Pr. Scott Bryte Word and Sacrament Triptych
Giclee Print of Acrylic on wood panel (original) Scott Bryte, 2015
This is a print of the interior of a triptych being prepared for the chapel at the offices of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod, E.L.C.A.
What is a Triptych?
A triptych is a traditional form of devotional art found most frequently behind the altar at the front of a church. It consists of three panels which are hinged. When closed, the panels usually form a gothic arch, the customary shape of church doors. The center panel is always a depiction of Jesus. The side panels can show other scenes from the Bible, or from Christian history. The purpose of a triptych is not to be a mere decoration; but to teach and to aid in Christian prayer, meditation, and devotion.
The Theme of this Triptych
Christian worship consists of two basic components; hearing the word of God, and celebration of the sacrament(s). The Lutheran tradition acknowledges a very narrow definition of what a sacrament is, including only Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. This triptych is arranged so that the central panel is focused on the Word, and the side panels on the two sacraments.
In order to draw the eye heavenward, in the direction of the ascending Christ, certain elements of the picture are arranged to form arrows or upward pointing triangles.
The Center Panel: The Incarnate Word
Jesus Christ is the incarnate Word of God [John 1:1-3,14].
This panel expresses the identity of Jesus Christ through the following images:
The Earth, Sun, and Moon show the Word’s creative power [Genesis 1:1-2, 14-17; John 1:3]
The words o ov (“the one who is”) in gold letters, refer to God’s self identification as “I am who I am” [Exodus 3:14]
Jesus is Alpha (bottom left) and Omega (bottom right) [Revelation 1:8, 21:6, 22:13]
The banner reads (in Greek) “The Word became flesh” [John 1:14]
The full upper room and stable (bottom right) [Luke 2]
The wise men (center right) and epiphany star (top right) [Matthew 2]
The hill of Golgotha (center left) [Matthew 27:33; Mark 15:22; John 19:17]
Moses and Elijah (center left and right) [Matthew 17:1-3, Mark 9:2-4, Luke 9:28-30]
Elijah, expected to announce the coming of the Messiah appears over the nativity scene [Matthew 11:13-14; Mark 9:11-13; Luke 1:13-17]
Moses, giver of the law, appears over the crucifixion/resurrection scene [Romans 8:1-4, etc.]
Jesus connects the earth with the heavens
Jesus is depicted as a triumphant king (Christus Rex), an image in Christian art which predates the crucifix.
Jesus wears the ephod of the high priest [Exodus 28,2-4; Hebrews 5:4-6]
Jesus wears a crown of thorns [John 19:2]
Jesus wears the crown of King David [Isaiah 9:7; Luke 1:32]
The Left Panel: The Sacrament of Baptism
The sacrament of Baptism and the salvific Word of God at work in the water is alluded to in this depiction of the end of the story of Noah’s Ark, when the dove that Noah released returns with an olive branch in its beak. [Genesis 8:10-11]. Please note in this image:
The Leviathan which symbolizes chaos [Isaiah 27:1, etc.] is shown here as Dr. R. K. Wilson’s now discredited 1934 photograph of the Loch Ness monster
The olive branch in the beak of the dove bears three olives, representing the Holy Trinity
The olive branch also sports eight leaves, signifying the new (eighth day) creation that comes at baptism.
The Right Panel: The Sacrament of Holy Communion
The sacrament of Holy Communion as the way Christ loves, forgives and feeds his followers is alluded to in this depiction of the end of the story of the breakfast at the beach, where the risen Christ three times asks Peter if he loves him, and three times commands Peter to feed Christ’s sheep [John 21:4-17]