Light and shade in John

Earlier this week I was introduced as a ‘keen photographer’ and it brought back all my early memories of learning the craft on a Russian-built Lubitel-2 like the one below.

On that camera, under my father’s watchful eye, I learnt all about drawing with light. I worked only in black and white to start with, learning about composition, perspective tone and contrast. Good photographers, like great artists, know that a lingering image is generated somewhere in the contrast between darkness and light.

I sometimes think the writer of the Fourth Gospel would have made a brilliant photographer. From the outset he constantly plays with darkness and light – setting them against each other and allowing the truth to emerge somewhere in the contrast. The most portentous words in the whole Gospel, surely, must be these four in 13 v.30:

And it was night.

The thing is, you cannot appreciate light without the darkness which offsets it. Without a dark sky there is no brilliant star. Without Christ’s dark night of the soul there is no Easter morning.

Maybe we find the truth of God’s presence only in the contrast between the darkness and the light of hope. Like a three dimensional photograph on a two-dimensional page, it jumps out at us, arresting the imagination and enlightening the soul. These are things I am learning to appreciate more and more.