Universal Resurrection Tradition (Click for image)
Many of us have heard the old adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” which is a way of saying our interpretation of art is complex and contains many layers. The colors, the figures, the painter’s intentions, even the one observing, all contribute to the open-ended meaning revealed through art. In fact, a thousand words is generously low for the endless possibilities on could come up with. In that way, pictures offer us a jumping off point into deeper truths about us, the world, even the sacred. Throughout Church History, stained glass windows, architecture, and paintings, have been a source for people (especially those illiterate) to listen to the still speaking God found in scripture.
In his book Resurrecting Easter: How the West Lost and the East Kept the Original Easter Vision, John Dominic Crossan & Sarah Sexton Crossan document the earliest depictions of the Resurrection from the ancient Church. It may shock you to learn that our earliest depiction was not painted until around the year 400. Some scholars believe there must have been an ancient code or rule that forbade drawing the Resurrection, either because any picture would fall short of the Easter mystery, or perhaps the Church still did not understand the resurrection.
That earliest image is considered part of the individual resurrection tradition, because it focuses on Christ alone. However, around the year 700 a second direct Resurrection image appears on the scene which comes from the universal resurrection tradition because, instead of arising alone, Christ raises all of humanity with him. The second picture (Above) depicts Jesus shattering the narrow gates of Hell with bolts and locks strewn around his feet. He is essentially destroying the existence of Hell, and at the same time lifting Adam with his right hand and Eve with his left, bringing them out of Hades.
As we continue to reflect on the resurrection and it’s meaning for our world and our lives, what does this second image of the resurrection