Alternative Images of Christ



mercylogoThe notion of Christ as a sea-faring Saviour was particularly appropriate for writers in a Mediterranean setting, and was used by several authors. There is still a hint of it in Bonaventure, when he refers to making time for prayer as a way to escape danger, behaving like a sailor hastening to a harbour that is safe. Perhaps it helps to bring to mind an image of Paul and Silas travelling amongst Gentiles. But other images can also stir the mind to imagine Christ as having transformative power. His energies can bring strength in other social settings such as a mill, a wine-press of a family’s agricultural plot with its trellises and lattices. ‘Grapes being turned into wine’ is obviously a transformation metaphor. It tells us that Christ’s merciful energies can bring relief where our labouring efforts to gather a crop exhaust us.

Bonaventure also draws a parallel between the wood of a trellis for a vine and the wood of the Cross. “The beams of the gibbet are crossed; our Vine, the good Jesus, is lifted up on it; his arms and his whole body are forcibly stretched out – with such distorting violence… that all the joints of his frame can be counted.”

In the Chester Mystery Plays too, the workmen stretch Jesus excessively because his arms do not match the points for the nails. Yet the meditation here too must be on how Christ came in the midst of humanity’s uncaring destructiveness purely to bring love. He gave us that mystery of love despite our blindness.


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