Letting Go

In his incomparable fresco of the Last Judgement at Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, Cavallini depicts the ascending orders of angels. As they rise, they become less embodied, more ethereal. Thus a subtle theological truth is rendered visibly. To draw closer to God is to be conformed to him, to participate progressively in his nature. To assert this is not to indulge in over-audacious speculation; it is to put faith in divine promises, ‘that by these you may be made partakers of the divine nature’ (2 Peter 1:4).

There is much that is positive in the contemporary culture of celebrating the human body. From a Christian point of view, though, this outlook runs the risk of being limiting. It curtails aspiration. It keeps us from learning the high art of self-abandonment. That is probably why our times find it hard to face death, which marks such an obvious letting-go intended to be freeing, yet frightening in the extreme if our sense of self is exclusively bound to what we know we must leave behind.