The question that we pondered at the beginning of the liturgical year is the same one which is asked of us now: what return can we make, that is, what can we give Jesus as He goes through agony, suffering of the most intense magnitude, and death? That one the last things He said while on the cross is “I thirst” ought to speak volumes to us. (John 19:28) What did He desire? The bystanders thought He needed something to drink, but He refused what they offered Him, revealing that He was not referring to physical thirst. Rather, Jesus was thirsting for our response to Him. As He labored intensely to stay the course in fulfillment of His mission, He was thirsting for us to be present to Him, a reminder that we were and are needed in His ministry of building the Kingdom. The question for each of us, then, is what can I offer Jesus as He goes through the Passion? And what can I offer Him as He dies and enters the tomb temporarily, leaving it to continue to labor by descending into Sheol, the place of the dead, in order to free the souls worthy of Heaven?
©Michele L. Catanese
Note: Next post is on April 24.
1. The first image is a painting by Duccio di Buoninsegna called Prayer on the Mount of Olives (1308-11). It is in the Museo dell’Opera Metropolitano del Duomo, Siena, Italy. I chose this image because it shows Jesus begging His three closest friends to stay awake while the rest of the apostles are sleeping. In the corner of the frame we see Jesus during His agony. He is being comforted by an angel after He has been offered the cup of suffering, having finally accepted it. The artist seems to want us to know why Jesus is so adamant that His friends stay awake: He is suffering greatly and needs their companionship. This can be found at http://www.artbible.info/art/large/157.html.
2. This icon is called Weep Not for Me Mother, by Fr. William Hart McNichols. I felt like this icon would best speak of the pain which Mary suffered as she went through the Passion with her Son. No one but Mary could have felt the pain almost as much as He did, because only a mother truly loves her child with such intimacy. She felt as much of it as she could endure, though not completely what He felt since only He could take on the sins and suffering of the world in its entirety. This icon depicts the deep suffering of both Jesus and Mary. Her eyes are filled with so much pain that it is almost difficult to gaze upon her for too long. Yet, there is great tenderness in how she is holding her Son, perhaps reminiscent of how she once held Him when He was a child. If you are interested in purchasing a copy of this icon you can find it at https://fineartamerica.com/featured/weep-not-for-me-mother-260-william-hart-mcnichols.html.
3. This painting is one of the many works of Blessed Fra Angelico. It is called The Mocking of Christ. (1437) In it you can see the soldiers spitting on Jesus, and also hands hitting Him that seem to be disembodied and suspended in the air. You can also see through the veil over Jesus’ eyes, which is Fra Angelico’s way of depicting His humiliation and degradation. I chose this because His mother and St. Dominic are present to Him, even though neither of them was there when this event took place. They were present through their prayer: Mary was in Jerusalem, but not at the place this happened, and St. Dominic did not live for another 11 centuries, of course, but his deep meditation takes him to the scene. This painting illustrates the point of this post, which is that we need to be present to Jesus during His time of suffering, Passion, and death. http://www.travelingintuscany.com/art/fraangelico/mockingofchrist.htm.
4. This is one of my photos, taken in Big Bend National Park on the Ernst Tinaja trail. I chose to use this photo here because while it (symbolically) shows the aridity of the path of suffering and the labor of love which it takes to walk such a path, there is also great beauty present if we care to open our eyes and see it. Just as there is much below the surface of the rock, there is much beneath the surface of each person we meet. Therefore we need to seek the beauty in people as we serve them and not get caught up in hardened exteriors.
5. This is another of my photos, also taken in Big Bend National Park. I chose it as a reminder that Jesus gives living water through baptism in the form of salvation and the great gifts of faith, hope, and love. He thirsts for us, and yet it is He who quenches our thirst for salvation. This water looks refreshing and filled with life. If you look closely you can see a turtle perched on a rock on the right side of the photo. The waters of baptism are full of life, (and new life, especially for those who will receive this sacrament on Holy Saturday).
6 & 7. The first of these two images is one of my photos: it is a painting I saw at the Mount of Olives in Israel.You can see Jesus riding triumphantly into Jerusalem with the palm branches waving and the people putting out their cloaks for His donkey to ride upon them. This photo is cropped a bit to hone in on Jesus. The second is the empty tomb, presumably from a movie. It looks like part of the resurrection scene from Jesus of Nazareth. ~ I chose to use these two photos here so as to close out this entry with the start and finish of Holy Week: the first photo is Palm Sunday and the closing image is the empty tomb at Easter. Again, the empty tomb is not one of my photos, but I found it at the following site: http://augustinecollective.org/empty-tomb/.