Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Christ at Heart's Door

Warner Sallman 1941

Only you can open the door of your heart and invite Jesus to come in. Jesus said, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with me. Revelation 3: 20

A beautiful sunny and warm January morning was not to be wasted indoors and so I took the liberty to go for a drive in the countryside to a quaint and little town of Mountain which harbors one of my favorite thrift stores -“House of Lazarus”.
As usual I found some good things but what I did find that was the exception of the collection was more than a material thing. It was a print of Jesus at the door encased in a gold gilded frame. Very old from what I could tell but it had this feeling of having seen it before. And so I may have, at one time when I was a little girl frequenting the Lutheran church in Kitchener Waterloo brought there by an elderly couple; Pearl and Wilbert Brautigam who had given me my very first bible and had found the need to bring a little Italian girl back to the house of the lord.

Somehow the picture had moved images of the past into focus and the two seemed to cross paths in my mind that day; memories of my youth. I shall never forget them for they were a salvation in those days and I miss them as much as I miss my own family from back home in Italy; like my aunt Virginia who had raised me till I reached the age of seven and then I was whisked off to a far off land of snow and wolves. I never was one to go to church even though I was baptized Roman Catholic, but those early years going to church with the gentle man and lovely lady were never to be forgotten and stayed with me forever like forget-me-nots in a garden.

Immediately, I fell in love with the print which brought comfort in holding it in my hands. It was like being in the hands of the elderly couple all over again ; as if there was someone there watching over me , content and safe holding onto to this piece of cardboard that was not of any great monetary value but for some reason very reassuring and comforting.
The price was not even a price to think of and quickly I paid for the picture when my cell phone rang. It was my mom and she was very distraught. She just got a call from over seas and said that my aunt Virginia had just passed away. Funny how moments pass and interlace in someone’s space, mind and life.

I signed and dated the back January 31st Aunt Virginia passed away.
I found peace that day and regrettably said my good byes.

Christ at Heart’s Door

--Excerpt of 1994 Exhibition catalogue by Dr. David Morgan, Department of Art, Valparaiso University.

Christ at Heart’s Door is the second most cited image by Sallman among the 473 letters which the research project received from readers of popular religious magazines. It was inspired by a tradition of British and German painting and prints from the nineteenth century which depict Christ knocking at the door of a home. The most famous of these images are the versions of The Light of the World by William Holman Hunt, the first of which Hunt completed in 1853 and which hangs today in Keble College, Oxford. Sallman followed the overt allegorizing evident in European versions of the subject such as Hunt’s. Viewers of Sallman’s picture appreciate the unambiguous legibility of the picture, whose subject is based on Revelation 3:30: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock . . .”
The barely concealed heart produced by the luminance of Christ and the frame of the doorway convey Christ’s call to the soul ensnared in thistles of sin and the darkness of ignorance and willfulness. Yet, as promotional literature points out, “all is not hopeless, for there is an opening of grillwork in the door ‘revealing the darkness within,’ so that the individual may see who is at the door, and see that He is good and kind.” For American Protestants whose spirituality is premised on the acceptance of a call and “born again” experience and its subsequent testimonial, this image articulates a central theological principle and has served to commemorate such experiences. For others, the image offers assurance of Christ’s benevolent yet persistent love. Still others interpret the image in terms of the freedom of will.
A Lutheran clergyman admires the painting “because the absence of any outside knob or latch on the door indicates that one must open one’s heart to Christ from within—He will not force His way inside.” In either case, the highly symbolic or allegorical character of the image facilitates the inscription of personal and theological narratives of conservative Protestant piety.


Wren Cottage said...

what a beautiful post Anna... thank you for sharing the meaning of the painting for you and your experience, very touching & special like you...

Jeanne said...

That is one of my favorites too and I love your words~

I love you

Annabelle said...

Hi girls,
Nice to hear from you. I will be stopping by your blogs sometime today....always on the run.Glad you love this post.

Jen r. said...

I wanted to tell you thank you for stopping by my blog. it was anice visit. Also, My Gram had a huge copy of this picture (like 5 feet by 7 feet) in her dinigroom and it's one thing I always remember about her house. It's nice too see it again and brings back great memories. God bless.
Jen R

ltthings said...

I also remember that painting as a young girl ! And Iam so happy that Jesus knocks at our hearts & we each have the choice to invite Him in !!
Thank you for sharing !!

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