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Advent Sunday 2020: Passion for the Light

Advent Sunday Christina Rossetti

Behold, the Bridegroom cometh: go ye out
With lighted lamps and garlands round about
To meet Him in a rapture with a shout.

Images: Jaume Plensa: Doors of Jerusalem I, II, & III, 2006, resin, stainless steel, light, dimensions (each) 120 x 158 x 205 cm.

Last year at Advent thousands of visitors entered the North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA) without fear of illness. Now Jaume Plensa’s Doors of Jerusalem I, II & III receive a few restricted and masked visitors.

Plensa (b. 1955) is an internationally known artist from Barcelona, Spain. We see three identical nudes filled with light, the face and arms covered with names and Scripture. Each figure sits at rest horizontally on one of the three walls which form a triangle. The closed eyes and mouth are covered with embossed text of the names of the eight gates of the ancient city walls of Jerusalem: New, Herod, Damascus, Golden (two doors: Gate of Repentance and Gate of Mercy), Lions, Jaffa, Zion, and Dung. Tattoo-like passages from the Song of Songs emerge from the heart upon the arms.

There are various interpretations about the spiritual meaning in the romantic poetry of Song of Songs from the Bible. Songs is filled with declarations and questions about love and longing, passion and purity, waiting and fulfillment. The main character is a Shulamite woman (the Bride) who speaks with her friends and her Beloved, the Bridegroom.

In the work’s description Plensa states, “In the Song of Songs, a woman tirelessly crosses this wall looking for her love. She dreams and imagines love is like a door in the wall. Perhaps this wall is another metaphor of the body and the doors another metaphor of the soul. Dream and desire are fused in the prison of the heart.”

For Plensa sculpture has a profound ability to convey spirituality in the material, the connection between the body, mind, and soul. He believes that time, text, and the body are hosts for memory and imagination. The figure’s arms – filled with Scripture – are wrapped around the drawn knees, his whole being intent on the light within as the gates of Jerusalem and the words of the Bride’s desire surround him.

Plensa created Doors for the NCMA in 2006 but he has engaged themes with doors, light and text and time in several works. He said,

“When I was looking for information on doors, I came across a dictionary definition that said: “Door: the most important part of a house.” I don’t think that this is based on architecture, but because there’s a decision connected to it: you have to decide whether and when to cross the threshold.”

Plensa’s Doors hold this decision, this moment of receiving and revealing light, life, and love in stillness much like Advent. And Christians zealously anticipate the Bridegroom’s return as the Bride of Christ, who will announce the fulfillment of God’s pleasure and promises for the New Jerusalem in the fullness of time (Revelation 22:20).

Like Plensa’s sculptures that indicate life in stillness, Advent conveys an energized tension of waiting and preparation for the Bridegroom’s arrival in the “here and not yet”.

Many will lament this year as a time of loss of health, work, and time. But the Christian believes that any hope in this world, even life, is temporary and ultimately a false hope if life is ultimately about you and your personal experiences (Matthew 7:24-27). When we fix our gaze on the unshakable truths of God, fear, darkness, and death lose their power.

Like Plensa’s Doors I, II, & III that host a passion for light, we become the Shulamite bride by remembering the past, embracing this threshold moment, and eagerly watching for the Bridegroom's return.


Jaume Plensa: Doors of Jerusalem I, II, & III, 2006, resin, stainless steel, light, dimensions (each) 120 x 158 x 205 cm.

For the interview with Jaume Plensa, see Transforming Energy, a Conversation with Jaume Plensa by Michael Stoeber:

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