Adoration of the Trinity, Albrecht Durer, 1511, Oil on linden wood, 135X123,4 cm, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
I am always surprised when I find yet another crucifixion painting that calls to me as if to say, “Linger with me a while.” I find that I am attracted to the work long before I understand why; that it hits me on some level deep within my soul. This experience can nurture my spirit, I have learned, without any great understanding. And if I am willing to spend time with a painting, it can pull me into an entirely new world of rich spiritual discovery.
Art can reward the adventuring spirit if you stay open to it, very much like finding a good book or making a new acquaintance. With a little bit of courage, you can discover all kinds of new wonders that will feed your spirit and bless your life. The trick is to be sensitive to when things are attracting you and to learn to ask:
“Is it for me?”
Recently, I was drawn to this painting, painted by Albrecht Dürer in 1511, called Adoration of the Trinity. My eyes enjoyed all the rich colors expressed in this oil painting and my heart celebrated the idea of a great multitude surrounding the cross—that was enough.
Over the weeks that followed I began to share it with friends to see their reaction and I was fascinated at the variety of types of responses I received and so I decided to dig a bit deeper by asking myself these questions:
•What is it that I see here today?
•Who are all these people, I wonder
•What kind of a message did this artist have in mind?
A good place to start when looking at any painting is to decide what the main point of interest is in the painting. Deciding on the “focal point” can be an important key to unlocking an understanding of the artist’s intent. So begin by looking for the convergence of line or a repeated motive in the painting. In this painting, if you look closely, you will see that at the top of the painting is an arch. Let your eye then travel slightly downward and you will find that the arch is repeated and echoed in an ever decreasing framework that leads the eyes to the feet of Jesus. And so, when taken into consideration with the title the idea seems quite natural that the artist wants us to experience fully the idea of bowing down at the feet of Jesus.
•Close your eyes now and imagine for a time yourself physically falling down in praise of our Savior.
•Open your heart and become fully present in that moment.
At another time perhaps, continue in your observations of this painting. There are any numbers of ways you can go at this point, but maybe the next step can be to just look at each expression of those in the crowd surrounding the cross and again ask yourself questions:
•What are the different varieties of reactions I can observe here in this crowd?
•In what direction does each of the participants cast their eyes?
•What does this tell me about each of these Disciples of Christ?
I believe you will notice here that some of these people are facing Christ fully and some are not. Some are turned slightly to share the experience with someone else and others are profoundly alone. Some are looking to another authority for Christ’s presence and still others are not able to look on the scene at all, but they all still are there together. I see praise and adoration but also humility. I see awestruck stunned silence right next to excited energy of sharing. Through it all, the Trinity is present. Be inspired by:The devotion of a mother…The generosity of our Father…The obedience of His son.
Albrecht Dürer, who lived during the time and in the neighborhood of Martin Luther, is telling us I believe, that Christ is accessible to all….that God is generous with his love and through the power of the Holy Spirit we can adore him in harmony.
Think of how Jesus prayed:
“I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me… Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
John 17:20-23, 25-26
Spend some time today realizing how many there are in the world who do not see the glory of the cross; who look upon the scene with blankness or despair.
Resolve to love those people and share the song of your heart:
Is it for me, dear Savior, Thy glory and Thy rest, for me so weak and sinful? O shall I be so blest.
O Savior, precious Savior, my heart is at Thy feet; I bless Thee, and I love Thee, and Thee I long to meet.
O Savior, my Redeemer, What can I but adore, and magnify and praise Thee and love Thee evermore?
Frances R. Havergal (1836-1879)