My submission is a black and white picture of two nuns walking side by side in the Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela. This Galician town, the purported burial site of Saint James, is the final stop of the famous El Camino, a pilgrimage route that draws hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from around the world every year.
Ambiguity looms in this quiet scene. The nuns advance in synchrony across the empty "Platerías" square, deserted except for a mute pigeon waddling by. They will soon reach the crisp shade of the ancient cathedral whose great granite spires conjure cavernous shadows, the talons of a ghastly beast, ready to snatch them from the gleaming pavement. But could those be the gentle fingers of a divine hand ? One that waits to receive the sisters in pleasant shade, to guard the weary pair from the scorching sun of noon.
Receding into the background, the immense tower of the stony temple creates an even larger shade. Its otherworldly silhouette stretches languidly across the scene, like a plume of burning myrrh. Or is it the colossal head of the spectral beast, plunging in to devour the whole square, and the hapless nuns with it ? The image, like faith, exists in a space of apparent contradictions.
To Christians, faith is a constant battle between diametrically opposing forces: temptation versus devotion, belief versus doubt, grace versus nature, peace versus war, the sacred versus the profane. Ephesians 6:10-20 captures this spiritual struggle against the ungodly, incarnated by the devil, and puts forth faith in God as its most powerful antidote. I think the picture I submit here works as a visual metaphor that captures exactly that: unwavering faith, as seen in the resolute walk of the two nuns. Saint James was the first apostle to be martyred according to the New Testament, and hence died for his faith. Likewise, the two sisters are moved by faith. They advance side by side, not only to each other but also figuratively, with the whole congregation of the Church. Steady, they are on the verge of crossing into the shadows cast by the cathedral, "the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms", but the confidence in their gait reassures us there is no doubt in their spirit, as they know that their faith is the unbreakable armor of God, and so their feet are "fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace".
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