05 December 2006

The Faith Of Leonardo.


As part of the Christian Vision Project's "Counterculture for the Common Good" series, artist Makoto Fujimura contemplates Leonardo's purpose and achievement in "The Last Supper" (finding that the way in is St. Philip):

For Leonardo, a firm foundation was immediately accessible. For him to have painted as he did, he had to be convinced of a center that holds.

So who is at the center for us? Where does the "vanishing point" end?

It ends on the forehead of the Savior.

And that foundation will hold, no matter how full our moneybags get, or how little it takes for us to engage in betrayal. To Leonardo, the triangular shape of Jesus literally holds the painting in its visual movement. To Leonardo, that foundation was never in question: the question to him was the question of "evidence."

Jesus exhorted Philip to "believe" on the basis of the evidence of miracles. Leonardo, of all people, wanted evidence. He looked for it in the stars and sketched it in the sinews of cadavers. He sought resolution in the core of his creativity, and asked deeply phenomenological and existential questions. In other words, Leonardo saw himself at the Table, too, and, like Philip, leaping up at the comment of Jesus. Leonardo, even as a skeptic, was in a deep creative engagement with the Savior even as he approached God with intellectual rigor and dialogue.

In a remarkable passage in John 14, Jesus, the miracle worker, tells his disciples, in direct answer to Philip's comments, that they shall do the "greater work": "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father" (John 14:12).

What were the "greater things" to which Jesus referred? What could be greater than raising Lazarus from the dead, an event recorded in Chapter 11?

Leonardo framed the answer implicitly in The Last Supper with Philip's earlier words: "Come and see."

Here's the whole thing (only minimal Dan Brown content!).
This is the last in a year's worth of essays in the Christian Vision Project.
 

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