Monday, August 08, 2016

An Open Letter to John Dominic Crossan

Dear Dom,

Today is the Feast of St. Dominic and I wondered if you celebrate it as your name day. I woke up this morning thanking God for both you and the saint. Who would you be, without your formation as a Dominican? 

I am a bear of small brain and it feels as if I am almost untouched by scholarship. What a joy, that within the Body of Christ, I have brother who not only has scholarship and a wonderfully analytical mind but ears to hear and and a lucid, easy to follow writing style.

In  Jesus and the Violence of Scripture you have set out clearly, argued convincingly and further than I have ever attempted, what I mean by saying,"I am a Christ-ian and I understand what that means by being a follower of Jesus." Thanks for that!

I was particularly taken with your account of discovering your third metaphor the Biblical Iconic Focus in the Benedictine Basilica at Formis where Christ in Triumph in the apse is the focus of all the other biblical icons. Iconography, or not and the remaining evidence of Reformation  arguments are to be found in  many of our heritage churches in Norfolk  - e.g. http://www.hungate.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/hungate-trail-6fw.pdf. 

I love it that  the faces of the saints on the Belaugh rood screen were scratched out by a godly trooper from Hautbois in the Civil War. Perhaps icons/not icons is also the beating of a heart'
Although the roods, the Christ on the cross most often attended by Mary and John, were taken down by order of HenryVIII, the screens remained. But in the place of the Cross of Christ was placed the Royal Coat of Arms. The non-violent suffering servant replaced by the violence of the state. At St. Catherine's Ludham they dealt with the change of monarchy, and permitted iconography, by quickly producing a painted rood in the reign of Mary and then painting  Elizabeth's Royal Coat of Arms on the opposite side for her accession. Rescued from obscurity in Victorian times both sides of the panel are now visible - the rood from the nave  and the royal coat of arms from the chancel.

One wonders if there would ever have been a British Empire and a Pax Britannica (Peace through Victory)  if the roods had been left where they had been placed at the chancel arch. The theology was clear and true, the faithful  enter the mystery  of communion with God through the sacrifice, example and teaching of Jesus and the saints.

The Oxford Movement did lead to some of the roods being replaced but often it was a Christus Rex that was put in place. I think that allows for Peace through violent Victory. I suppose the icon/no icon is a false dichotomy. It is really, "Which icon?"  -The Reformation in England first gave us ,  the Crucified Christ or My Lord the King. Later,  as the Reformation gathered speed, statues and paintings may have disappeared but the icon was the Bible.  In reconquest Spain, at the extremes were Christ the Moor Slayer and  John of the Cross's  Beloved in the Song of Songs where the Paradise Garden was familiar idea to converting Muslims.

In the end, thank God for Francis as well as Dominic. He, more than any, championed the cause of the Peace Donkey!

With prayers and best wishes,

Richard



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