Off the page

Last week, as I was preparing for a baptismal service, I mentioned Bonhoeffer’s description of three-dimensional preaching, where the Word comes off the page and walks about amongst the congregation. Often when I mention that phrase to students I show them George De La Tour’s painting, the Education of the Virgin (painted in 1640):

Many people think De La Tour was deeply influenced by Caravaggio – and to look at his use of light and shade here you can see why. I love the mystery about this painting though – where does the light actually come from?  It seems to be too bright to be coming from that one small candle. Maybe it is from the child Virgin’s face…or maybe from the page of the open Bible? Either way, the Virgin and her mother are drawn into this moment, gathered around a Word of Life.

Often as I prepare to preach I carry this image in my mind. As the Word is opened expectantly, both preacher and people long for a burst of light.

To all who preach, or who listen, today – may you not be kept in the dark!