Tag Archive | Christ

A Craggy-faced Christ

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          A craggy-faced Christ.  Not exactly the image of Christ with which I grew up.  The Christ of my Sunday School pictures and church wall hangings had quite a different face, a gentle face, a kindly face.  Granted that face was very much a handsome Caucasian face, and not a first-century Jewish face, but there was a certain sweetness, a certain tenderness about that Christ. 

          This craggy-faced Christ is so very different.  This Christ stepped right out of Isaiah 53:3.  He is truly a Christ “despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (KJV).  He knows about life.  About its hardships.  About its pain. 

          This Christ is part of a beautiful wood-carving of the Last Supper that our daughter gave to us, a gift from her trip to Croatia a few years ago.

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          In this carving, this very craggy-faced Christ sits in the midst of his disciples.  And as this Christ holds out his two burly arms, his hands are clenched around two chunks of bread.  “My body,” he says, knowing full well that his body was soon to be broken for them.   

          And for us.  There’s certainly a place for a smiling, gentle Christ on the picture-walls of our minds.  I like to imagine such a Christ laughing and playfully joining with us in all the fun adventures of our lives.  Like to imagine him dancing through our joyful days.  Like to imagine him sipping a cup of tea with me from time to time. 

          But there are times, many times, when I need and when I can relate more easily to this craggy-faced Christ from the Croatian wood-carving.  This is a Christ who speaks the language of loneliness.  A Christ who knows my deepest sorrows.  Who knows the sorrows of our broken world.  Who knows the pain and fear of refugees.  A Christ who weeps for the chaos and loss when guns tear lives apart in our country and in countries around the world.  Who aches with children and women and men whose lives are curtailed by illness, by hunger, by poverty, by war, by discrimination. 

          This craggy-faced Christ will never offer trite platitudes to ease the pain that so often intrudes into our lives and into our world.  Instead, this Christ offers us the bread of his body broken for us.  Broken on what seemed at the time a God-forsaken cross.  Broken in his descent to hell before God raised him to new life from the darkness of the tomb. 

          This bread is a precious gift.  It’s bread that offers us a measure of peace.  Bread that gives us hope.  Bread that strengthens us.  Bread that keeps us ever in God’s grace.

 

Light in the Darkness

El Greco's Savior

“Savior of the World”

El Greco ( 1541 – 1614)

A dark December day;

dark outside my winter window;

dark inside our too-still house;

dark through all the muscles

of my body, of my mind.

Bombs and missiles frighten

angels in the skies, and bullets shatter

trust across our neighborhoods and schools.

Darkness surrounds and swallows up—almost,

the candles of this waiting Advent time.

*

I turn to the icon* silent in my hands:

El Greco’s “Savior of the World.”

More darkness there:

     of eye,

          of eyebrows,

               of hair, of beard.

And framing all the Christ, a shroud of midnight black:

     threatening,

          brooding,

               dense.

*

I want to turn away, to find a brighter Christ,

the baby Christ of promised peace, the One

to bind and blind the darkness all around.

And then I see.

Behind the darkness, through the darkness, into the darkness,

a strangely halo-ed square of light

shines round the Savior’s face;

shines through his penetrating eyes;

shines onto his blood-red tunic;

shines across his hands, atop his blue-royal robe;

shines un-dimmed by the darkness;

shines in quiet confidence;

shines toward that time when darkness

will be no more.

For now, it is still dark around me.

For now, it is still dark within me.

But as I look into those tender, sorrowful eyes,

a little of that halo-ed light shines hopeful

into me; for now, that is

enough.

*****

*I know. El Greco’s “Savior of the World” is not “officially” an icon, but for me it has become one—even without the sanction of a higher authority.