Sunday, April 09, 2006

Twisted and Reformed

There is a painting of the awful death of Jesus that the German artist Matthias Grunewald completed in 1484 for the patients and the staff at a hospital specializing in diseases of the skin. It is one of the most terribly beautiful depictions of Calvary ever made. The two greatest Protestant theologians of the twentieth century--Paul Tillich and Karl Barth--had a reproduction of this masterpiece over their desks as they worked on their dogmatics. The body of Grunewald's Jesus had been, it is obvious, impressive and powerful, but now it is wracked, twisted, and disfigured--the neck at almost an impossible angle to the torso, the hands and feet distended, the legs bowed almost to the point of breaking, the chest covered in wounds, scratches, and blisters, the head wreathed in a particularly brutal crown of thorns. What is, for me, most disturbing are the shut eyes and the gaping mouth: this Christ is no longer seeing or speaking; he is simply lost in the terror of the moment. To the right of the crucified Christ stands John the Baptist performing his usual iconic task of pointing at the Lord, but what is remarkable are the contortions in his arm, hand, and fingers as he indicates the Christ. It is as though his own life has to be twisted into a new and unusual form if he is to function effectively as a prophet of the suffering Jesus.
--Fr. Robert Barron, The Strangest Way

How will I be twisted and reformed this Holy Week?


Blogger Patti said...

I love the picture. How will we all make this lent come to conclusion and what will we have learned and incorporated into our lives.

10:15 PM  
Blogger Paula said...

thanks for the picture and post...twisted is indeed the word...i think that i am getting twisted.

1:49 PM  
Blogger Neil said...

Dear Mark,

There is a very moving piece on Grunewald in the current Weavings by Douglas Burton-Christie. I wonder if you have seen it.

Thank you very much.


1:49 PM  

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