Ceiling Theology

According to my blog’s stat page, I haven’t written squat since Christmas Eve. Is that right?

*receives note*

Okay, my editor says I shouldn’t openly admit how long it’s been since I last wrote, and…

*receives another note*

Okay, I’m also not supposed to mention how my editor sends me notes.

*receives third note*

Oh for cripes sake, I TOLD you the chocolate is on the second shelf, toward the back. Sheesh!

Anyway, sorry for ghosting on you. Been a bit busy and all that. I’ve got a couple blog posts percolating, but nothing quite up to snuff. So instead we’ll be doing a quickie for today.

This came to me via a sister from the convent. She works with college students at a volunteer ministry and they were studying the creation story. One of them brought up the scene from the Sistine chapel. The part where God is reaching out to Adam.

You can picture it in your mind, right? I don’t need to show it to you.

Okay fine, I’ll show it to you:


So the student pointed out something I was aware of, but never really thought about.

Look at how how God — he’s the one on the right — is stretching out with everything he’s got. You can see his muscles at work, he’s straining, doing all he can to reach Adam. The angels look like they’re holding on to God, afraid to let go.

And then there’s Adam. Lounging about, taking it easy, barely managing to hold his hand out.

I mean, he’s not even looking at God.

creation (5)

Did you ever notice that? I didn’t.

I don’t know what Michelangelo had in mind, but I couldn’t help thinking this is like an extremely condensed version of the entire Bible.

God — forget for the moment he’s shown as a white-haired old man (this is art, baby) — God is always reaching out to us.

creation (2)

Come on, people… just a bit farther… you can do it!… I’m right here

And we’re all, like…

creation (4)

Hmm? … Oh, yeah… um… I don’t know, God. I’m kind of swamped right now...

Isn’t that interesting? And when you think about the Biblical stories — taken as a whole, I mean — then it seems clear that…

*receives note*

Okay, my editor thinks I’m getting too religious and need to back off. But you all know I work at a convent now, right? It’s gonna be hard not letting it creep in a little.

*yet another note*

What do you mean you can’t find it? You freak out over a misplaced apostrophe, but you can’t see a box of chocolates right in front of your face?! Geez!

I better go. I’ll see you all next week. In the meantime, keep reaching…  😉

37 thoughts on “Ceiling Theology

  1. Lol, I like your style. I used to have a chemistry textbook that had the two hands (God’s and Adam’s) on the cover, with some chemical equations superimposed. I always liked that perspective on the sciences.
    I had never thought about Adam’s pose in terms of his attitude toward God, but you make a good point. It could also be interpreted (I’ve always seen it) as the idea that at that point Adam was too weak to reach out – in fact, he had no strength at all – until God touched him and gave him life. (Sometimes I feel like that every day…)

    1. Sounds like an interesting chemistry class!
      I’ve heard that perspective on the painting too, but always thought Adam seemed pretty buff to not have any strength. Get a load of that six-pack there, that guy has been pumping iron! 😉

      1. I guess God had created those abs (must be nice…) but no matter how impressive one looks on the outside, life only comes from one Source. 😉
        (It was a normal chemistry class. I’m guessing the artist who designed the cover was just expressing his/her perspective.)

      1. I wan’t Catholic at the time and had to walk by the convent to go to school and I was always late because the nuns were a mystery to me. I told my mom I want to be a nun. We aren’t Catholic she says, so I fixed that at 16! lol And I’m still weird.

        1. Ha! I grew up in a primarily Catholic area of Phoenix, so visited the Catholic church often with friends during carnivals & other events. The nuns were always super nice and yes, a bit of mystery. I thought they were fascinating. In my teen years I kind of wished I was Catholic just so I could become one. Only later did I learn there actually are Lutheran nuns. Who’d a thunk?!

  2. That is a good theological point on the picture and one I find true. God does more work reaching than most of us do reaching for God.

    yeah, editors, what annoying people (by the chocolate is likely gone because your editor ate it all, but doesn’t want to admit that).

    1. And sometimes when we feel the most abandoned, that’s when God is yelling for us to pay more attention.
      As to the editor and the chocolate? I kind of had a hunch that’s what happened. She can be a real pig.

  3. Like the other commenters, I have never noticed that either! Thanks for pointing it out.

    And congrats on the job at the convent. I would love to hear what that is like. Hopefully you’ll be posting someday on what it is like to work at a convent. 🙂

    I used to live about a block away from a convent when I was a kid, but it was well-fenced off and inaccessible to us kids. However, there was a crab apple tree on their property and the branches hung over onto the sidewalk, so I used to walk by and eat a few crab apples. But man where they ever sour!

    Great post! And welcome back!

