Sunday, October 7, 2007
The Sign of Jonas
e. Resurrection (Risen Lord, from a tribal Tryptich, 2007 Collection of the artist.)
This is the central image of a three-panneled tryptich incorporating primal themes. The Risen Christ at the centre has a door-panel at each side, giving the ‘sense of opening onto an inner mystery’. Symbols of tree and fish - both archetypal icons of resurgent life - are entwined within the Christ-figure.
We’ve already seen the deep rootage of the tree in the human psyche. After a long period of destruction of tree-life throughout the globe, at last we again recognise just how dependent we are upon the tree’s role in sustaining and regenerating our life.
The fish is an equally potent icon for many primal peoples, with pictures of fish decorating the walls of houses. Often, too, the bone-structure of the fish is shown along with the body-outline, with the fish perhaps in an upright stance. This is how Jyoti has here depicted the risen Christ.
The fish is a very ancient symbol of life. Its shape - in Greek the mandorla - is like the opening of a seed, or bud (even for some a sexual organ). In ancient India the mythic creature Makara is famed for swallowing creatures, even the orb of the sun during an eclipse.
The fish-form was from early times associated with Christ. The letters of Ichthus, the fish, were taken as a cryptic reference to Jesus-Christ-God’s-Son- Saviour. Jonah, swallowed by a great fish for 3 days, then spewed up again, was said to be a sign of the death and rising of Jesus after three days in the tomb. The image of the Fish thus introduces us to the central message of the Gospel. And the Transfiguration prefigured this, with the two prophetic figures standing on each side of Jesus, the Mandorla - a passage opening into another world. Here is a vision of another reality, and the transformation of our present existence, with all its suffering, into a discovery of a New Creation.
The arms of the risen Lord, like golden branches, reach out to embrace the whole world, all cosmic life.