a lenten meditation at christmas

Three years ago, for Christmas, I sculpted crucifixes for each of my 3 kids.  For about 2 weeks, I worked on them a few hours each day while they were in school.  I made sure to put them away by 3:00 to keep them secret.

I had made one several years before that hangs in my foyer, and my younger son touched my heart when he looked at it one morning and asked if he could have one in his room.

{That first cross was a story in itself…  let’s just say my husband expected a Protestant, pretty cross when I told him what I was making.  What I really meant was a crucifix –a cross with the corpus or body on it (former Catholic, you see…).   I took him by surprise when he was admiring the finished base and I said, “But, it’s not finished!  Jesus’ body is still in the oven.”}

Anyway, making the three together and spending so much time on them was a very moving experience for me.   It was like being disoriented about the time of year.  Here it was Christmas, and I was shopping and baking, and all the usual.  But for several hours each day, I was spending lots of time meditating on Christ’s passion.

E's cross

I recalled everything I’d ever heard about the physical and medical horror in understanding of what happened to a crucified human body.  As I was working, I would think about the weight of a suffocating torso straining  against the tendons of the arms.

J's cross

The question about where the nails actually would be placed–in the palm or the wrist… and if his arms were tied to the cross with ropes as is sometimes described…

N's cross

I looked at many examples before I began.  I decided that at age 30, a carpenter wouldn’t be a skinny, wimpy guy.  So I gave my Jesus well-muscled shoulders and chest.  I tried to sculpt a face that might be convincingly Hebrew, rather than a blonde, blue-eyed Jesus.

But I struggled with all the questions and issues I imagine all artists have struggled with as we’ve dared to present the crucifixion.  The consensus about many of those issues have become artistic conventions, not reality.  For instance, we know Christ was stripped, but we wrap his waist with a cloth.  We know he was beaten and bruised, but we sculpt a smooth, whole body.  I’m sure he was covered in dirt and blood everywhere, but we clean him up.

Even as I followed those conventions in the sculptures I made, the reality was brought home to me.  As I dabbed a little red paint here and there and smudged some gray for dirt, I knew better.  I knew there should be cuts and blood and bruises all over his body.  Of course, I didn’t want to make something gruesome and shocking to give my kids.  But isn’t the reality of our God becoming human and dying on a cross for us gruesome and shocking?  It should be.

Even today, as I look on any of those four crosses, I recall the experience of confronting the  “cleaned up” conventions about Christ’s passion and trying to imagine the true reality.  It was and still is humbling to recognize the depth of his pain and the breadth of his love that made him accept it.

My wish is that you remember the depth and breadth of Our Lord’s love for you this week.  Have a blessed Holy Week.


Posted in polymer clay, spiritual life

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March 2010
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