Iconography

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A man smashes the altar and makes off with the devil’s guts. The offal uncoils behind him. The door shuts. The bridge is raised. Tapestries are removed,  empty space is praised:  a revelation for the few. Suddenly understanding is heresy, for the images aren’t true.

Shattered glass covers the pews, Saint’s faces scared anew. The Body is a graven image, and the Blood a witches brew. The elders cry, the elders cry. This is not their land. Heaven is no longer within their grasp, they no longer understand.  

Chapter and verse, a blessing and curse. The little black lines make things worse.  The three tiers are bound together  with rough leather, and freed  tears stain the page. Beyond the heart and beyond the mind,  confusion jousts with rage.

Once, the masons forged the  path, and the painters marked the way. The masses could sit at an angel’s feet and hear what He had to say. Now the angels hobble on clipped wings and walk the earth with the pagan things.

The children loved the windows; so vivid, so bright. Now they stare at  inky pulp, grey-black and yellow-white. Leviathan has met his match, by punctuation tamed. The little ones’ minds go uninspired and their fears remain unnamed.

Heretic! Repent!

O, how soon we forget!

The Word became flesh, not printed page. It was written in action, not sentence. The  Word is a drama played on the world’s stage, a curtain call to repentance. The flesh became stone and  the flesh became glass, in an age for any age. This too shall pass.

The three tiers  are  bound  together by rough leather, and freed tears stain the page. The lowest players-groundlings- are left scriptless on the stage. We must understand their frustration at this most violent deed: The Word seems ever distant when the audience can’t read.


Note

In Protestantism, there is a historical tendency to view religious art as idolatrous in and of itself. The wave of iconoclasm that accompanied the English reformation resulted in ( possibly apocryphal) instances like the one described  above; a young man stole the cross from an altar, branding it ‘the devil’s guts.’ 

While I recognise that having the Bible in my own language is an enormous blessing, it is easy to forget that a Bible printed  in any language would have been useless to an illiterate congregation. Parishioners living through the reformation had to watch  their means of understanding their own  religion being declared heretical and destroyed.  That’s a tragedy. Our reverence for the written word (in general) is a relatively recent development, and must not come at the expense of understanding.

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