Seeing and Being the Face of Christ

jesus-face11The Catholic church I attend is lovely. A wine brick building with a copper steeple in the English Gothic style, it is not only a city landmark, but listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Perhaps it’s because of this pedigree that the sanctuary is maintained in a way that exudes warmth and welcome, but vigilantly avoids the cute, sentimental, or kitsch—the Christmas trees have no drug store baubles, the paschal lilies lack purple foiled pots, and the ambo is never hung with felt banners fashioned by kids.

This is why I was surprised to encounter a man-tall sandwich board in the nave last Sunday: white with large black letters—“Seeing the Face, Being the Face”—together with a line drawing of an androgynous cloaked head.

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Epic Tales: an Interview with Amit Majmudar, part 1

Guest post by Sarah Arthur

To call Amit Majmudar a poet doesn’t express the range of interests that characterize this brilliant, generous, inexhaustibly inquisitive young writer: Notable novelist, literary essayist, diagnostic nuclear radiologist, husband, parent of young children, expert in comparative religion.

His works have appeared in Image, The New Yorker, Poetry Magazine, The New York Review of Books, Smithsonian, The Atlantic Monthly, Harvard Divinity Review, and First Things. His poetry has been widely anthologized, including the poem “Incarnation” from his collection Heaven and Earth, which appears in the newly released Light Upon Light: A Literary Guide to Prayer for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany from Paraclette Press.

Curious about his clear-eyed perspective on Western faith and literature, I interviewed Amit for Good Letters.

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The Mill and the Cross

In Breughel’s panoramic painting, “The Procession to Calvary,” the fallen Savior, collapsed under the cross beam, is mostly ignored. Although he’s right in the center of things, nobody pays him too much mind. Instead, the fantastic landscape that surrounds him churns with a thousand wheels of activity, each cog connected to the other, spinning upon its fellows like the clockwork mill that sits atop a monument of stone, high above.

Breughel seems to have loved this approach, philosopher artist that he was. It made a lifetime of statements for him: E.g., “Yes, a winged man is falling from the heavens over there to my right, but I’ve got forty acres to plow and my feet are killing me.” Historic things can happen throughout a day, implies Brueghel; still, the pot boils, the baby cries, and the cow bellows to be milked; our attentions go elsewhere. The eschaton might begin its fateful crack right next door, but chances are we’ll be tying our shoelaces when it does. One of Breughel’s modern descendants is the Englishman Stanley Spencer, who used Cookham village to stand in for the world, going about its hum-drum business as its creator ambles by on the road to reality’s inversion.

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Yeshua Ha’Mashiach

In drafting my last post, “Orthodox Films Fill the Void,” I intended to end the piece with a story that would serve as a thematic button: the day after seeing Fill the Void (a remarkable film released this summer about an ultra-Orthodox family in contemporary Tel Aviv) I finally made good on a long-standing wish to visit a Messianic synagogue.

For the latter experience filled an even deeper void in its own right than the former—or filled the same void to a deeper degree.

But no less thematic was the fact that my cup had nearly runneth over the word count by the time I was done singing the praises of Fill the Void (and My Father, My Lord before it). As it is wont to runneth over here, looking back on that steamy Saturday morning last month at Congregation Beth El in Manhattan, where I first witnessed Messianic Jews sing the praises of Yeshua Ha’Mashiach, Jesus the Messiah.


More on that shortly. First, whence this desire on my part to go there, both literally and figuratively speaking? Good question. I’m glad I asked.

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Emerging from the Tomb Intact

There’s a moment in Anna Karenina in which a frustrated Anna turns to her husband. She had been very sick, but she’s better now. During her sickness, over what they thought was her deathbed, her lover and her husband reached out and clasped hands. The urgency of her illness brought about reconciliation. Karenin, the wronged husband, let go of his moral outrage and forgave both Vronsky and Anna.

Tears ensued. Grace shone forth. All felt the bliss.

At the moment I’m thinking of, Anna, back from the brink of death is annoyed over the very thing she so longed for. Her husband has forgiven her. But, as she says, “I didn’t die and now I know I have to live with your forgiveness!”

He is stunned and so are we. For in that moment comes such truth. [Read more...]