Lenten Reflections

Praying with icons

“The Leisure Corner” through our social media continues throughout Lent as we take a closer look at different icons with David Clayton from Pontifex University.

Below are the 7 weeks of reflections and meditations inspired by David Clayton’s knowledge of iconography. If you missed our interview with David, watch it here.

If you would like to share the fruit of your prayer with us, please message us! We love hearing from you.

This is a mosaic, from St Mark’s Church in Venice that was created in the early 12th century. It shows the temptations of Christ in his 40 days in the desert. These days anticipate our participation in the 40 days of Lent. If we remain united to Christ we can, with his grace resist temptation and banish the devil. Afterwards he was ministered to by angels. Angels are ready to minister to us if we wish to allow them to.

It is salutary that even Christ faced such temptations of wealth, power and notoriety, but resisted them. The Lenten observance is done in order to help us to be like Christ and resist temptation. Our hope is to grow in strength in this regard. Of course, we can never do this perfectly and we will sin again in this life, inevitably. This is why we ought also to focus on repentance and God’s mercy as we have done in the other reflections. The negative space in this composition is golden and when reflecting candlelight in the church will appear to be shining with the divine light of Christ. This is a reminder not only that God is with us in the darkest periods, but also of the ultimate end of this Lenten period, which is heavenly glory, for us! 

Notice also how the devil is depicted as faceless and shrouded in darkness in comparison with the figures of Christ and the onlooking angles. In one of them he is shown in profile, which is the standard for iconographic art. There is a reason for this. The convention of iconographic sacred art is always to show Christ and the saints and angels in full face, clearly depicted. This indicates that to know someone in heaven, which is the realm that iconographic art depicts, is to see the person fully. To be ‘face to face’ with someone is a metaphor for each person being fully open to the other, hiding nothing and revealing all to them. This imagery comes from the fact that when we look at someone we discern the inner person – the state of their souls – through their facial expressions. We are hardwired to look at people this way.  

Looking at people face to face is the mark of loving interaction and characterizes Christian interpersonal relationships. The antithesis of this is facelessness. So the devil is shown in profile and with distorted or obscured facial features because he hides his true intentions.

Scripture, using this imagery, tells us that in heaven we will see God’s face. For example, in his famous passage on love (so often read at marriages): “At present, we are looking at a confused reflection in a mirror; then we shall see face to face; now I have only a glimpse of knowledge; then, I shall recognize God as he has recognized me.” (1 Cor 13: 12-13)  

Facelessness of the Devil 

Why face masks are the mark of Satan and mask mandates will destroy society, and Why V is for Vendetta is a movie that promotes evil

In a recent blog post I described how in the oldest forms of traditional sacred art, which conform to the iconographic tradition, Christ and the saints are always represented full-face or three-quarter profile so that two eyes are visible. This is because looking at people face to face is the mark of loving interaction and characterizes Christian interpersonal relationships. The antithesis of this is facelessness. So those who are not saints, for example, the devil is shown in profile and with distorted or obscured facial features because he hides his true intentions.  

This is consistent with scripture, using this imagery, which tells us that in heaven we will see God’s face. For example, in his famous passage on love (so often read at marriages): “At present, we are looking at a confused reflection in a mirror; then we shall see face to face; now I have only a glimpse of knowledge; then, I shall recognize God as he has recognized me.” (1 Cor 13: 12-13)  

This is why, incidentally, wearing masks when we deal with people is profoundly damaging to our personal relationships and destroys loving interaction. To impose the use of masks is a direct attack on the human spirit, the highest aspect of the soul and the source of love. When our spirit is undermined, we become malleable and manipulable by the forces of evil for we are miserable and detached from the love that supports and binds us to God and others healthily. This ultimately has knock-on effects on our mental and physical health. 

This is not taken into account in the current debate about face masks mandates and their impact on our freedom, I suggest. Those who do not believe in a spiritual soul, or understand or accept Christian anthropology are always likely to focus on the reduced risk of contracting physical illness by mask-wearing (putting aside for a moment the debate as to whether there really is any benefit) at the expense of the spiritual costs to the human person and to society as a whole. It is no surprise that the left, which is generally more in harmony with the neo-Marxist worldview which is atheist and materialist in its premises, therefore is far more enthusiastic about masks than the right in the current Covid situation. It is clearly not as simple as saying that all mask wearing causes more harm than the benefits in the current situation. But it is saying that in a human interaction the capacity to love has been severely curtailed. The impact of this on every human interaction, which is unique, and so there is no policy that can accommodate what any pair of people should do in a given interaction in accordance with the common good. 

In my opinion, those who promote mask mandates do not sufficiently recognize the importance of human freedom as an essential component to love. Without love, there is only disharmony and fracture of society and personal degradation. So give people the information and trust them to decide if mask-wearing is good or bad in each situation they face. 

On a similar theme, the film V is for Vendetta which was made in 2005 is becoming popular on streaming video at the moment. It portrays totalitarianism ushered in by a pandemic, which is overcome by mass protest inspired by support for an anonymous figure who wears a mask and costume and threatens to blow up the Houses of Parliament, which is run by the elite figures of government who rule on behalf of tyranny. In order to protect themselves the masses wear masks so that their identities cannot be ascertained by the authorities. On the face of it, it is a story of ordinary people asserting their freedom against authoritarian, unelected figures of state. In the end, the freedom of the masses is established when they remove their masks. 

The only problem is that the film inverts and distorts the idea of good and evil, freedom and tyranny through the imagery and the narrative. The forces of evil, as portrayed in the film are totalitarian Christians and it is secular non-believers who overthrow them to obtain freedom. There is a clear message contained in the film that the values and beliefs of Christianity are the cause of tyranny. The opposite is true. It is the Judeo-Christian values originating in scripture and Greek philosophy and preserved by the Church that create free societies. Tyranny always seeks to overthrow and distort them. 

The greatest success of the devil is to convince us that he doesn’t exist and the result is that we confused good and evil. ‘Do good and avoid evil’ is a basic ordering principle of a happy and virtuous life, but if we do not know what is good and what is evil, In misrepresenting good and evil, what seems to be a heroic fight for freedom, is in fact promoting devil worship and the very tyranny. The manipulation of the meaning of words and ideas is the standard approach of propagandists of evil. I always remember how as a boy, when Germany was divided into East and West, and before the toppling of the Berlin wall being confused that it was the East, dominated by Soviet Russia that described itself as the German Democratic Republic.