‘Co-imagination’ and the imitation of the Sacred (Exodus 28,1-4,29-41)
‘And thou shalt make garments for Aroon thy brother for glory and for beauty’ (Exodus 28:2) The passage describes in detail how the liturgical vestments of the priestly office should be made and decorated. Actually, what is produced is the work of God who exercises his imagination with us. The beautiful design of holy vestments is the outcome of ‘co-imagination’. God uses his creative fantasy with us, he exercises his imagination with us when designing the garments: a breastplate, an ephod, a robe, a bordered coat, a mitra and a girdle for his priests.
When we have a closer look at these holy garments, we enter into the world of holy actions. This is the centre of this beautiful display of liturgical art. ‘And Aaron shall bear the names of the children of Israel in the breastplate of judgement upon his heart, when he goeth in unto the holy place, for a memorial before the Lord continually’ ‘Sacrifice and prayers’ must be continuously present in the Lord’s Temple. A great lesson, indeed, for our churches today. Intercession for the members of the community, prayers for the deceased at their anniversaries must be permanent. Without this daily action, the church is empty; it is dead.
The plate with the engraved names of the children of Israel is deeply symbolic. ‘And thou shalt make a plate of pure gold, and grave upon it, like the engravings of a signet, HOLINESS TO THE LORD…And it shall be upon Aroon’s forehead…and it shall be always upon his forehead, that they may be accepted before the Lord’ (Exodus 28,21.19.) In these actions, the beauty of holiness and faith is manifested. This ‘beauty’ of the garments, however, stands for something more dynamic than delight for the eye. This visible and tangible beauty is for contemplating the actions of faith! The crisis of faith (observance) today lies in that the ‘gestures of faith’ are no longer internalised. The imitation of God’s holiness, in terms of a regular worship is broken. We no longer exercise the sacred ‘co-imagination’ with God. The price is bitter: there is a pressure on our churches ‘to produce growth’ again.
However, if this growth is not triggered by re-learning the ‘gestures of faith’, this growth cannot be permanent. The primary task is to ‘contemplate the beauty of the garments of the worshipping community’, and establishing a daily worshipping community. Which is visible, can be seen daily, with the daily gestures of faith; which can be encountered and ‘imitated’.
These are verbal Icons, expressions of how the world is seen from Saint Augustine's..