This week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge theme is “Surprise“. With Advent having been on my mind (and blog), I thought of this picture. Or rather, to be more specific, the juxtaposition of these two pictures:
On one of my trips to the Philadelphia Art Museum to fight my inner Atheist, after spending some time with that beautiful Jesus statue above (a favorite of mine), I actually walked through the other side of the Medieval Art section to enter the Asian Art section.
I’m sorry, and forgive me if you can’t relate, but Asian Art has never done it for me. I don’t know why. I can see the craftsmanship aspect to it (I guess), but the beauty part feels lost on me. And so, when I go into Asian Art sections, my “art critic” side sort of quiets down and lets other parts of me take hold.
On this particular day, especially after the more meditative, prayerful time I had just had a couple of rooms away with the mostly Christian art, my spiritual-analytical side took over, and I began to feel the sheer spiritual weight of the objects in that room. Most every object in that section (just as with the Medieval section) was dedicated to religious ideas and deities that I find grotesque, false, misleading, and not beautiful.
I felt a deep sadness for the many people which I knew had related to these empty, false objects with their whole selves and affections, longing for that rest and joy our souls desire.
And then a deep irony struck me–the “surprise” of Advent, if you will (hence this picture going with this topic).
These Asian depictions mirror many of the depictions of gods in the panoply of deities humanity has managed to fashion over the years. Heck, even certain Old Testament descriptions of Yahweh and Elohim could be sculpted like that Asian art above.
They are violent, powerful, super-human, conquering entities, dressed in the finest and most royal trappings of the day and culture: these are the gods that humans have imagined when left on their own–when left with only words, vague ideas, or their own imaginations with which to work.
But how different it was–how worthy of our hearts and lives–when God actually stepped forth in human vesture and walked among us: submissive, bound, poor, beaten, and killed, while dressed in chains, thorns, and sadness.
The surprise of Advent is that God actually looks like the Jesus sculpture above, rather than the Asian art.
No one was expecting that; no one was looking for it. And yet, now that it has come, it all makes so much freaking sense.
Happy Advent once more. Hallelujah.
See my past Weekly Photo Challenges here.
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