Reflection – Dali – see the picture at e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christ_of_Saint_John_of_the_Cross
Today we look at a painting of Christ on the cross by Salvador Dali. The first time I saw this, I was awestruck, for it is beautiful, dramatic, with skillful use of colour bringing the figure of Christ out of the dark background, from the perspective of looking down from above the cross.
Dali was inspired by an ancient sketch of Christ of St John that he had seen some years before. While that sketch depicted Jesus in agony, with overlong nails holding him to the cross, Dali painted Christ with no crown of thorns, no flayed flesh on his back from the scourging he suffered. There are no nails in his hands. Dali intended to show Christ’s image of life, beautiful life, over death, and of portraying him bestowing a blessing on the men in the landscape below, fishermen on a tranquil shore.
Much as I love this painting, (I have a large print of it at home), I still wonder if Christ without his wounds could be described as my mental image of Jesus. What picture comes to your mind when I say ‘what do you think Jesus looks like? There was recently a criticism that images of Christ depicted in our churches in this country are too Western, too white, and not realistic of what a Jewish man in ancient Palestine would have looked like. Around the world, images of Christ have been contextualzed, from Greg Weatherby’s Aboriginal skin painting of the nativity to the Chinese He Qi’s pastel colours of Mary and baby Jesus.
So it should be; Jesus is for all people, for all time, for every age and every situation. The more time we spend in his company, the more real Jesus becomes to us. Sometimes the wounds Christ bears touch us in an extraordinary way, yet there are circumstances where we may have a greater need for a gentle image.
One day I printed off many images supposedly of Jesus and God, including a few blank pieces of paper, and invited the members of the Youth Club to choose one they thought nearest to their idea of God or Jesus. Everyone chose a picture, yet there was no consesus. Two blank pages were also chosen, one because there was no belief in God and the other because there was ‘no idea’.
All this musing is, of course, intended to make you do some reflecting yourself. Images are not ultimately important, even if we have a favourite; better to hear the voice of Jesus saying ‘Lo, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’ (Matt 28:20) Hold that dear to your heart.
God bless you and keep you.