Christ, the Challenger?

The more I read Carol Iannone’s writing, the more I like it, and I like her ruminations on Rembrandt’s Portrait of Christ.

I like this passage, in particular:

There is no halo of course, no artificial glow, no effeminate aspect, no gushing compassion, no indiscriminate forgiveness pouring forth in unconditional love. This was not the Jesus who, as one Episcopal bishop insisted, accepts us even in our “fat slobby selves.” This Jesus is rather more challenging than comforting. This is a Christ with standards, I thought half jokingly, a Christ for conservatives! A Christ who sized you up, maybe the way he sized up the chatty Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well or the rich young man who thought so well of himself. Where are you now, viewer, he might be saying, what’s going on in you, are you ready for me? What are you holding onto, what worthless baggage are you carrying so that you can’t come my narrow way? You couldn’t think of anything petty while in the purview of that calm, knowing, intelligent, and potentially redemptive gaze.

And then there are his hands, crossed, resting on his chest, the left fully visible, the right barely so, covering his heart. Something in this pose bespeaks a certain sadness, but also a readiness, an awareness, an acceptance, of his own oncoming agony. You can trust me, he might be saying, for my part I will do what I have to do. But again, what about you?

I never had the chance to study – like Churchill, “I never went to University,” and had the privilege of time and hours to spend in museums, looking and thinking and maybe taking a few classes in appreciation and history. It is a privilege to study; we forget that sometimes. When I hear a truly transcendent piece of music, or glean some small understanding – all by myself – upon gazing at a work of art, I feel a little bit of that privilege. I’ve never seen this portrait of Christ before, but I am glad to have happened upon it with Iannone’s fine exposition.

A privilege. :-)

UPDATE: Crisis Magazine has a smart article on “Catholic Art” which you might enjoy.

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  • Seahawk

    I also like the one where Christ is being raised on the cross, and among the soldiers raising it Rembrandt painted himself, clearly identifiable.

  • Alan

    I came across this on BoingBoing linked to Bruce Schneier: As the College of Cardinals prepares to elect a new pope, people like me wonder about the election process. How does it work, and just how hard is it to hack the vote? Great detail!

    http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2005/04/hacking_the_pap.html

  • http://sigcarlfred.blogspot.com/ Sigmund, Carl and Alfred

    To me, the image is that of a ‘Bring it on, I can take it’ attitude. He faced, defended, argued and then convinced the naysayers.

    The attitude that changed the status quo.

  • http://cartagodelenda.blogspot.com Matteo

    Graphics on The Anchoress! A new day dawns! I also like that picture. People tend to forget theat Christ *will* judge us.

  • http://worthythinking.blogspot.com Truthseeker

    Thank you for this post at this particular time. Life has done the usual and i am once more in that furnace that i posted on just before Easter. i needed to see something other than the darkness that has surrounded me this day. This picture of Christ and the words help me see beyond the now and remember that eternity awaits and Christ is there and with me now. So amazing how He spans the distance.

    I will pray for your Buster, may God help him recover soon. I would like to hear him play his sax. If he is as good at it, as he is at posting, he is very good indeed.

    God bless and grant his peace to you and your family.

  • Robert

    Reminds me of one time in a church function someone displayed a picture of Jesus — as he is described in Revelation chapter 1. :-)

    I wonder if part of the reason why many critics who had no problem with “Kill Bill” were appalled (or at least acted appalled) at the violence of “The Passion of the Christ” is because the latter movie conflicts with their version of who Jesus is. I wonder if to them, Jesus was this mellow guy who walked on water, fed a whole bunch of people, healed a few lepers, and hung out with his disciples saying deep things. Of course, that being the popular image of Christ is exactly why Mel Gibson made the movie he did. The popular culture has forgotten about Jesus the redeemer, who bore our sins in His flesh and healed our sickness by His stripes. And He did forgive the adulterous woman, but He also told her to stop sinning.

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