Looking up from the swirling stone pavement, the worshipper in the church of San Clemente in Rome is enfolded in the entangled branches of a giant mosaic vine, inhabited by magpies, farmers, and doctors of the Church. Within the cross, growing as part of this fruitful plant, Christ offers himself among a bevy of white doves, twelve in number to represent the apostles. These are they for whom Christ prayed to the Father that he would send them the Spirit of Truth (John 14:16–17). They have so received that Spirit that they can be shown in His own revealed form of a dove, as at the baptism of Christ.
In John 14:15 the Spirit is ‘another counsellor/advocate’ or ‘Paraclete’, who will abide with them. The description shows the Spirit’s closeness to Jesus, for both Son and Spirit dwell with believers, and both bring them into the communion this mosaic celebrates.
In the mosaic the disciples actually live in the Spirit and within the cross, as nestling birds in the tree of life of the heavenly city of Revelation. Meanwhile, the Father’s victory-garland-like diadem is held over them all. ‘He who believes in me will also do the works that I do’ says Jesus, and even ‘greater works’ because his going ‘to the Father’ (John 14:12) is a journey beyond death to resurrection power, in which his disciples will have a share.
This image unites cross and resurrection as Christ’s priestly action of self-giving becomes the mode of Paradisal life. ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments’ says Christ in John 14:15, reminding his friends of the new commandment given in the previous chapter, to love one another, as he has loved them. Self-giving of one’s whole being is shown in the mosaic to be generative and productive, weaving every person and creature into an abiding whirl of interconnected life, fed by the blood of Jesus in the true vine.
14 “Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. 2In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4And you know the way where I am going.” 5Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” 6Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me. 7If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; henceforth you know him and have seen him.”
8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied.” 9Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me; or else believe me for the sake of the works themselves.
12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father. 13Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son; 14if you ask anything in my name, I will do it.
15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever, 17even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you.