What do you see? The image to the left is one of William Blake's watercolors, the pregnant woman being chased by the red dragon. To paraphrase the little prince - does this drawing frighten you?
One does not need to be a Christian, or even a person of faith, to dive into this image. The late Joseph Campbell would have have a field day with this one. Karl Jung might also be helpful. I read in one commentary that the image is very similar to that of Leto and Apollo being pursued by a Python, which would have been part of the regional mythology in first-century Asia Minor.
But for this post, I offer these words from Linette Martin, an iconographer, who has this to say about icons:
The pictures are not there just to be looked at as though the worshipers were in an art museum; they are designed to be doors between this world and another world, between people and the Incarnate God, his Mother, or his friends, the saints.While Blake's watercolor is not an icon in the technical sense, I think that John's entire vision, and Blake's watercolors of various scenes, and the images created in our own imaginations, can function iconically as we make our way through this vision. The images can be doors into the heavens that help us to better imagine what heaven on earth looks like.
What does this image say to you? A pregnant woman represents the future - the hope of new life and what is yet possible. But birth pangs are painful and can feel like dying. And new life is always tenuous and fragile and dependent upon the care of others. The Word that was there at creation, and became Word-made-flesh-to-dwell-among-us still needed Mary to nurse him when he was hungry, and for someone to change his swaddling cloths when they were soiled. In Bethlehem and at Golgatha we see the God who chooses weakness.
Dragons represent our worst fears and perhaps we might say, "the forces of wickedness that rebel against God." St. George is but one famous dragon-slayer. But at some level, each of us must slay our own "dragons" as we move through life. Dragons are real, and sometimes the scariest ones of all are the ones we carry around inside of us. What dragons have you slayed? Which ones still terrorize you?
Which is stronger in you these days: hope or fear? This image speaks to me in both deeply personal and cosmic ways, posing the same questions in the Harry Potter series and The Narnia Chronicles and in Star Wars. Which is simply to say that the battle between good and evil is epic. How do we navigate this world and into the next - and will we choose to live courageously, or fearfully?