    1. Thanks!
      This convent has a sign out in front that says “Open to Public” — They’re not a cloistered order, the one you lived by must have been. Though I doubt that would have affected the apples! 😀

      1. Nope … the apples were just fine. Just very, very tart! I didn’t get to talk to the Sisters much. I’d see them at Mass, but neither them nor me were big on talking. In retrospect, I wish I had. They were probably very interesting to talk to.

        I kind of miss the days when the Sisters dressed up in full habits and whatnot. Now they blend in with the general population. I was talking to a friend of my Mom’s one time for half an hour before I realized she was a Sister! Glad I didn’t say anything that might have gotten my knuckles rapped with a ruler!

        1. Right?! I’m sure they’re more comfortable in real clothes, but I always thought the habits were cool. There are only about three or four nuns who wear the head cover here, and they’re the oldest nuns in the convent. The one told me she’d been wearing it since she was 16!

          1. Wow! 16! That is amazing.

            I really did like the traditional Nun clothing they wore. I have even begun to wonder if there are even any nuns any more, because I never see any. I suspect that they are just dressed up like “civilians” and so we just don’t notice them any more.

  4. CJ
    Happy New Year !
    Its ok if you write only once in an ever so while but write you must. And what a post this was. Glad you brought this point about. Look at Adam ! He is lounging. Do artists take a long time thinking about how to draw a thing before they put their point across ? And the point of this picture was probably just what you wrote above.

    1. Happy New Year Susie!
      I’ve only seen pictures of the ceiling but I’ve talked to people who’ve seen it firsthand, they say it’s breathtaking. I read it took him four years to finish, so obviously he had a lot of time to think about it. One day I’d like to see it.

      1. I have seen it CJ – honestly I passed it by among a lot of others. The only thing I wondered about was how he might have balanced himself on a ladder for hours on the end to complete the picture.

  5. CJ – Love the theological dive into one of Michelangelo’s masterpieces. I wonder if he would agree with your take, or come up with something completely different (like, “I had an obsession with the human body and was more focused on muscle tone.”) I read “The Agony and the Ecstasy” and when I finished, I thought: this was one twisted soul, despite his many talents.

    1. Feel a bit of a dope as I saw the movie, never knew it was a book! Charlton Heston made a decent enough Michelangelo, but Rex Harrison made a great pope.
      I’m sure your guess as to Michelangelo’s take was more to the mark, or maybe it was just for the paycheck. 😉

  6. OMH! This is the best post I’ve seen all year! I love January. Anyway, I remember hearing about that point in the fresco in a art class. Honestly, I forgot about that longer ago than I actually heard it. Seriously Christy, great post. And yes, I missed you.

    1. You’re no longer Roo’s Roost? When did that happen? (Gosh, I’ve been hibernating for far too long!)
      So maybe I should call you Annie now, but you’re a Roo in my heart so that’s what I’ll say: Thanks, Roo! 😉

      1. You’re fine, Christi. New home, new job, new year, new everything. I’m still Roo. Just not Roos. Figuring out how to fix my name line only took me a few years. My blog title is still blah, blah blah, Roo’s Ruse.

  7. Speaking of ceilings, you might appreciate this –

    At my parents’ church, there are paintings on the ceiling, one of which is God the Father in the form of an old man. My 5-year-old son asked who it was, and I told him. He also knows that old people die at some point.

    My son also knows who the guy is that’s hanging on the cross (also God), and that he died. But then he came back to life! But then, according to my son, he died again. “Why do you say that?” I asked. “Well,” my son explained, “God is old. So if he dies and comes back to life, he dies again.”

    So to summarize: 1) my son blended Jesus and God the Father in his head; 2) there exists a natural ending to life that you can’t really escape (even if you are resurrected, your life is still over so you die again). Therefore God is dead.

    Sounds profound and all, but I am really only telling the story so you can picture my 5-year-old son walking around in church, saying loudly that “God is dead.”


    1. By any chance is your son’s name Nietzsche? 😉
      My parents had a book that was a collection of children’s takes on Biblical stories. It was pretty funny as I recall, but sure don’t remember anything quite on the level of your son’s philosophical musing. That could be a book in itself!

  8. Perhaps Michelangelo had a vision about the Coming of the Millennials several hundred years later, and he stylized Adam so that said Milliennials could identify with the lackluster pose and the hesitation to commit to something without a guarantee that they would get a promotion.

    Or maybe not. Carry on.

    1. In answer to the question you asked yourself as soon as you hit “submit comment”: yes, that comment makes you sound like a grumpy old man. But don’t worry, we still love you. 😉

  9. Never noticed that! Thanks for this post and great enlightening on such a powerful work of art.
    Your wonderful writing, a riot again!

  10. I like to read tarot cards for fun and there is a card called the four of cups that always made me feel like God is trying to reach out, but you’re not seeing it. Whenever I read for people that’s the analogy I always go with. I guess now I could say it’s like the Sistine Chapel. 😉

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