Nothing but a Bubble?

Is the human person but a bubble? The idea of the bubble is not new. The Fathers of the Church made allusion to it, and Erasmus even ventured the expression "homo bulla." Popular religious art of the 19th and early 20th century picked it up, and gave it a playful and moral rendering. Have you ever seen holy cards with the Infant Jesus making soap bubbles? These holy cards show the little Jesus holding a bowl with soap water in one hand, blowing soap bubbles with the other. The surroundings of the Jesus figure announce drama, and a vivid contrast to the playful infant. Jesus is flanked by the big cross of his Passion, or he is set in a landscape showing the three crosses on Calvary. Sometime you will find underneath his feet the remnants of passing pleasure and glory – a partially destroyed wine vat or pearls of a cracked and mangled necklace. The teaching is given in the legend accompanying the image. It may say: "Christian, your body will shatter and burst like a bubble. Save your soul which is immortal." The warning regarding passing realities highlights at the same time the stability of eternal values: "Everything passes, God's glory alone is eternal." This message is voiced playfully by the Infant Jesus. Its truth is illustrated with soap bubbles. It is also a reminder that Jesus is not the judge but the meek and gentle savior. It shows that Lent is but a passage on the way to Easter.

Basset, Paris, XIXes

Christian, your body will shatter and burst like a bubble; save your soul which is immortal!

Basset, Paris, XIXes

Everything passes, God's glory alone is eternal.

– Father Johann G. Roten, S.M., Director of Research and Special Projects

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