Son of Man, René Magritte’s self-portrait with the green apple in front of his face, seems equally appropriate for the First Sunday of Advent and the opening of the United Nations Climate Summit in Paris.
What Magritte meant by hiding his face (except for one eye) with the apple is left to the imagination.
To this viewer the apple’s presence in front of a man of civilized sophistication – bolo hat, buttoned-up dark suit, fitted white shirt, and perfectly knotted red tie – moves imagination in two directions.
The first is often discussed by art critics: the Genesis story of the Fall and the forbidden fruit – the serpent’s whisper that the creatures in the garden could “be like God” by stepping over the one limit imposed on their behavior by a paradisiacal ecosystem.
On this eve of the World Climate Summit, a second interpretation comes to mind – the primacy of nature – the green apple. For all our sophistication, we are nothing without the green planet whose green-ness climate change places at risk.
Magritte’s Son of Man opened me to hear today’s assigned Hebrew Scripture from the Revised Common Lectionary with different ears.
The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.
In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the earth. [Jeremiah 33:12-14]
A righteous branch yet may spring up in Paris. If it does, it will be green. One can pray that the Climate Summit representatives arrive in Paris without their bolo hats, starched white shirts, buttoned-up suits, and power ties, ready to concede finally that, despite all appearances to the contrary, all is nothing without green.
- Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Nov. 29, 2015