Rick continues his series of posts based on his trip to Europe last fall.
I love books…over the years I have gathered a small library, the core of which has come from my university and seminary days. I’ve always had an interest in “dust jackets” on hardbacks and have tried to preserve them on my books.
While they do not actually protect from dust, they do serve to protect a book’s original cover while providing design interest and information on the content and author. The earliest known dust jacket was discovered on a 1829 book at the Bodleian Library, Oxford in 2009.
Now before you think I need to get outside more, dust jackets are quite significant to book collectors. Some can increase the value of a book hundreds of times over. Unfortunately, I don’t have any of those. But one dust jacket that has always been significant to me is the one on “How Should We Then Live” by Francis Schaeffer. It portrays the central panel, “The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb”, of the Ghent Altarpiece painted by Jan van Eyck in 1432.
The Ghent Altarpiece is a twelve-panel oil painting that is counted among the great masterpieces of the world. It also bears the distinction of being the most frequently stolen artwork of all time (thirteen times; if you’re interested in the fascinating history behind this painting, read Noah Charney’s, “Stealing the Mystic Lamb”).
The Ghent Altarpiece was designed for the Saint Bavo Cathedral in Ghent, Belgium, just north of Brussels.
Just a few months ago, I traveled to Ghent with Olivier and Dan, two of our supported missionaries based in Brussels. I couldn’t believe, after looking at that dust jacket for forty years, that I was about to enter the cathedral (my photos above and below).
Soon afterward…there it was…I was standing in front of the Ghent Altarpiece. Schaeffer writes, “It is an altarpiece containing wonderful pictures of Eve, Adam, and singing angels. But most impressive is the central theme: the rich, the poor–people of all classes and backgrounds–coming to Christ. And who is this Christ? Van Eyck comprehended the biblical understanding of Christ as the Lamb of God who died on the cross to take away the moral guilt of those who accept him as Savior.
But this Christ is not now dead. He stands upright and alive on the altar, symbolizing that he died as the substitute, sacrificed, but now he lives! As van Eyck painted this, almost certainly he had Jesus’ own words in mind as Christ speaks in the Apocalypse, the last book of the Bible: ‘I am the living one that became dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and I have the keys of death and hades.'”(“How Should We Then Live?”, p.66).
Gazing at the Altarpiece with Olivier and Dan, my thoughts turned toward Belgium, France, the U.K., Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Moldova and our church planting partners in Europe…the uphill battle that they face…taking hope that Christ is not now dead!
Written by Rick Pierson, Executive Director of Compass Global