Monday, March 19, 2007

Stations of the Cross

For a few years running now, the Open Door in Pittsburgh has hosted a Stations of the Cross art exhibit, with different people creating a piece of artwork related to each traditional station. The art is on display during Holy Week at the Union Project where the church meets.

This year is the second time I've chosen to participate, and I am working on a mixed-media painting of Station #4: Jesus meets his mother. This process has been good for me; it has me thinking about things that do not seem like typical Lent/Easter thoughts.

I suspect most Christians, if they take time at all, spend Good Friday and Easter focused on themes of cosmic consequence: Jesus died to save us (whatever that means, whatever we make of it!), Jesus somehow rose from the dead, the world is forever changed by these events, etc...

But here I am creating artwork for Holy Week thinking about the relationship between Jesus and his mother (and whoever else made up his family), a very intimate and personal thing to contemplate.

Christians claim that Jesus was both divine and human. I sure don't want to get too deep in doctrines about this here. But if Jesus was really, fully human, what did his family relationships look like? In my experience, families of people who love each other deeply still argue, misspeak, and/or hurt each other from time to time. I guess Jesus was supposedly without sin, though it is hard to reconcile this with the fully human stuff. I have to wonder if his mother at least ever took his statements the wrong way or was hurt by something he said. After all, he said things like, "I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother." I have to think that did not go over very well with his family (not to mention the time he basically turned his back on his family and said, "My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.").

Regardless, I wonder what Jesus and Mary could have possibly said to each other as he went past her on his way to die. Did they have unfinished conflicts lingering between them? Did they wish for one more meal together, one more opportunity to recall childhood memories?

Thinking of all this, I wrote some notes across the painting I'm working on:

Did Jesus feel like the black sheep of the family? How often did he feel misunderstood by those closest to him? How often did he regret his words, actions? When he met his mother on his way to die, did he regret the time he practically disowned his mother and brothers in front of his followers? What reconciliation passes between two loved ones -- in a momentary stare, in the blink of an eye -- when death is imminent? What love is lost when a child, a parent dies too soon??


Blogger Nate said...

The contemplation of Mary's pain surely does ad another layer of humanity to the story. It is all too easy for us to simplify the story by chalking the suffering up to a deity.
This is mich more difficult in regards to the suffering of Mary. She was fully human and bore witness to the agonizing death of her firstborn. Relating this pain to myself as a parent makes the whole situation seem all that more unbearable for both Mary and Jesus.
He, knowing that his suffering was also going to cause his mother intense grief, must have also been grieving for his mother.

09 April, 2008  

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