Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Second Week of Advent: St John the Baptist and Elijah

Ian's icon of Elias - visit the ELIAS website sitefor more information. 
What appears to have happened with the icon is that, as you read it through the year, it seems to open windows and doors into the theology of the Sacred Heart.   It is rather like an advent calendar in which little windows open out to reveal aspects of the Christmas story.  The icon in this way opens windows into the Sacred Heart as a 'treasury' of knowledge and wisdom.  St. John the Baptist has become such a window of late.  As I have been reflecting on St. Teresa and the Carmelite tradition of the pure heart, St. John in the icon now becomes a doorway through which I can prayerfully explore the Carmelite tradition which is centred on the figure of Elijah.  When we remember that the Angel Gabriel (above, left holding the cross)  tells us that St. John comes with 'the spirit and power of Elijah and will turn the hearts of Israel back to God,(Luke: 1: 16-17) the icon gives us yet another perspective.   Elijah - or Elias - is a popular subject for iconographers and it is interesting to compare Ian's icon of the prophet  being taken up to heaven with  our Sacred Heart icon. We see that he has used the same geometric design for the wheels of the chariot as for the whirling nimbus around the Sacred Heart.   I think when we read the two icons as 'parallel texts'  the whirling nimbus and the chariot wheels serve to represent the the energy of God's love. It is interesting to note in this regard that Teilhard uses the story of Elias being taken up to heaven to convey precisely this idea: 'The Spiritual power of matter'.  (READ HERE - pp 25-33) It is a wonderful piece. As I am exploring St. Teresa's writings I find that Teilhard's mysticism  seems to  have a good deal in common with her - and that is a new discovery for me!  I shall be writing about this in due course.  As a first thought  I feel that whereas St. Teresa - and other Carmelites  focus on Elijah listening to God calling to him in the gentle breeze by the entrance of his cave(1 Kings, 9-14), Teilhard focuses on God in the whirlwind in 2 Kings: 1-18.   And I think this difference in focus tells us much about their  mysticism.

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