Higher Than The Heavens; Lower Than The Angels
In preparation for writing one of my stories which has been held up in the underworld region of my cognizance for far too long, I have been researching !!!***astrology***!!!
(Insert scream of shock and scandal here!)
What most strikes me at this stage is that this is the last living link to the myths of our pre-Christian ancestors. And it’s pretty lively.
But even astrology, or the way it has been approached, has also been changed by the advent of Christ and the rise of Christianity. Specifically, the literary development of conscious allegory in the Middle Ages (which C. S. Lewis writes about in The Allegory of Love) has so changed human consciousness that we are now able to talk about the old myths and find truth in them without being tempted to idolatry; we understand them largely as representations of energies within ourselves.
On this level the myths are enormously powerful; and astrology expands and intensifies that power even more because it codifies a way of applying the myths to the inner and outer realms of our experience.
Astrology manages to contract and expand its descriptions so that it always has a way to express the whole realm of ordinary human experiences, whatever may change in history and human thought. The stars, the heavens, with their signs and planets ( the lords and ladies of the first creation) speak of the forces that press on us, that define our choices and limit our personalities.
Despite the traditional Christian resistance to astrology, the scriptures themselves have a few positive mentions: the “signs and seasons” of Genesis, and the mind-blowing accuracy of the magi seeking the King of the Jews, because they saw his star in the east.
In the temple of the church I belong to, from inside the dome, there is an enormous icon of the Lord Jesus looking down on the parishioners, not from the altar, but from the center of the congregational area, the nave. It is a “close-up” of the Lord’s face, at once both stern and compassionate in the Eastern manner. It is so large and so close that everyone in the nave feels as if he or she is within whispering distance of the Lord.
This portrait is called “Christ Ruler of All,” but the depiction always makes me think of “Christ Higher Than The Heavens.”
The Heavens are far beyond our reach. They are seemingly implacable and, in what they represent, come so close to controlling us that only the most closely held and carried out intentions rescue us from being automatons.
Christ, paradoxically, is so much higher than the heavens that he is easily entreated, intimate, and freedom-giving.
So by these ways I’ve been led to the contemplation of this duality of human experience. In nature we are “a little lower than the angels” – earthbound in a way that leaves the heavens, and flight, and freedom, and perfection out of reach. In the Church, however, we are familial members of a Household whose Kyrios – whose legal representative and provider; whose “Dear Sir,” – is exalted above the heavens. Potentially, we ourselves can rise above what the facts say about us.
And while what appears on my natal chart (or my Chromosomes, or whatever the current explanation for my existential ruts is) seems inescapable – while many things rule me – I can always go over the heads of Venus and Saturn, or my compulsions and inhibitions, DNA, or my past or what have you, and have a little chat with the Maker of all things.
At my level, though, I think what that mainly does is to create a circle or space within which the new creation can grow.
The song was beautiful! I do know that we are created in the image and likeness of God, therefore “a little lower than God” in Psalms, even though some have translated it into “lower than angels”. I believe in Hebrews it says Jesus was for a very short while “lower than the angels” only when he descended before resurrection, so he could fill all things, below the earth, the earth, the heavens and above the highest heavens! So Good! Where is your church? i would love to see the painting “Christ higher than the heavens” God bless you!
Hi, thanks for stopping by and commenting!
Well, I think that maybe the Septuagint must have translated it angels, since Hebrews quotes it that way. However, it’s not terribly improbable that both are meant; “gods” in the scripture can refer to human and angels as well, depending on how they’re being looked at. My title was based on the consideration of the two positions – one which is occupied by humans in the first creation (and Christ before his resurrection as you noted) and the other which is occupied by Christ (as God, always; as man, after his resurrection.) It’s this whole thing where Christ, I guess you could say “takes human nature with him” when he, as man, is exalted higher than the heavens… our life is hidden with Christ in God so the benefits accrue to us, but it’s largely potential until we begin to “work out our own salvation” by learning to “abide in Him.”
Yes, you would love the icon! My church is in Louisville, KY. However, many Orthodox temples do have a version of this icon painted on the underside of the dome, over the nave in their congregation. You could always look and see whether there are any in your city.
Of course, some icons are executed better than others. 🙂
I have been wanting to visit an Orthodox temple; this gives me a great reason to visit. Does your Easter correspond to Jewish passover and Easter in non-orthodox Christianity this year?
It’s a week later this year. I do hope you enjoy your visit. I was put off the first time I tried it, but then I was a neophyte to all things liturgical and sacramental.
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I don’t know if you saw the correction but the icon is not called what I said it was; it is called Christ Ruler of All, or Christ Pantokrator. I wouldn’t want you to walk in to a Church and be embarrassed because I gave you the wrong information!
thank you 🙂