Skip to main content

On Having a Blackened Halo...




This is a photograph of the East window above the altar-table at Church. It is a piece of religious art I both love and hate. I hate it because I'm not very keen on Victorian depictions of the last supper, on the whole, because they tend to be quite miserable and Jesus is always pale and English-looking. The disciples are all bearded men, dressed wholly inappropriately, and are also pale and English-looking.

But, there's always a "but" with this sort of thing for me: I love this stained glass window because it is quite unusual. It's a bit small to see the full detail in the photograph, but one of the disciples has a blackened halo. Often on a Sunday morning when I look at Judas I feel quite sorry for him in this image: permanently marked out by the artists as the betrayer, one whose holiness and faithfulness is called into question so very publicly every week. As if to make it more obvious, the artist has represented Judas facing away from Jesus, and away from the fellowship of all those who are called to share in the supper, almost away from his salvation.

It's an unusual image. There are very few stained glass windows showing Judas in this way; the local historians say only three in the UK and less than a dozen across Europe. What startles me about it is the boldness of the artists to continually name and shame the one who betrayed Jesus, and to do so very publicly. Sometimes I think this must be a great act of cruelty. Other times I wonder if the artist wanted to send home a message to the congregations who sit and face the image each week during Holy Communion: none of us is guiltless.

For me, the presence of Judas with his black halo is quite a comfort - precisely because he is present. Sure, he is on the edge, turning away, marked out as one who is quite unworthy to receive, but he's there. Jesus has not yet sent him away - not before first dipping bread with Judas. Not before sharing something with him. I'm humbled by this. I know what's coming, what Judas will do, and what Jesus will encourage him to do. But here, moments before all that, Jesus eats with Judas - the betrayer and the betrayed. How easy it is to move from being present with Jesus, to acting against Him. How easy it is to point out continually the failure of others, to expose blackened halos. How easy to forget that I am and can be and will be Judas, and that Jesus, knowing all of that, shares his bread with sinners.

- Posted from my iPad

Comments

Jeza said…
Jesus shared his bread with sinners - Fantastic news for me & you! Jesus spent a lot of his ministry with a guy who he knew would betray Him - it beggars belief - but is a level of grace slightly beyond my human comprehension. wonderful!
ElsieJoy said…
Our church also has a window that portrays Judas with a black halo

Popular posts from this blog

Paul Nimmo on Schleiermacher

Once again it's been a while since I blogged anything, but I thought I would flag-up this clip from the increasingly successful Modern Theology  Timeline created by Tim Hull at St John's College Nottingham, UK. This is a recent interview Tim did with the Edinburgh based scholar Paul Nimmo on Friedrich Schleiermacher. It is a really good interview, and will go a long way to rehabilitating FDES for those who mis-read Barth and reject him outright. Happy watching!

What Do You Call a Group of Theologians?

I think the answer should be "an argument", but perhaps that's unfair. I can test my theory this next week, which sees the start of the annual Society for the Study of Theology (UK) conference on the theme of Holy Writ? (The question mark is very suggestive). It looks really good, and the list of plenary speakers is great: Alex Samely (Manchester); Morwenna Ludlow (Exeter); Henk van den Belt (Amsterdam); Walter Moberly (Durham); Anthony Thiselton (Nottingham); Hugh Pyper (Sheffield). The conference lasts several days and is convening this year at York University. I hope to be able to blog a few thoughts from the conference and some info about the plenary sessions, but I shall be presenting a paper at one of the themed seminars on Wednesday afternoon on the interpretation of Barth's ethics of responsibility so may be a bit distracted until then. So watch this space for more info...

When religion stops us seeing clearly...

I spent a few minutes after morning prayer on Saturday wandering around the church building, enjoying the silence. I also had a look at the stained glass windows - most of which are Victorian. It's something I don't get to do very often because I'm too busy. My favourite window in our church building is very recent, only three years old, and is a brightly coloured rendition of Jesus welcoming children to himself. It is in the baptistry, an appropriate place for welcoming children into the family of God. I discovered another window today too, which I've never really noticed before - something that surprised me because ours is not an overly large building. It is a large plain window, with clear glass. You can see straight through it to the outside world: across the grave yard to the A-road that runs through the middle of the parish, and on to the homes beyond. I stood for a while watching people heading to the shops, the saturday morning traffic held up by the changing