March 30, 2015
It's Lent - in fact, Holy Week. The time for reflection on our Lord's suffering and sacrifice on the cross. It's a time for prayer, fasting, and contemplation. I'm trying to focus my attention this week on not just the sacrifice, but on the joy of the Resurrection and the subsequent grace that follows the cross.
Growing up Catholic definitely helped determine my outlook of Holy Week. This early tradition impressed upon me what transpired on the cross, the burial, and the Resurrection. I was very aware of the excruciating agony Jesus went through during His Passion. One priest specifically during a Good Friday youth prayer service was quick to point out just what happened on the cross so we all would know the depths of suffering the Christ endured. Within the various Protestant traditions and experiences I've encountered even deepened my understanding of that suffering and how it directly relates to me as His child.
What is impressing me now even more so than when I was younger is that I am the one who put Jesus there. It was for my sins He suffered and died. This is nothing new to me but as I get older, I become more and more aware of just how much I don't do for my Lord and my faith which brings me back to my knees to His grace. I still struggle with the daily dying to myself and presenting my body as a living sacrifice to my God. I want to get off the altar. There are some days I'm good with it, other days, not so much. This week, I want to honor Him by presenting myself to Him daily, if not hourly if necessary. This week of all weeks, I try to remember that. Jesus is my Lord, my King, my God; the one who sacrificed Himself for me, knowing full well everything I would and would not do for Him. This week, I want it to be for Him.
I remember as a child looking upon the crucifixes at church during Mass. Some were peaceful representations of the Christ but others showed His sadness; some showed pain. Blood typically trickled down His hands, arms, feet, and head but not too much. As an artist, depicting the crucifixion was an act of worship. My depictions were and are, very bloody, very graphic - not what I saw in church. I know of many artists whose depictions were similar. There is something compelling about depicting the crucifixion of Jesus that demands the authenticity of expression. It's not enough for me to paint or draw the trickle of blood. He suffered way too much more for that:
He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes, we are healed. Isaiah 53:5.
What I need to do is portray in the best way I can, just what took place on Calvary, just what He did for me and for the world. It is my act of worship, of service, of sacrifice and offering to Him as an artist. So this week in my studio, I'll not only work continuing my Adam Series, but I'll also create another crucifixion scene. But with that creation, with that focus on the suffering, also comes the focus on the joy. The joy of redemption. The joy of grace. The joy of forgiveness. The joy of communion with God. The joy of eternal life. Praise God that the story doesn't end at the cross. The words of Jesus, "It is finished", ended the chasm between God and humankind. That rift was sealed and restored - there's where the joy comes into play. "It is finished", began the new opportunity to have a complete and holy relationship with God. For that, I can rejoice. For that, I can say how beautiful then is the cross of Christ. For that, my gratitude for His grace and forgiveness can overflow. Easter or Resurrection Sunday can be a day of joy, of celebration, and wonder of the magnitude of what Jesus has done and continues to do for us all.
So that's my focus for this week. My act of contemplation, fasting, and prayer. This week, I'm going to try and stay on the altar - for my Jesus. This week, I'm keeping in mind all He did for me. This week is for Him. It is my act of worship for this Holy Week.