When I close my eyes and focus on Jesus, my mind often reveals the Christ Pantocrator icon at St. Catherine’s monastery. I encourage anyone who has never seen the icon to take a closer look at the image that I provided here. The image carries the two faces of Christ–both man and God–as it’s not a symmetrical image. The image that I see in my head feels like a contradiction, but at the same time, it does not, it feels peaceful. I see both the salvation of mankind, and also it’s judgment. I truly see man and God.
The icon, as a Catholic, is honestly one of the few pieces of art that I feel a pull towards when viewing it. It’s one of the few pieces of art that I feel I could look at for days and never tire of it. Perhaps, it’s true spiritualism, as I feel that it’s truly the face of God. I’ve heard that Icons are written to be windows into heaven., I feel when I look at this Icon, I am looking at an accurate representation of the Incarnate Christ.
Where did this image of Christ of mine get shaped? I would say a lot of it is foundational to my faith. The mass and the sacrifice of the Christ has always been fundamental to my faith. When the priest prays the words of consecration, he prays with Christ. The bread becomes Jesus, the incarnation of Christ, and It’s a beautiful miracle. I’ve often debated my Protestant friends over the theology of Transubstantiation and Consubstantiation only to conclude with them if it’s not truly Christ and the Catholics don’t have it right, then in the spirit of Flannery O’Connor, I say, “to hell with it.” A lot of this has been shaped by taking a ‘History of Christmas’ class in college, which introduced me to the sermons of Augustine on the topic of the two nativities and reading Pope Benedict’s fanatic book series Jesus of Nazareth.
I see the miracle of the Incarnation in that image of Christ; I see the miracle of the discourse of the bread of life in that image—the miracle of the mass.
Lately, I’ve been taking theology courses to become a certified Catechist, which is why the post on my blog have been few and far between. However, I am greatly concerned with what is being taught. In my first reading, my image of Christ was directly attacked. The author, who I found to have involvement with “A Call to Action” ‘Catholicism,’ made claims that the stress on High Christology was the way of the old Church prior to Vatican II and now the Church’s true direction is Low Christology, which its weaknesses are its strengths. I believe I can speak directly to this viewpoint existing in nothing more than a Vatican II Catholic era, and when I read such text, it worries me to the core.
In the post-Vatican II era of the Catholic Church, In my view, there’s actually too much of a focus on low Christology. The author that I read discusses in their thesis how it’s the opposite; however, they grew up before Vatican II, which would have stressed more of the High Christology. Notwithstanding, I think it’s important to keep low Christology in our hearts and see Christ as the servant washing the feets of his disciples, the humble man, the man around all the different children. I’m thirty, so all I have ever known is the post-Vatican II low Christological Jesus. I think that’s why the Christ Pantocrator icon at St. Catherine’s monastery gains so much of my focus. The judge is present–the law, the Christ that warns of sin, judgment, and says the word hell. The Jesus that commands us to repent our sins.
I feel that image of Jesus has been lost, the image that is often represented is one that the post-modern world will agree with instead of the actual Jesus. We, the faithful, I think need to understand that the twenty generations have helped led to the development of the Church’s image of Christ. The Holy Spirit has worked through the Church, and we shouldn’t strip away the revelations of the Church for a new modern exegesis.
So, when you close your eyes and picture Jesus, what do you see?