In Makoto Fujimura’s essay “Come and See: Leonardo da Vinci’s Philip in The Last Supper,” he explains how the vanishing point holds the painting together. The point rests not on a hazy horizon; it centers itself squarely in Jesus’ forehead, creating a sort of “M” in which Philip and Judas act as the stems.
While I love the study of da Vinci’s work, I can’t help but thinking of how the vanishing, or center, point holds other things together. Peter comes immediately to mind with his attempt to walk on water. As long as he focuses on Christ, he walks as though the water were dry land.
Once he looks at the water and his seemingly precipitous situation, he flails and begins to sink. He cries out to Jesus, and Jesus is there. He grips Peter’s hand and pulls him toward safety, toward himself, the center.
I also think of Psalm 40, both the translation in the New American Standard Bible and the one in The Message. In the former, David says, “Your lovingkindness and truth will continually preserve me” (Psalm 40:11b, NASB). The Message translates the verse this way: “Your love and truth are all that keeps me together.”
I especially like how The Message interprets the final verse. “And me? I’m a mess. I’m nothing and have nothing; make something of me. You [God] can do it; you’ve got what it takes—but God, don’t put it off” (Psalm 40:17, The Message).
God, my center, holds strong no matter how much of a mess I am (and I am one) or how much of a mess I make. He holds all things together. He is a center that holds. Because he is, the surface tension can break. It holds no power over him.
Jesus remains the center point even as Philip expresses his contorted disbelief that someone could betray Jesus. He stays the center as Judas palms the silver coins. He holds as the center, too, when Peter doubts, when all I can pray is, “I’m a mess, God. I’m nothing and have nothing. Make something of me. I know You can do it; Your lovingkindness and truth continually preserve me.”
Image: Mokeneco (Creative Commons)