Return to God’s word for the purpose of “hearing and seeing” Christ in the text. Fix your gaze on the illumination. Ask God to open the eyes of your heart and enable you to see what God wants you to see.
To me, this image is smoke, fire, blood, and suffering. Perhaps that is appropriate for the passage, yet the contrast is still striking. How am I to find God’s love in this text, or in this illumination?
The child, facing away, appears to stare through prison bars, and chain link fencing spreads off into the distance. He or she is surrounded on all sides by suffering, and even the words of the prophet Isaiah form a barrier. It is almost as if the child is being pressed in, closed off, by the entire illumination.
Looking for hope, I see that if the child is facing away; his or her view is of the gold cross. The cross hovers like a vision, and is fragmented — is that what it would look like if seen through prison bars? Perhaps those who are suffering do not see the cross in the same way that I do.
Yet still it is the cross, not the smoke or fencing or blood, that seems to draw the child’s gaze. The right arm reaches out slowly towards it. God did not build the prison bars, erect the chain link fencing, or light the fires that smolder in the background. Those are the work of humankind. Here, God is present only as the glimmer of hope and resurrection.
Why would the artists choose to portray an abused, innocent child in this suffering servant passage? Perhaps to make it stand out all the more starkly that Jesus, too, was innocent. Perhaps this is still an illumination of Jesus atoning for our sins, as he suffers inside of the trembling child. Or, perhaps they wanted to turn our focus away from Christ’s innocent suffering 2,000 years ago and towards the innocents suffering today.
© Suffering Servant, Donald Jackson, 2005. The Saint John’s Bible, Order of Saint Benedict, Collegeville, Minnesota. Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Catholic Edition, © 1993, 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.