Monday, 2 April 2012

A meditation for Holy Week

Golgotha - Crucifixion by Greg Tricker

The Crucifixion is the great image of redemptive love. The Buddhists have their peaceful, contemplative Buddha, the Hindus have their various gods, alive with vitality and meaning for believers. But the Christian Faith is symbolised by the image of the young man, the Christ, suffering a most painful death. The almost impossible problem for an artist is to show that this young man, there before us in His agonies, is also the Almighty God. Even more, the artist is challenged to show a real death into which Jesus enters, but through which Jesus will pass: this death is not ‘the end’, as it always seems to be in human experience.

Usually, artists try to depict the divinity by showing the dying Jesus as a man of profound dignity and beauty. Only very occasionally, (El Greco is an artist who comes to mind), is there any suggestion of the glorious Resurrection that is to come. Tricker’s deep and prayerful understanding of the mystery of Jesus makes it possible for him to create this extraordinary image. Apart from the horizontal cross beam, it is all verticals stretching up to the heavens to which Jesus belongs, yet rooted to the earth where He also belongs. The face of Jesus is almost occluded.

One of the greatest humiliations for Jews, a modest nation, was the naked exposure that crucifixion imposed. The crucified hung there, naked, for all to see. Tricker reverently shadows the face and body of the Christos, and yet the scene flanked by dark panels, is radiant with light. A rich gold streams around the Cross and down it. Tricker thinks of this as lava flowing from the divinity, down to the dark earth that is mankind. A full moon hangs in the sky, because Jesus has brought to fullness the work which His Father gave Him. The green and the blue, green emblem of the life force, the life of God that through Jesus He shares with us, and blue, emblem of spirituality, are colours that have been important to Tricker ever since his visit to Chartres. There he understood how colour could become more than itself, rather as in Christ, humanity is enabled to become more than itself.

This dark and suffering Jesus dies, but almost visibly rises. He is the life force into which all humanity is drawn, and His lifted arms offer us, with Himself, to the Father. Tricker reveres, as few artists have done, the privacy of Jesus, the loneliness that was the inescapable effect of His unique significance, a significance we can never fully understand let alone describe. Yet those arms raised in surrender, are also raised in victory and gratitude. It has always seemed to me that Jesus died in an ecstasy of joy, because He could say to the Father ‘it is consummated’, it is finished, I have achieved what you have asked of me. The glowing richness of the colour here hints at that immense and overwhelming joy.

Text © St Pauls Publishing taken from The Christ Journey by Sister Wendy Beckett
Picture © Nigel Noyes