I’ve developed an appreciation for Eastern Orthodoxy over the years. Naturally there are areas I do not agree with and many differences between us. But I have come to appreciate their emphasis upon the triune nature of God, their focus on prayer, music and mystery, and the beautiful art they have created as part of their worship.
The Christ of Sinai (pictured above) is one of the icons that I find most intriguing. To the casual observer, something looks odd and hard to place one’s finger on. But if you stop and look closely you will notice the face is asymmetrical. The most obvious features are the eyes. Is this a mistake? Bad form? Or is the artist conveying something?
The art is too well done to be a flaw. All one has to do is to cover one side of the face up to see the point. If you cover the left side (the side where the book is held), you would notice a beckoning, compassionate Christ who signals you to draw close to him. If you cover the right side you are confronted with the piercing gaze of the Word–the Logos of God holding the scriptures in his hand. His eye pierces your heart as if to say, I see the depths of your heart and soul.
Is this a Christ with dual personalities? Or is this the Christ who confronts your imperfections and your sin–but at the same time beckons you to enter into his embrace? There is no white washing of evil and imperfection. There is no pretense that evil is a slight imperfection that can be ignored. No. It brings about death and destruction–not only to the individual, but to the community, and to the world itself. It must be confronted and seen for what it is and the damage it does.
But the Logos of God who holds the Scripture, is the one who takes the full weight of sin upon himself–all the evil the world–the powers and principalities–can pour out on him. And instead of being crushed by its weight, he absorbs the blow and evil spends itself out and burns itself out in him. Like a martial artist, he turns the weight of sin upon itself and defeats the foe.
This Christ is thus Messiah or King. The King who has the right to judge and to look deep into our hearts, to see our evil–and in spite of our shame, to call us to follow him. He has defeated evil, so evil no longer has a right to hold us. Evil no longer has the right to have authority over our lives.
Look at this image. No, we do not worship it. It is not a photograph of the Word of God who walked the earth, died, was resurrected and still lives and rules today. But it does illustrate for us something of his nature. The one who judges evil and the one who in compassion, beckons the ones scarred and damaged by evil to come and join him.