Views from the Vicarage



Startling Image of Suspended Cross

Sian and I were very pleased to welcome over fifty friends from the two parishes to the new Vicarage a few weeks ago. It was a lovely day, we were able to spill out onto the rear garden – even though one or two did have some difficulty with sinking into the damp ground! Several people commented on the Salvador Dali print hanging in the entrance hall. So in my letter this month I want to look at the symbolism contained within this print of Dali’s ‘Christ of St.John of the Cross’. In this striking image, the Cross is not standing on the earth, but rather is suspended in the sky; Christ’s head is bowed, not visible; and he is looking down on the earth. Dali received the inspiration for such a pose from a drawing attributed to John of the Cross.

In our painting light suffuses the work. There appear to be three light sources – one above Christ bathing him in a very alive, and perhaps pre-resurrection glow. Another light source seems to come from behind the clouds just below the base of the cross. Another light, less intense and more diffuse is behind the hills near the bottom of the painting. Light is also reflected from the boat hull at the centre bottom of the painting. Following the light from the top to the bottom, then helps to focus on the central image of Christ.

Christ’s hands and feet form an intriguing triangle near whose centre is the circular feature of Christ’s head. So geometric symbolism plays a part in this intriguing image of Dali. Our painter saw this as a symbolic representation of the cosmos and of the universe.

Notice the boat on the shore at the feet of those who view this image. It stands empty, with a figure holding it, as someone who was steadying it for someone who was about to get into the boat on the shore. The viewer, it seems is being invited into the boat, to travel across the sea to that far-off shore barely visible in the distance. Jesus work is finished. The pain and horror of his crucifixion is being transformed into the beauty, majesty and power of the eternal resurrection as his cross seems to float in the air. What is left is for the viewer to join in his mission – to take his message and his salvation to that far-off shore. So the only way to respond, I suggest, is to get into the boat and row off in silence.

For mission to work, we need to be enthused, energised, we need to commit – just as the eleven individuals committed themselves to Christ last month at their Confirmation service. Sometimes seeing religious images in a new and different way, can help this process.

Your Friend and Vicar

Canon Phillip