Sunday, February 25, 2018

Exodus 20.1-17: Every Sunday

Every Sunday is a little Easter. That's what Christians say. And during Lent, there are those who give permission to skip their Lenten discipline on Sundays, because nothing tops Easter. The root of Easter, of Sunday, of Shabbat is, of course, creation. The Decalogue makes that clear in verses 8-11 of the reading from Hebrew scripture for Lent 3B (Exodus 20:1-17). For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.

But we rarely see it. It used to be slightly more common. The two examples below are from previous centuries, so in them God is depicted as a bearded man. On the left is a Creation icon from Russia focusing on the seventh day and God's resting from work. In the version here, God has abandoned his throne for his bed and is literally napping, though his right hand is making a gesture, apparently of blessing.
(Left) God Rested on the Seventh Day. c. 1550. Museum of Russian Icons, Clinton, MA. (Right) Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld. Woodcut for "Die Bibel in Bildern", published in 1860. Universitats Bibliothek Heidelberger, Germany.
The image on the right is a mid-19th century woodcut Bible illustration from Germany. God is still a bearded man, but he does not lie down on a bed. His eyes are closed, and his hands are crossed and in his lap as he sits on a mandorla of smoke or clouds with the earth as his footstool. The days of creation are marked by elements like the sun, moon and stars and the indication of oceans and dry land on the earth. A similar composition is found in a 12th-century mosaic in the Cathedrale de Monreale in Sicily. 

The subject is harder to find in contemporary art, perhaps because we overvalue work and undervalue sabbath. The small piece shown here, created by the artist as a seminary student, uses parchment panels to represent the six days of creation. The piece speaks to God's rest by taking the form of a hammock, and the text citation is written on the wooden stretcher.
The reminder is important, if only occasionally highlighted in contemporary life. Even God rested. Perhaps that's something we might take up as a Lenten discipline.

For thoughts on the Gospel reading for Lent 3B (John 2:13-22) follow this link.
For thoughts on wisdom and foolishness (cf. the Epistle reading for Lent 3B, I Corinthians 1:18-25), click here.
For a Facebook look at the Ten Commandments and Lent, click here.

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