Light in the Bible
“In your light we see light”: Based on two meanings of the word “light”, physical and symbolic, the author firstly spans the beginning of the Bible – the creation of light, and one of the last parts – the famous prologue to the Gospel of St. John, there is highlighted the antithesis of light and darkness, tempting to metaphysical dualism; the author shows that the text itself does not justify such a dualism. Then he approaches the Old Testament and chooses five books in which the occurrence of the word “light” is most frequent: Isaiah, Job, Psalms, Wisdom and Tobit. On the basis of a numerous citation from each of them, the author accents the aspect of light typical for each one, finally to compare, in an almost hymnical paragraph, the Bible as a whole to a stained glass window. Like a glass miracle in medieval cathedrals, the Bible leads us through the mysterious game with the theme of light to Him, Whose essence is to be the Light.
Views on the theme of light in the Orthodox Church
The author presents the theme of light with the focus on liturgical life, major feasts throughout the year, and the doctrine of the Orthodox Church on spiritual life. Light speaks powerfully in the very first liturgical act which the newborn child meets – in the baptism. Also the Eucharist raises the believer to the light coming from the Holy Spirit. There are during the liturgical year the most important stages: Christmas, Revelation (i.e. Baptism) of the Lord, Easter, Pentecost, and the Transfiguration of the Lord. The author describes and particularly stresses the importance of the Transfiguration of Christ on Mount Tabor (in the Catholic world celebrated with less intensity). This event and the whole tradition of spiritual life arising from its interpretation, is the key to the Orthodoxy mystique. Finally the author explains some fundamental moments in the spiritual understanding of the art of icon.
Light in the Liturgy
The Czech liturgist observes at the very beginning of his essay that the once rich symbolism of light in the liturgy is today limited to only a few rituals (Baptismal candle, Paschal candle, Candlemas…). The author sees the reason for such a reduction in our present relation to the theological nature of God’s creation and its revelatory value. The world became mostly matter, designed primarily to technological treatment and processing, and has lost its place in the mystery of God’s action. In contrast to modern times, the author draws attention to the liturgical practice of the ancient Church, when among one of the most commonly held nightly ceremonies belonged the lighting of lamps accompanied with prayers (lucernaria). The light was symbolically appreciated at the end of each day, as well as at the beginning; it was related not only to the rites of Baptism, but also to the Eucharist. The author concludes: Light is not included among the Sacraments of the New Testament in the strict sense, but it certainly belongs to the natural sacraments of creation, and also to the supreme symbols of the Messiah – it announces the way of his life and of the lives of his disciples.
Pavel Vojtěch Kohut OCD
“The Dark Cloud Illuminating the Night”
Light and Darkness in the Mystical Experience of John of the Cross
The study presents John of the Cross as a genuine mystic and thinker whose personal knowledge, remoulded into a shape of systematic doctrine, bears testimony of dialectical experience and presentation of light and darkness within the mystical experience. Structure of the article follows the basic line of separate works of St. John (the first part is based mainly on poetry and short writings; the second on a diptych the Ascent of Mount Carmel and the Dark Night; the third one is based on the remaining great works of the Saint, i. e. the Spiritual Canticle, and the Living Flame of Love) and in this way there are gradually revealed three major topics of St. John’s teaching on this issue: firstly the indivisibility of the symbolism of light and darkness and its function; secondly the theological grounds and process of spiritual development characterizing the use of this symbolism; and thirdly a spiritual aspect and goal of the process of development which this symbolism refers to.
Sacred Space as an Image of Faith
Theological Suppositions for the Approach to Light in the Middle Ages
This study summarizes the theological grounds of the perception of light in the Middle Ages. It starts with the mysticism of light in the context of Neoplatonism (Proklos), mentions the personality of Pseudo-Dionysius, and concludes with the understanding of light in Christian antiquity and in early modern times. On the example of cathedral the author depicts perception of space filled with light as an image of the world, and a perception of sacred space as an image of heaven.
Spiritual Semantics of the Function of Light in Non-Figurative Painting
A sense of colours and colour schemes develops as a response to the wavelength of rays of light; colour is therefore within our perception, like brightness, associated with consciousness, the inner space of human beings. In what sense can we speak about visible? Light refers us to the beginning. The colours would not exist without the visible radiation of light, which brings them to the recipient. Opposing semantic potential refers to the colours and their combinations. At the edge of semantic intersections then emerges sense. Light present within colours raises to a power visibility, formability, spatiality, factuality, and connects it with consciousness and interiority. The light seems to work with matter like a sculptor, and to breathe even life into it. Light is a paradox, it is a hypostatizing non-factuality. From a theological point of view, light is a strong metaphor for the Holy Spirit, a metaphor of eternal procession of the Holy Spirit and a metaphor of God’s creative act.
New Stained Glass Windows – Neo Rauch, Sigmar Polke, and Gerhard Richter
This study refutes the notion that stained glass techniques belong to history, having no more use in modern art. It deals with three modern stained glass windows in old churches – the ones of Neo Rauch in Naumburg, Sigmar Polka in Zurich, and Gerhard Richter in Cologne. The author describes the different approaches of artists to the assignment, their approach to iconography, figurality and abstraction. He displays how on the example of the form of a stained glass window reflects the key problem of the relationship between modern art and Christianity – or actually between modern art and a Church commission.
Reconstruction of the Abbey Church in Pannonhalma and St. Moritz Church in Augsburg by John Pawson
The commentary on the images accompanying this issue of Salve describes two recent reconstructions realized in the ancient sacred space by the famous minimalist architect John Pawson: Pannonhalma, Hungary and Augsburg, Germany. In both cases, similarly as in the new built monastery church in Nový Dvůr, light, and empty, sensitively reduced space play an important role, which not only reflect modern aesthetics, but also returns to the essence of sacred architecture in its very nature.