The symbol of the cross was always significant, albeit not with the heavy later emphases of personal sin, finitude and transactional metaphysics. However, in early Christian art, as, if not more important, were the symbols of the fish and the shepherd. For these reflected life-giving aspects of nurture, community, feeding and flourishing, which early Christians found in Christ. We see this in the Ravenna mosaic, where the overall style is pastoral and peaceful. Christ is seen evolving with nature, and appears humble and in fruitful relationship with the sheep. Christ is also youthful and clean shaven, contrasting with later more patriarchal and bearded images. Their shepherd’s staff is in the form of a cross, not a sceptre, still less a sword. Their posture is also significant. They reach out to the left, symbolizing the Eastern Church. Their eyes are also directed to the right, symbolising the Western Church. Christianity may have been at odds over important theological issues. Yet the artist shows that in Jesus, there is no division between East and West. The whole Church is one body in Christ.
Such an image is to be found in the earlier Roman catacombs. Yet we also see important changes happening. Instead of being a typical country figure, this Good Shepherd has a large golden halo, a royal purple mantle over a golden tunic. The Judaean carpenter's son is on their way to becoming the regal Byzantine King of Heaven: now dressed, as one commentator puts it, ‘by the ancestors of Armani and Gucci rather than an earlier version of’ the likes of Kmart. Clearly, Christians have always re-presented and re-interpreted the Good Shepherd in different ways. So what we might receive today and how might we picture them ourselves?...
The shepherd goes in search of the one lost sheep, which he brings back to the round fold of his ninety-nine sheep. The Shepherd is himself the door of the sheepfold. This door can be related to the eye of the Sun.
Sahi refers to the All-Seeing Eye of God, which, in ancient religious symbolism, was associated with the Sun, and understood to be like a shepherd, with the clouds and all creation as the sheep. Numerology also features: with eleven times nine making ninety nine, and the twelfth part (the final hour which completes the day) representing the Lord, or Christ, recovering the missing sheep, completing creation.
an element of surprise and wonder in dyeing. The colour is deep when the
fabric is wet. When it dries it takes on a lighter shade. Finally the result of
colour on colour is amazing when a new hue emerges.
Imagine what might be created, through us with others, if we and others were open to flexibility in modes and means of expression, enabling surprise and wonder to break forth in new divine hues!
by Josephine Inkpin, for Pitt Street Uniting Church, 30 April 2023
 See further, and on Sahi’s work on the Resurrection: https://artandtheology.org/2016/03/30/three-resurrection-paintings-by-indian-artist-jyoti-sahi/
 See further and for her online Art Collection at http://hanna-artwork.com
This Reflection is part inspired by the Global Christian Worship blog, of Dr. Paul Neeley, from the Robert E. Webber Institute of Christian Worship, and in particular the following post:
See also for other recent images:
Copyright for all images is retained by the artists or their representatives. Lo-res images are posted here under Fair Use criteria for educational purposes and to give publicity at no charge to artists.