Have We Gone To Sleep Rather Than Love God?: Byzantine Icon Images a Thing of the Past?
The byzantine icon images of the Disciples Sleeping opens us to Christ experienced his lonesomeness. It calls to mind the painful work of deep love and our response.
In this iconography media, the garden is striped away and there is only hard, bare rock, nearly bare, save for three small plants. Deep darkness engulfs the disciples, surrounding them in a kind of void.
The disciples are physically between a rock and a hard place. Their sleeping foms invites us into a prayerful reflection of our own sufferings – how we suffer, when we suffer, why we suffer, our own will, our painful ignorance – in contrast with Jesus in his constant and unwavering passion and love.
In this contemporary byzantine icon image version I made one slight addition, Mary Magdalene there on the hill in prayer with Christ. Mary appears in earth (orange) wrapped in the white shawl of purity; man and woman facing one another, the gold of resurrection in her hair, her silent surrender to the moment at hand. She, unlike the disciples, is awake and engaged.
This coming crisis will have its price, but she does not back away. She embraces the invitation to reflect in prayer and remind us how to be present and engaged. It seems completely feasible Mary Magdalene or some other woman would have been with Him in the garden, maybe awake without Christ knowing.
I so would like to have been among the faithful women with Christ as He entered into is passion, even as the cook at the last supper.
While I worked on this byzantine icon image, I was reminded of what a dark hour for Christ.
Mary Magdalene is present with her small flask of oil, she prepares and equips herself because of her faith to the Jewish tradition. The Bible states that Mary appeared at the tomb with special anointing oils, used in the traditional burial rights of the time, to complete the transition over the threshold of death. The whole idea made me think of death, funerals and waiting till the final hour with one we love.
Jesus, dressed in the blue of heaven and also wrapped in the white shawl of purity, bears a face of distress, of anguish, and reaching out – to Mary? To the Father? To both? To us? He moans; “Not my will, but yours be done.” “Be it done to me according to your will,”. He resigns himself to saying “Yes” giving his love and freedom without limit. It is His darkest hour; He wonders why His friends could not stay awake with Him. His friends recline together in darkness with their individual halos ablaze as they dream.
God is mystery, absolute and eternal in this Byzantine image icon.
God is knowable, known, accessible, because the heart of the mystery is love that chooses to give itself away endlessly – Sleep and you miss God’s Love.
I think about God these days, imagining what must be going on in his mind as he watches our behavior, utilizing the abundance he has given us; the planet, our bodies, our minds, etc. Does he wonder why we have not woken up to the value of love and committed ourselves to goodness? Why are we sleeping when there is so much to be learned? Why do we destroy when there is so much beauty which surrounds us? Who can stay awake when there is so much terror around us?
Sleep and you miss God’s Love
I live in a culture of Catholics; a society that identifies with Byzantine image icons; in sunny Mexico; they often say “It is in God’s hands.” Ladies and gentlemen, my recommendation is; don’t sleep even if it is! I might have titled this icon with a different question, “Have we gone to sleep and left it all up to God?”