jonathan stone's blog

. . . posts on faith and life

The Narrow Path of the Mandorla

The Narrow Path of the Mandorla
Originally uploaded by thestonesinprague.

In ancient Christian art one will find a common symbol that was lost in modernity. This symbol is the Mandorla, the Italian word for ‘almond.’ The Mandorla refers to the union of two separate circles (realms). The overlapping area creates an oval in the shape of an almond, thus the name. It was quite frequently used to outline the Christ in medieval art, as He represents the union of two otherwise separated worlds, Heaven and Earth, the known and the unknown, life and death, etc.

One of the lessons of the Mandorla is the balance of opposing forces. We live in a world of conflicting forces, where human ideologies are attempting to reduce our worldview to one simple either/or answer. It really does not matter whether you choose one reductionistic answer or the other, either is inherently faulty. For example, have you ever felt uncomfortable when someone else is trying to get you to confess your collective politcal preferences as either liberal or conservative? Certainly these lines have proving themselves to be misleading, even total illusions!

The Mandorla is a counter-cultural symbol that resists this reduction, for it understands that truth is found in the balance between two opposing forces. A scale finds balance when the ‘weight’ on one side is found to have the same mass as the ‘weight’ on the opposite side. This is a more biblical understanding of truth and reality. The question is whether or not we are willing to live in between the tension of such opposing weight?

Several times I have tried an experiment along these lines in some of the classes I have taught, and every time I have found the same response. I will ask my students, what is the opposite of pride? They always quickly respond that humility is the opposite of pride. So, I then ask them to define pride for me. After a few minutes of discussion consensus usually falls around the idea that pride is thinking too highly of oneself. I then pose the question, what is the opposite of thinking too highly of oneself? Of course, that is thinking too lowly of oneself. Is humility to think too lowly of oneself? May it never be!

You see, the enemy, that accusing theif, would just as easily entangle me in shame as in pride. It really makes no difference to him. One is just as effective as the other. But my Saviour wants me to follow him on that narrow path between the two called humility. God’s truth almost always can be understood best by our finite minds when we position it between such opposites. It is a small gate and a difficult road, few people find it (see Matthew 7:14). Nonetheless, it is the road that I am to pursue, to walk along. May God lead my steps!

2 comments on “The Narrow Path of the Mandorla

  1. jetblog
    October 13, 2005

    Your blog is interesting as usual. Your familiar thoughts make me wonder. How is one to live between the tension of vision and fulfillment? Or, dream and reality? Perhaps, learning not to take our own opinions too seriously is a good start.

  2. Beth
    October 13, 2005

    Shame, i remember that discussion in class about the opposite of pride. Wow, that was amazingly cool to read. I am glad when you post often. The opposite of pride is shame and humilty is the medium between the two.

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This entry was posted on October 10, 2005 by in Uncategorized.
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