I am not alone, I’m sure, when I say that I have mixed feelings about celebrating another New Year. It can be a time for many that is mixed with sadness and loss. Because of this, I was feeling rather blue thinking of all the things I still had left undone in 2021.
But as I paused, I decided that there is something more to be done with God thru the Arts and I earnestly prayed to God for renewed inspiration.
After searching for ideas in my usual places, it was surprising to find just what I needed as I was sifting through my Uncle Leo’s storage bin. Hidden at the bottom of a pile of other forgotten items, my eyes fell upon a set of 14 books about the greatest art museums of the world. Turning the pages, I was surprised to find a treasury of full color images and beautifully cared for books. I had a faint memory of seeing these books on my Uncle’s book shelf but I had never taken the time to open them. I was always too busy with my music. I guess I just assumed they were old and outdated.
Maybe it is just the joy of discovery, but there was something very touching to think that Leo had subscribed to this series back in 1967. That he had a passion for museums and great art way before I did. I suddenly remembered that he was the one that introduced me to the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. when I was only 7. That he took the time to get me a little headset so that I could walk through the rooms and listen to the paintings descriptions on my own. A window into a greater world was opened for me that day and I will always have the pull of these sacred experiences because of this gentle beginning.
This very large Pisan Cross is the first image on the opening pages. The description pulls me into the scene:
Tuscany is poor in wall paintings of the 12th century. As the churches did not possess fresco cycles, these historiated crosses were practically their only decoration, which very likely was the reason for their gigantic size.Luisa Becherucci, director of the Uffizi Gallery, p. 18 Uffizi Florence, Great Museums of the World/Newsweek, 1968
If you let your eyes travel around the cross you will see the different scenes that comprise the last week in Jesus’ life:
- The Washing of the Disciples Feet
- The Kiss and Betrayal of Judas
- The Flagellation of Christ
- The Deposition of Christ from the Cross
- The Entombment of Christ
- The Resurrection of Christ
- And at the feet: The Way to the Cross
- On each arm are the figures of the Marys and St. John.
I hope you will spend a little time soaking in the details and imagining the unknown artist as he quietly painted these scenes in his studio. My heart is full when I think that believers in the 12th century gathered to worship and pray around the foot of this cross. It is powerful to think that we stand on their shoulders because of their devotion to Jesus’ story.
May we all continue to devote ourselves to The Way of the Cross. And may God’s peace be with us this week as we travel into 2022.
Thank you Uncle Leo for giving me the inspiration I needed this week, just when I needed it.
It was just a matter of timing:)