Lent Course. Observing Lent through Art and Prayer.2023
“ChristofStJohnoftheCross”waspaintedbythe SpanishSurrealistpainter,SalvadorDaliin1951ata timewhenhewasemergingfromthestronganti-religiousatheismofhisyouthandwasre-embracing theCatholicfaith.Inmyviewitcontainsalotof religiousdepth,butspacewillconfinemetoofferjust afewreflectiononhowitexploresandarticulatesthe redemption.ItispartlyinspiredbyadrawingDaliwasshownby the16thcenturySpanishCarmelitemystic,StJohnof theCross…HehastakenfromtheCarmelitethe daringideaofportrayingChristviewedfromabove buthehaschangedmuchelse.Goneisthetortured formofthebody,thebignail(s)andthesweat.I wouldsuggestthatwhatwenowhaveisanexpression ofthetheologyoftheCrossandofChristasfoundin thefourthGospel.Inaway,anddespiteitstitle,what wehaveisthe‘CrossofChristof(thatis‘in’)St John.’ Let me explain.Ithasbeensaidthattheoriginal16thcenturyversion portraysacrucifixfromtheangleatwhichadying personwouldviewitasitishelduptothemto venerate.DalihasusviewChristandthecross directlyfromaboveandlookingdownonthearrayof cloudsbelowandearthbelowthat.Itisaheavenly perspective,indeedthatofGodtheFather. InterestinglytheSon,Christ,sharesthesame perspectiveastheFather:hisviewfollowsand continuesthatoftheFather. Thefourthgospelstresses thattheSonproceedsfromtheFatherandisonewith him,seeinganddoingwhatevertheFatherdirectshim todo.InawaytheFatheralsoofferstheSontothe world, to save it.
ThefourthevangelistalsostressesthatJesusisthemasterofhisowndestiny:hegoestohis deathbecausehechoosesto.AsStCatherineofSienasaysheisheldtothecrossbyloveand notbynails.Thismajestyandfreedomisbroughtoutwellbythelackofnailsandthepeaceful reposeofthefigure.JohnalsostressesthatthegloryofChrist’svictoryisalreadymanifestinhis actualdeath.AsJesushadsaid,‘whenIamraisedupfromtheearthIwilldrawallpeopleto myself(Jn.12:32).ThegloriousandsereneChrist,situatedabovetheclouds,speaksofaChrist alreadyraisedup,ascendedtohisFather.WhilewecanlookdownontheChrist,inawayour gazeisalsodrawnupwardstothecross.Thisisachievedbecausethepaintingwelookstraight intoit,sharingitslevelsotospeak.Thebottomisveryparticular.Itremindsmeoftheaccount ofJohnandJamesbeingcalledwhiletheymendtheirnets(Mk1:19-20).Infact,itissetinthe contemporarysettingoftheSpanishfishingvillageofPortLligatinwhichDalilived.Jesusdies notjustforusinauniversalwaybutforeverypersoninindividuality,andnotjustpeopleback thenbuthereandnow.Viewedfromherewecanlookupand,penetratingthecloudswithfaith, seeChrist,atonceveryclearlyphysicallyhumanbutfilledwithdivineglory,immense, embracing everything, and pointing to the Father from whom he has come.Thetwoperspectivesfoundinthepaintingmeetandproduceanoverallunitywhichdestroys neither.Christ’sPaschalMysteryunitesthedivineandhumanandallowsustobecaughtupinto the divine. The Father offers us his Son. But there is also a challenge.
Dowe,likeJohn,wanttogetcaughtupintheredemptiveworkof Christ,amysteryknownforeverinGod,butnowmadeknownfor our salvation? And will we witness to it?”https://www.english.op.org/godzdogz/artof-the-redemption-4-christ-of-st-john-ofthe-cross-by-salvador-dali/PoemWhat is this strange and uncouth thing?To make me sigh, and seek, and faint, and die,Until I had some place, where I might sing,And serve thee; and not only I,But all my wealth, and family might combineTo set thy honour up, as our design.And then when after much delay,Much wrestling, many a combate, this dear end,So much desired, is giv’n, to take awayMy power to serve thee; to unbendAll my abilities, my designs confound,And lay my threat'nings bleeding on the ground.One ague dwelleth in my bones,Another in my soul (the memoryWhat I would do for thee, if once my groansCould be allowed for harmoniy):I am in all a weak disabled thing,Save in the sight thereof, where strength doth sting.Besides, things sort not to my will,Ev’n when my will doth study thy renown:Thou turnest th’ edge of all things on me still,Taking me up to throw me down:So that, ev’n when my hopes seem to be sped,I am to grief alive, to them as dead.To have my aim, and yet to beFarther from it than when I bent my bow;To make my hopes my torture, and the feeOf all my woes another woe,Is in the midst of delicates to need,And ev’n in Paradise to be a weed.Ah my dear Father, ease my smart!These contrarieties crush me: these cross actionsDo wind a rope about, and cut my heart:And yet since these thy contradictionsAre properly a cross felt by thy Son,With but four words, my words, Thy will be done . The Cross, George Herbert (1593-1633)