Wednesday, April 20, 2011

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

Here we are, at the end of the Lenten season, about to remember the last supper and death of our Lord. I wanted to post this painting I made of our church's cross as a reflection of this season. Ironically, I took the photo on my way to Ash Wednesday service, at the beginning of the season. Our church is blessed with beautiful sunset views. I saw this scene and snapped a photo with my phone. But as I painted it, I realized this image reveals a lot more about Lent than I had initially seen.

First is the time of day. Dusk. A time where colors become passionate and vivid as the light of day descends to the horizon of darkness. The lenten story remembers the death of Christ, the "Light of the World." When he died, the world fell into shadow. I like how these dusk colors show the light not yet gone, struggling to illuminate with the stripes of mint blue, pink and purple close to the horizon.

Next is the moon. Good Friday and Easter are not celebrated on the same day every year like Christmas. The calendar is lunar-based as they are tied to the jewish Passover. The Passover was the context for the Last Supper.

There is the purple cloth. The cross is draped in purple during Lent. It conjures up thoughts of Christ's passion. He was mocked as "King of the Jews," adorned with a robe and a crown of thorns. Purple is a color associated with many lenten images. It is the color of royalty. It is the color of wine, the cup poured out for us. It is the color of bruising, for Christ was beaten, scourged and crucified. And I would contend it is a color of deep, deep love.

Then there is the wind blowing the cloth. The Holy Spirit is often described as wind. It makes a good metaphor for the Holy Spirit because like the spirit, wind itself is invisible and can only be seen by its effects. There was a lot of unseen power at work in the saving death of Christ. A power we can now see in its effect in our lives.

Finally, there is the cross itself. A shape resembling the manner in which Christ died. He was crucified – a tortuous, brutal death. But this cross is not really a cross of death. It is a cross of victory over death. It is empty. Christ is no longer here. He is risen. That is the surprise ending to the story. It is the good news and the Easter hope to which we cling. This is a Celtic Cross. The circle represents the halo of victory and the ring of eternity. Even as we take time to pause and reflect on Christ's death, secretly, deep down, our souls smile in the assurance that sin and death no longer has a hold on us.

So there it is. A brief moment at the end of an average day. A moment almost missed in the hustle and bustle of life, even going to church. A moment that, when seen with eyes of faith, can reveal a lifetime of mystery and an eternity of grace.

A good Holy Week to you all.
And a most happy Easter.