“For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
Three pictures are the focus of the Word for today. The painting above depicts the creation of man as rendered by Michaelangelo Buonarotti. It forms the centerpiece of the famous Sistine Chapel ceiling in Rome. Linda and I have had the opportunity to stand beneath this monumental work on two separate occasions and the effect is truly overwhelming. The man knew what he was doing!
Michaelangelo worked during the height of the Renaissance, a roughly three hundred year period beginning in the 14th century. The word Renaissance comes from the Italian ‘rinasciamento’ – ‘to be reborn’. The word was meant to reflect the character of the age; a time of great artistic, political and intellectual creativity rooted in the re-discovery of the art and literature of ancient Greece and Rome, and in a kind of nostalgia for the classical world in general.
The Renaissance marks a movement away from life as preparation for eternity (with all it’s medieval overtones), to a focus on this life and the activity of man in this world. The Renaissance represented a shift from contemplation to action. Central to this time was the elevation of the centrality of the human. And that brings us back to Michaelangelo’s painting.
When you stand directly beneath the image something significant becomes readily apparent. Michaelangelo has made Adam the same size as God. Contrast Michaelangelo’s image with the one below, from the Byzantine style cathedral in Monreale, Sicily, which dates from the 12th century. There is no question who the dominant figure is here. Christ is over all.
The final picture below depicts the set designed by the late scientist, Carl Sagan, for his television series, ‘Cosmos’. If you look carefully you will see that the set is designed in the form of a secular cathedral. The central image, representing the human future, is outer space. A control console, under the control of man, guides the human exploratory experiment into the future. Man has replaced God.