Behold, I stand at the Door, and knock

The “Light of the World” was painted in 1853-54 by the English artist William Holman Hunt (1827-1910). The painting, which measures 125 x 60 cm, is currently at Keble College, Oxford in England. The painting is really a painted text, a sermon on canvas. In “The Light of the World” the allegory chosen for illustration is that beautiful one in the Revelation, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20). On the head of Christ are two crowns: the earthly crown of his passion as well as his heavenly crown of glory – this crown begins to bud and blossom – symbol of new life and new beginning. The Robe of Christ is a seamless robe. It symbolises the unbroken unity of the Body of Christ, the Family of the Church today throughout the world. Then there is the lamp carried by Christ. It is the lamp which guides us throughout the journey of our lives. The scene is during the night. There are dangers and obstacles on our path – the light of Christ will guide us and show us the safest and best way. The door of the soul is beautifully rendered. It has been a very long time since it has been opened. The weeds have climbed where they never could have climbed had it been kept open; stains of rust are over the iron-work. We can see brambles, because a place overgrown with brambles is a place to which the gardener doesn’t visit. The fruit the trees have borne has fallen to the ground – natural fruit, uncared for and untended. The sadness of the face of Christ is painful in the extreme, and the justification of this sadness is that Christ has knocked, and knocked in vain. Look how Christ’s knocks on the door of our souls – his hand is half-open and he listens intently; he is patient, he will wait for as long as it takes. The door has no handle. It can only be opened form the inside. In other words, only we can open the door of our souls to Christ. It is our choice. Perhaps we might see in this painting the whole meaning of the life of Christ, and the whole story of our own neglected souls. The idea of painting the picture came from a sonnet entitled “Tomorrow” by Lope de Vega, from Spain: “Soul, from thy casement look, and thou shalt see how He persists to knock and wait for thee!” And Oh, how often to that voice of sorrow, ”Tomorrow I will open” – I replied. And when the morrow came, I answered still: ” Tomorrow!”


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