Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) was a Russian painter and art theorist, often credited as being the “pioneer” of the genre known as abstract art. Kandinsky was also an Orthodox Christian. Intrigued by Christian eschatology, his paintings were often inspired by the coming cataclysm and Christ’s second coming. Other themes often found in his works include life, death, renewal, the story of the flood and Noah’s Ark, Christ’s resurrection, and Revelation’s four horsemen of the apocalypse.
During what is often referred to as the “Bauhaus Era,” Kandinsky had fled his native Russia for the (German) Weimer Republic, where artists enjoyed the freedom of expression. It was during this time that Kandinsky created one of his most famous paintings, entitled Composition VIII (1923) which is shown below.
Kandinsky’s most famous work, On White II (1923), utilizes the same geometric shapes and linear design. This oil on canvas painting “is said to represent life and all of the opportunities that are available.” (image below)
[Most dominant in On White II is the sharp right angle in the foreground.]
On Sunday, our fourth reading – the Gospel reading – was from the Gospel of Luke (emphasis mine):
The parable of the merciful Samaritan
Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And He said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”
But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
The priest, who is affectionately referred to as “Brother James,” gave an excellent sermon which reminded me of Kandinsky’s unique style of geometric, linear art. But above all, Brother James tangibly conceptualized the path of God’s love as it is intended to flow to us – from God – and flow from us – to our neighbors.
We all had to learn geometry in school. We would plot lines on a plane and learn about angles. God’s love – the path of God’s love – is meant to take a right (90 degree) angle.
When we examine our command to love our neighbors – to be loving neighbors – we find that the path of God’s immense love can also be visualized as taking somewhat of a linear path.
God’s love comes straight down from Him to us.
Then, once within the followers of Christ, within those who are filled with God’s magnanimous love, the linear path of that Holy love given to us from the Almighty takes a hard turn, a right angle. In essence, God’s mighty and everlasting love moves outward, straight from our innermost beings, as we demonstrate kindness and mercy toward our neighbors, toward our fellow man.
Thus, this illustrative example is the linear path of God’s love, and it acts (metaphorically) as a visualized reminder how we each are to be the merciful Samaritan neighbor.
The priest in the Parable of the Merciful Samaritan, accepted God’s love, but, loyal to religious prohibitions of cleanliness, failed to extend that freely-given love of the Father to the battered man who lay bloodied on the side of the road. Likewise, the Levite was accepting of God’s love, but unwilling to extend it.
Rather, it was the Samaritan – reviled by the ancient Jews – who showed mercy. It was the Samaritan who, knowing he was hated, not only accepted God’s love, but also extended it to another in need.
Like Kandinsky’s On White II – with its sharp, right angles – representing the many opportunities we have in life, you and I have many opportunities arise in our own lives to demonstrate mercy, to be the merciful Samaritan neighbors as God intends us to be…