak Najarian.
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The Incredulity of St. Thomas, Woodcut, (1508-1510), Albrecht Durer (1471-1528)

Commentary by Hovak Najarian
Related post “Easter, April 8,2012′

After Jesus’ resurrection he made himself known to Mary Magdalene and then to two disciples while they dined in Emmaus. He also talked to disciples at a time when Thomas was not with them. When the disciples told Thomas that Christ had risen, he was skeptical. He said, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” Jesus was again with the disciples eight days later. Thomas was with them and was invited by Jesus to touch his wounds. When he did, his doubts were erased and he exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!”

Durer treats this subject like a relief sculpture and gives the composition visual balance through bilateral symmetry. Each side is almost a mirror image of the other with Christ in the center flanked by two apostles. Thomas, on the left, leans slightly and receives our attention as we follow his arm to where he is touching Christ’s side. The three figures in the foreground close off pictorial depth while all other figures are relegated to the background; they are neither participating actively nor do they have a clear view of Christ being touched. Instead, Durer depicts this scene as though it is being presented to an audience – the audience being you, the viewer – as it would be if you were standing directly in front of Christ and Thomas.

In The Incredulity of Thomas, the influence of Italian Renaissance painting and sculpture is evident. During Durer’s extended visit to Italy shortly before working on the Small Passion, he immersed himself in the art of the Italian masters who, in turn, learned from the art of the ancient Greeks and Romans. In this woodcut, the garments worn by the apostles are flowing and the folds hang naturally like the garments found in Roman sculpture or in a painting such as Raphael’s The School of Athens. Christ, on the other hand, is almost garmentless as he stands in the center in a contrapposto (Italian for counterpose) position. This pose is one in which a standing person seems relaxed with the body’s weight on one leg. It was used widely by the Greeks and Romans and the pose was very popular again during the Renaissance as well as during the Mannerist period that followed. In form, the unclothed Jesus is standing very much in the manner of a Greek statue such as a Hermes or Apollo.

As Thomas is touching the wounded side, Christ guides Thomas’ arm with his right hand while his left arm is pointing heavenward. The upward pointing fingers are in the well known symbolic position found throughout Christian art. His thumb and first two fingers are extended and the other two fingers are closed. The extended fingers represent the trinity and the closed fingers symbolize the two-fold nature of Christ; God and man. Christ’s halo is depicted the same as in Durer’s Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem; it is again shown as an intense light. It is not contained as a disc or circle but instead radiates out to fill much of the upper quarter of the composition.

Although the Incredulity of Thomas is a small woodcut, Durer’s figures carry visual weight and a sense of solidity. Through the eyes of a German artist with an understanding of Italian Renaissance painting and sculpture, Albrecht Durer gives us his interpretation of how this event occurred.

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© 2012 Hovak Najarian

Faithful Doubt: Easter 2A

While WorkingPreacher.org presents material addressed to preachers the rest of us can benefit from these reflections, too. After all, in an exhortation attributed to St. Francis, we are encouraged to “Preach the Gospel with your whole life, use words if necessary.” As you consider faith and doubt (or skepticism) in the story of Thomas expand your thinking and read the post Faithful Doubt on WorkingPreacher.org. Here is a sample from the article and the link:

So I wonder, Working Preacher, how many of our hearers imagine this to be true: that doubt is not the opposite of faith but an essential ingredient? That hardboiled realism is an asset to vibrant faith? That they can bring their questions and skepticism, as well as their insights and trust, to their Christian lives? That they are among those blessed by Jesus for believing without seeing? And what difference would it make if they knew this? If they saw themselves, that is, like Thomas, as model disciples prepared and blessed for faithful mission in the world? Read the post: WorkingPreacher.org.

Hear what the Spirit is saying is a Sunday Morning Forum at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Palm Desert, CA. All are welcome to attend. The forum begins at 9:00 am in the Meyers Classroom on the lower level of the church. The only prerequisite for participation is a heart open to hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church.