The painting above is from a series of powerful paintings titled "The Passion of Christ" by Doug Blanchard, who is also known as the blogger, Counterlight. Doug says of the paintings:
I am not interested in the literal history of the death of Jesus. As far as I'm concerned, the historical Jesus of Nazareth is an irretrievably alien figure to us, inhabiting a world that no longer exists, speaking a language almost no one speaks anymore.All of the paintings in the series can be seen here and here. I urge you to take the time to view them.
I am much more interested in the story. What does that story mean to us now on the far end of the 20th century? What is it about the death of Jesus that remains so remarkable among the deaths of thousands and thousands of other innocent young men unjustly condemned throughout history? Why should this death be remarkable in light of everyone¹s death?
I decided to remake the traditional image of Jesus. I wanted to make him charismatic and attractive; as someone who touches and is touched. I wanted to make him a physical being of flesh and blood; not some semi-abstract Byzantine Pantocrator. I wanted to make the body and flesh of Jesus teach compassion to the spirit through its suffering. I wanted that same flesh to be made radiant by the spirit at the Resurrection.
This past Sunday, we commemorated the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem pictured above. He went to the city, although he knew, in the end, he would be killed there.
When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, “Why are you doing this?” just say this, “The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.” ’ They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, ‘What are you doing, untying the colt?’ They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,Mark 11:1-11
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!’
Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.
The "Hosannas" did not last long.
I have not kept a very good Lent. Do I ever? What is a good Lent? I spent a good part of the season getting ready for and indulging myself during the wonderful trip to England. Hardly in tune with the penitential spirit of the season. I visited a good many churches and abbeys while I was England. Does that count toward keeping a good Lent? And there was the Lent I persevered in attending the Alpha classes, surely my most difficult Lenten discipline ever.
During Holy Week, I'm trying to do better, beginning with this post of Doug's wonderful painting and his words, along with the passage from Mark's Gospel which tells the story. Reading Doug's blog, where he writes as Counterlight, I'm getting an education in art and art history without paying a dime in tuition fees.