Listen and Hear
The Schism by Jehan Georges Vibert
This appears to be some kind of ecclesiastical study room. Two men sit back to back in their respective easy chairs with liturgical robes on. The man whose back faces us wears the red of a Catholic cardinal -- red hat, robe and slippers. His hands are over his ears so as to not hear his colleague in the chair behind him -- who isn't speaking. He sits slumped in his chair, perhaps exasperated?
The man facing us is also in liturgical robes and hat but of a different style and color. He sits stiffly with a grim face lost in thought. Books are sprawled on the floor open to where he must have been reading or studying. Perhaps he was explaining a bit of theology to his colleague who couldn't bear to hear anymore. Now, all is still and unsettled. A clear divide exists in the room.
What can we learn from this painting other than that it illustrates a schism or divide?
The hands over the ears symbolize a person not open to anyone else's way of thinking. In actual history the Catholic church believed they were the true, infallible church and therefore were not open to Martin Luther when he discovered in scripture that we are saved by faith in Christ's death only and not by any works we have done or will ever do.
The book, laying open but upside down, symbolizes the truth of the Bible that is being ignored. If man ignores God's truth and shuts his ears to it then a divide is created with other men who believe and walk in the truth.
The chairs back to back symbolize men who will not look each other in the eye so as to touch each other's heart. If it is only one person who refuses to listen and hear the truth then the only alternative the other has is to follow the truth (with their back to all that is false). Yet, their eyes and ears will be open to engage with others that want to know about the hope that is within them. And so we see the other clergyman facing us with his eyes and ears open to engage with anyone that wants to converse.
God's clear truth in scripture will be our guide in life if we remain open to its message. Let us be ready to listen and really hear its message so that it reaches our heart as well as our mind. Do not turn your Bible upside down just because something is hard to understand or doesn't fit with what you already know to be true. Keep engaged with others -- even ones you disagree with until you know clearly what God is saying.
We can trust the Holy Spirit to keep us in the truth as we engage with others.