What do you see?

A postcard for the 8th Sunday after Pentecost 07/31/22

Altar cross (Christus Rex) at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Birmingham, Alabama.

What we choose to see matters.

In art, the artist makes conscious choices of what the viewer will see. Artists can use line, light, and shadow to direct our attention to parts of the scene they want to emphasize. So two artists can paint the same scene, but the viewers’ experience can be quite different, depending on what the artist chooses to focus on.

Yesterday, I got to lead worship at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Birmingham. St. Andrew’s is one of my favorite places and where I was ordained to the priesthood. Behind the altar is what is called the Christus Rex (Christ the King) crucifix.

The crucifix did not become a common symbol of devotion until the Renaissance, but artists didn’t agree on how to depict Christ on the cross. Some depicted Christ alive, suffering, and looking to heaven. Others depicted Christ dead, head bowed and a wound in his side. But these images create a sort of tunnel vision view of the cross, focusing the worshipper on the suffering and the death.

Another version appeared—the Christus Rex. Here Christ appears not in agony, but with the wounds in his hands and feet and a crown and/or a tri-radiant nimbus around his head. Christ is dressed in priestly garments, with a stole visible. Here we see the whole picture—the journey from the cross through the grave to Resurrection and Ascension. In this image we are reminded that Christ was victorious, and that it is Christ that meets us in the Eucharist celebration.

Same scene, just a different focus.

Dear Church—look again.

A sermon for St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Birmingham, Alabama, on the 8th Sunday after Pentecost, 07/31/22:

Principal text: Colossians 3:1-11

Audio only

Coming next

The often-overlooked “second lesson” of the Sunday liturgy is typically a reading from one of the New Testament Epistles. This summer we will take some time to learn more about these letters that shaped early Christian theology.

  • August 7 – St. Barnabas, Roanoke — Hebrews 11:29-12:2
  • August 13 – Jonathan Daniels Pilgrimage in Hayneville, AL
  • August 14 – Church of the Messiah, Heflin — Bishop’s Visitation
  • August 21 – St. Paul’s, Greensboro — Hebrews 12:18-29
  • August 28 – Church of the Messiah, Heflin — Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16

Published by akhudlow

I am a priest in the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Alabama. I am a church nerd, printmaker, storyteller, and blogger.

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