Thursday, April 5, 2012

May We Not Forget

My preference for realistic religious art, I realized some years ago, goes beyond just personal taste.  In 1993, I wrote the following meditation in my journal… 

It is easy to accept shining, sterile depictions of Jesus’s passion.  It’s easy to prefer silvered crosses with a victorious Christ upon them, for these do not ask much of us.  ‘Take up your cross and follow Me’ can be distant words then, words from which we are insulated by a safe coating of bronze.

His body did not shine that day, so long ago.  He hung from a very real wood cross, He hung bruised and sweating and blood-stained.  His knees were scraped, His face contorted with pain.  Smells were of blood and dust and just-hammered metal.  There was no upbeat music that day; there were no songbooks, no guitars.  There were just the moans of people dying and friends watching them die.  There were crowd-sounds, possibly a joke or two, the occasional slap of a whip striking the ground.  Soldiers held back mourners and yelled out commands and probably thought about what they would do after work.

Overhead, a few clouds gathered.  Rain came then, soaking onlookers and washing rivulets of blood into the ground.  Three men hung dying that day, on crosses not made of silver.  They were pierced through with nails not coated with gold.  Three men writhed in pain that day, they sweated and bled; two of them were heard praying, and all of them died.  

And how grateful we can be that the scene has been removed from us, safely tucked away in time, safely burnished, safely incensed.  How safe it is to hear the words ‘take up your cross and follow Me’ when looking at a cross made of silver, when meditating on a resurrected, stylized and sterile Jesus.  Yes, He was resurrected and yes He is crowned.  Yes, He lives today; He is not dead any longer.  Yes, it is appropriate to celebrate His rising, for risen is how He lives now among us. 

But no, it is not appropriate to totally forget the price He paid for our redemption.  No, it is not appropriate to ignore the love poured out on us at Calvary, nor to ignore at what cost we answer the call to ‘come, follow Me…' 

It is easy to count the cost when that cost is only Mass on Sunday and no meat on Good Friday.  It’s easy to embrace crosses of silver.  It is easy to forget to repent, to forget the love of so great a Lover, to forget to reform my life and allow my own selfish will to be crucified today... 

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