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Two perspectives at once

Following on from yesterday’s post, some thoughts on holding two perspectives together at once.

In the 16th Century,  Spanish monk St John of the Cross had a vision of Christ, seen from an altogether new perspective. So as not to lose this startling vision, he sketched it out on the edge of a manuscript.


Centuries later a very different Spaniard, Salvador Dali, picked up on the image and painted the masterpiece below. Painted between 1950 and 1951 he employed Russell Saunders, a Hollywood stunt man, to pose for the role.

Russell saunders: 3.bp.blogspot

For days on end, Saunders was tied to the cross in Dali’s studio for twenty minutes at a time, so that the artist could capture his perfectly sculpted physique. Dali wanted his to be, as he put it, ‘a beautiful Christ’.


As well as being extremely beautiful, there is something  odd about Dali’s painting. If you look carefully, the perspective is impossible.  We are at once looking up to the boat and down on the shoulders of Christ who is suspended in the air above the boat!  If only we could achieve something of the trick which Dali has executed here we might gain some of God’s dual perspective. He, of course sees both what is and what might be. He looks both down and up, forward and back, all at once.

As preachers our constant prayer has to be that he would lend us just a little more of his perspective each time we preach.

Perspective is everything

Just a few moments ago somebody tweeted the words “God, this view is depressing”, with an accompanying photo which rather proved his point!  Drab, grey, featureless walls and a small rectangle of colourless sky were not likely to lift anybody’s spirits. It made me wonder,though – what God’s view is like?

I have always loved the work of photographer Yann Arthus Bertrand, and below is one of my favourite photos. It shows a tree in Tsavo East National Park in Kenya.  What I love is the way that all the hundreds of animal tracks converge on this one place – a small patch of shade in a barren landcsape.

Photo: Yann Artus-Bertrand

I would love God’s view of the church to be like that. I would love it to be a place which people seek out; a place where they find succour and nourishment, and then continue their journey stronger than they were before. Of course, I’ll never know whether that is how it looks to him or not. I am privy neither to his perspective nor his intent. I hope we’re getting there though…

As preachers and church leaders we have to hold together his perspective and ours – an upward and a downward view.  More of that to follow on a subsequent post, involving a monk’s doodle and a  patient male model – but for now, enjoy the view!

Richard Littledale

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