Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Good Shepherd Iconography

Roman Catholic Jesus (The Good Shepherd)

My commentary here seems to be the way that Western Christian art de-masculinizes Jesus. Sometimes to the extreme. For instance, the Western mystics speak about Christ nursing them at times. (St. Bernard claimed to have nursed from the Blessed Virgin, but I'm not touching that issue). I sometimes enjoy these portrayals of Christ, and I think they were produced to show the approachability(?) of Christ, and his meekness. I like this image a lot, and after spending enough time in the RCC, I have come to identify with it's once foreign iconography and art. It's a very kind Jesus.

East Orthodox Jesus (The Good Shepherd)

There's no one quite like Orthodox Jesus. Half Putin, half Goliath. That sheep is being dragged with Him whether it likes it or not (paradoxically contradictory to the EO view of predestination, but I guess sometimes lex orandi lex credendi non est). Sometimes I feel like I'm looking at Vlad the Impaler, rather that our blessed Lord, but other times I'm impressed by the authority and power of Christ. This icon reminds me of his strong words: "[m]y sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me". If I heard this man shouting at me (with a heavy Russian accent?) I would certainly stop what I was doing, and listen.

Synthesis / Protestant(?) Jesus

This image is a nice rapproachment between the East & West. It's an image from a Lutheran church in my province. I won't say it's the best because of it's denominational affiliation, after all, it might've just been a public domain image that they slapped on their website. However, I think it does a good job of capturing the humanity of Christ (while keeping him masculine), and also the sheep over his shoulders is quite significant to me, and is more reminiscent of Lk 15:5 "when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing."

Christ is my Good Shepherd, who leaves the 99 to find me, a wayward sheep, one which doesn't heed his voice, and wanders my own way, but whom the Lord graciously picks up and carries home himself.


  1. Counterpoint: Christ in Majesty, the enormous picture (mosaic?) of Christ with rock-solid muscles and an indomitable demeanor, in the upper part of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

    BTW, Luther believed in Mary's perpetual virginity, immaculate conception, etc. etc. Do you still plan to believe in those or reject them? Just curious.

  2. I believe in all the Marian doctrines except her titles of Mediatrix of all graces, and co-redemptrix (which isn't officially a RC title... yet)

    So yes, I affirm the Immaculate Conception, Perpetual Virginity of Mary, and I believe all the saints intercede for us, but I deny the usefulness of asking their intercession as it is metaphysically redundant: ex. prayer to B.V.M. goes through the Holy Spirit to said saint, and then back to the Father. Additionally, while it may be a pious belief, it rests on shaky exegetical ground to claim a direct link between the communion of the saints (as I cannot pray that the living pray for me, and have them respond to my request).

  3. I also deny - as I was allowed to while Roman Catholic- all Marian apparations.

  4. "I deny the usefulness of asking their intercession as it is metaphysically redundant ..."

    True enough but could you make a prayer to the Father that he didn't already know?

    Regarding the masculinity of Jesus in some portrayals: If we believe, and I do, that the Old Testament is prophetic of the new, then one parallel we cannot miss is between the way Wisdom is described in the book of Wisdom as compared to Jesus the Word as described in the opening of John's Gospel. And Wisdom is a woman.

    I'm no fan of wimpy, effeminate portrayals of Jesus but he is the firstborn of all creation.

    I'm glad to see you are still at it here. May God bless you and guide you.