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Famous Painting Has God Removed

In the heart of Manhattan, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, hangs a famous painting by the 16th century Spanish El Greco. The painting, titled The Vision of St. John, was completed around 1614. But it looks like it could have been painted in Paris in the early twentieth century. Its feel is not only modern but also contemporary. Evoking the opening of the Fifth Seal in Revelation 6:9-11, the martyrs who bore faithful witness to Christ are given white robes while John (it seems) looks heavenward toward the epiphany of the Lamb. The colors of the painting are themselves a startling revelation of another reality.

But the painting as we view it today is only a fragment. The canvas that hangs in the Met doesn't tell the whole story. In the course of a "restoration" project around 1880, the unfinished canvas was trimmed by at least 68 inches (or almost half the original painting). In the name of "improvement," the scene is truncated by almost half. And so, in what seems a fitting parable of modernity, the exultant arms of the Apostle John reach upward to—nothing: to the top of the frame, to the edge of the canvas. The martyrs seem to receive gifts from nowhere, and John seems to praise the nonexistent. All of them seem to look for something no longer there.

You can view the painting here: http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/436576

Possible Preaching Angles: (1) Secularism—Is it possible that much of our world operates the same way? In other words, we've been cut off from the Source of reality, the Source of all that is good and true. Is it possible that someone has trimmed the frame and we no longer see that there is so much more to the beautiful portrait of life? (2) God, presence of; Faith, loss of—Is it possible that we live our lives with a sense that God is really there?

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