Different people will see and interpret this Picture in various ways, and it will be very interesting to receive some of these interpretations and to learn from them. For me, the dominant symbol in the Picture is the ring; within the context of marriage it is rich in symbolism and I draw on that symbolism and place it within a spiritual and religious vision and understanding of life.

Incidentally, I believe that the ring can transcend its traditional setting within the context of heterosexual marriage and so is able to speak, symbolically, to people of varying sexual orientations and differing sexual lifestyles at the profoundest levels of their being.

This is how the Picture came together in my mind and imagination: the idea for the seven faces inside the wedding ring was suggested to me by the seven ages of man in Shakespeare's play "As you like it". They are the faces of seven members of the human family from around the world. They represent human life from birth into old age. The sun, in the bottom left-hand corner represents God. It is my belief that if there were no sun, there could be no life here on our planet earth. The sun, as a religious symbol, stands for God without whom there would be no life or universe. However, the sun is obscured by cloud which is a symbolical way of pointing to the fact that God (if there is a God) remains hidden and mysterious and not open to observation (though that does not mean, for me, that God is inactive or uninvolved, only that we do not see the whole picture of what is going on all the time nor can we understand its complete meaning).

The seven faces are arranged inside the ring and have together a circular shape as does the sun. Symbolically, I see this as alluding to a belief that there is some affinity between the human family and our Maker. This might be expressed in terms of values such as love, freedom, responsibility, accountability, vulnerability, tenderness, and goodness or in terms of abilities such as being inventive, innovative, artistic, intelligent, and purposeful.

The ring itself, in its setting within close and intimate human relationships, speaks of trust. The Picture is saying, in effect, that God trusts in the belief that she/he has in us that eventually we will all ascend to the heights of our humanity and fulfil our destiny; and, on the other hand, the ring is saying that, in the Christian vision of life, we put our trust in the faithfulness and ability of God to help us reach our goals.

The sun is in the background of the Picture which suggests to me the sense of the absence of God, God is at a distance, hidden and mysterious.However that is not the whole truth. For the ring, encircling the human family, I see next as a symbol of love, a love which encompasses the human family, cradles it, and holds it. Perhaps this is the nurturing caring side of God that is linked with our sense of the sacred feminine. If a God exists, then this love can only credibly be believed to be a divine love committed faithfully, for better and for worse, to the world and the human family within it. Such a God holds, as it were, her/his family in her/his arms in all their brokenness, confusion, vulnerability, vitality and versatility. As the ring is a symbol of love, so are God's arms the arms of a deep and tender love.

Finally, though I probably should not use that word, because I go on discovering fresh meanings in the Picture, the ring given and received in the context of a marriage service resonates with themes of honouring, joy, respect, dignity and sharing. These too speak of the richness of a divine-human relationship. There is the possibility of our honouring and respecting our God, of our acknowledging the significance and dignity of our God, and of our seeing our lives as a sharing in one great life into which we are all caught up: a life which embraces both the human and the divine, and everything else too. There is also the wonder of being before a God who honours us, respects us, gladly acknowledges our eternal worth, inalienable dignity and loveableness, and shares with us in the hazardous adventure whose destiny lies far over the horizon.

The horizon is where the ocean and the sky meet. Both of these have been powerful religious symbols in the past, can they still speak to us today and for tomorrow and how do such interpretations fit into an overall interpretation of the Picture? What difference does it make, do you think, if you view the sun on the horizon as a sunrise rather than as a sunset or vice versa? Do you see elements of a contemporary Celtic spirituality in the interpretation I have shared? It is over to you for your ideas and responses.

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