Monday, December 28, 2009

2 John 1:7 The Antichrist

2 John 1:7 The Antichrist
For many deceivers have gone out into the world, men who will not acknowledge the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh; such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.

Elijah: Don Matteo suggested we make a detour to the cathedral at Orvieto.

Billy: What for? There are a dozen cathedrals on the way south, most of them just as impressive. Did he say why you’re supposed to go there?

Elijah: He wants me to see something. But I didn’t have time to find out what it is.

Elijah and Billy reached Orvieto by mid morning and once inside the cathedral it took to a moment to adjust to the darkness of the interior. The interior was beautiful but did not differ notably from the numerous other cathedrals that dotted Italy.

Billy: Well, where’s the big secret?

Elijah: It’s here. Whatever it is, Don Matteo thought it important enough for us to make a detour to find it.

They entered a side chapel. Four monumental frescoes, representing the end of the world, had been painted on the walls in vivid colours, in a style of epic grandeur that must have been innovative at the time of it’s execution.

Elijah: These frescoes are by Luca Signorelli painted in 1499. He was a disciple of the painter Piero della Francesco. Michelangelo admired his work.

Billy: He has made an apocalypse and a jolly unattractive one it is! This mural here is the Damned Cast into Hell. Ugh! I wouldn’t trade my mind for this man’s imagination, not for a million pounds. It’s horrible.

Elijah: Yes, I think that must be what he wanted to teach us. The horror of damnation.

Billy: Looks like all the deadly sins are here. Let’s see, I’m going to try to find drunkenness. Sure enough, there it is, right beside lust. Let me look into the drunkard’s face. I knew it! He looks just like me.

Elijah went over to another mural. His eyes were drawn to the central figure of the image, a figure of Christ. How strange, he thought, to see a representation of the Lord with the figure of satan whispering in His ear, and his arm penetrating His robes. Is that Christ’s hand or the devil’s that emerges from the folds of cloth?

It was not a literal depiction of a scriptural scene, he concluded. But there was something out of character in the way Christ leaned into satan’s embrace and listened with such attention.

He stared at it for a long time. Suddenly, the meaning of the mural became clear. The figure held in the devil’s embrace was not Christ but Antichrist. Don Matteo had wanted Elijah to discover the secret of the mural himself, and in the process, to observe the mechanics of perception.

Elijah: The painting seems to operate on a number of level’s,
On the surface, it tells a dramatic tale, a narrative.
On another level, it is a moral lecture about sin and betrayal.
On still another level, the artist is reaching for the deepest organs of perception in the soul.
The artist wants us to hear a soundless cry, an alarm, a warning.

Billy: That might be stretching it a bit. Were those fifteenth century painters such sophisticated theologians?

Elijah: Some of them were. Life was short, eternity was always just a breath away. Salvation and damnation saturated the normal atmosphere of life. I think the painter’s saying that if we can be so easily deceived by a few strokes of the brush, by art, which by it’s very nature is a medium of illusion, how vulnerable are we to the power of the senses?

Source: Father Elijah - An Apocalypse by Michael D. O'Brien (fiction)

p.s. if you would like to see the painting referred to here – google (using the images search not the web search)
frescoe Orvieto Luca Signorelli
or just click here

and here to see thew whole painting

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