Christ Pantocrator means “all-powerful or Almighty Christ.” The Pantocrator image, which typically depicts Christ seated in enthroned glory, was (and is) especially popular in the Byzantine icon tradition. The Florentine artist Giusto de’ Menabuoi painted this Pantocrator in the Baptistery of the Duomo in Padua around 1375. Christ is depicted seated in power and judgment. Inscribed on the book in his left hand are the words Ego sum alpha et omega—“I am the Alpha and the Omega” (Rev. 1:8). In the book of Revelation it is God who speaks these words; here Christ has been elevated to an equal status with God.
Last year I took a class to determine my Enneagram number. I’m an old hand at Myers-Briggs, with its 16 types, but this nine-number circle with all sorts of arrows going back and forth was a new system for me. Thankfully the teacher, Suzanne Stabile, had a teaching style I understood well. It turns out we are the same type.
Some of us reside in the heart (or feeling) triad, as Suzanne and I do, and some in the head (or thinking) triad. My guess is Thomas would belong in the third triad.
Caravaggio’s painting depicts the story of the apostle’s incredulity the way most of us remember it, but not exactly the way it is presented in John 20:27–28. In the narrative Jesus invites Thomas to “put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” But the narrator does not state that Thomas actually did what Christ invited him to do; rather, Thomas responds with a confession: “My Lord and my God!” Caravaggio, however, graphically displays Thomas’s forefinger entering the gash in Christ’s side. Christ guides Thomas’s fingers into the wound with his left hand, while his right hand pulls back the drapery that covers his chest. Christ’s calm expression contrasts with the intense and surprised reactions of Thomas and the other two disciples (the figure on the left is most likely Peter). The dramatic tenebrist light further accentuates the moment in which Thomas encounters the bodily wounds of the risen Christ. Caravaggio’s figures, painted in earth tones, are not glorified but are representative of the common man. This scene is a favorite of all those who “have not seen but yet believe.”
When she knew she was dying, my grandmother took me to see the cornerstone of a small brick church in my hometown of Kansas City, Missouri. I didn’t recognize the sign outside. It was a Baptist church, I think. It was pretty rundown, but still in better shape than the neighborhood. Overgrown vacant lots were everywhere; it was like visiting an abandoned church in the jungle.