Saviour of the World – 14 May 2018
This is ‘The Saviour of the World’ by El Greco, 1600. It hangs in the National Gallery of Scotland.
Jesus Christ is seated. He looks straight at us with a direct gaze. His right hand is raised to bless us, his fingers spelling ICXC, the Greek letters indicating Jesus Christ. His left hand rests lightly on a globe, the world. As he prays for us do we wish that his hand on the world was heavier, that he would intervene more firmly to fix things for us? The cruciform light behind his head tells us the means by which he is the world’s saviour. He has done all that is necessary.
The focus of the picture is the blessing, the eternal intercession of Christ. The picture draws us into the certainty of this, we are lifted to the heavenly place where Christ is seated, and we sense both his peace and his authority.
The image combines the Byzantine eastern iconographic tradition with realist elements of the humanist Renaissance from the west. The painting technique is fluid, ‘mannerist’ in style, seeking to embody the realm of the spirit through movement and freedom of form. El Greco is seeking to explore Christ’s inner life, and through his gaze, ours. The picture has a dreamlike quality, Christ is both real and ethereal, he is of our world and heaven, the mediator between two realms.
God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come.
He is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
The Jesus Prayer