"Above all it’s the Gospels that occupy my mind when I’m at prayer. I’m always finding fresh lights there, hidden and enthralling meanings."—St. Therese of Lisieux, Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux
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Each Gospel sheds light upon the true Light himself, Jesus Christ. There are many themes that can be drawn out of each Gospel. Some of these themes directly connect each Gospel to the four animals described in the throne room of God in the Revelation to Saint John:
And round the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like a flying eagle.—Rev 4:6-7
One such theme that stuck out to my soul and guided me while creating this piece was the manner in which each Gospel started.
Traditional exegesis connects the four living creatures with the four evangelists. Matthew is the man whose Gospel begins with the human genealogy of Jesus; Mark is the roaring lion whose Gospel begins with the voice crying out in the wilderness; Luke is the sacrificial ox whose Gospel begins in the Temple; and John is the soaring eagle whose Gospel begins with the highest mystery of Jesus’ divinity.—Curtis Mitch and Scott Hahn, The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament
In this piece, I combined four photos or paintings from different sources to reflect this four-fold aspect of Jesus:
- Matthew (man): The top left (skin color) represents the humanity of Jesus and is based off of the depiction of the child Jesus in the film The Young Messiah (2016).
- Mark (lion): The bottom left (blue color) represents the earthly ministry of Jesus, where his many blessings and healings were life-giving water for a broken, sinful world. He continues to cleanse us of sin through Baptism. The image is based off of Akiane Kramarik’s beautiful painting of Jesus that she made at 8 years old.
- Luke (ox): the right (red color) represents the bloody Passion of Jesus. Whereas the First Covenant period was laden with animal sacrifice, Jesus institutes the New Covenant with the sacrifice of his own body and blood. The image is based off of the depiction of Jesus in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ (2004). The moment I captured here is when Christ hangs from the cross and his eyes dilate as he gazes up to God the Father in heaven.
- John (eagle): the aura (light color and halo) represents the divinity of God. So much of this Gospel is devoted to the divine identity of Christ. In this piece, it is veiled behind the other three layers, peering through and just waiting to burst out in radiance. The image is based off of a painting of the risen Christ.
All the original images are shown below:
As Saint Therese reminds us, the Gospels are so rich and dense with insights. Despite that, they only a represent a mere fraction of Christ’s earthly ministry, as the end of the Gospel of John reminds us:
There are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.—John 21:25
However, the Gospels collectively show us enough of who Jesus is. That’s not to say we won’t have questions after reading the Gospels, but it reveals enough to an open heart to show that we can only be saved through him, and to enflame in us a desire to pursue him no matter the cost.