Friday, June 17, 2016

Sacred Art Speaks to Human Tragedy

Copyright © Edward Riojas

There’s nothing like tragedy to make men religious. It’s a sad fact that neither learned thankfulness nor natural introspection urge men closer to God as quickly as dire need and senseless tragedy. (As if there were such a thing as “sensible tragedy.”)

Events like the recent ones in Orlando smack almost hard enough to make us give up our ways of life and act as we know we should. Almost. Those same events also make us seem even dumber than we are. Everyone starts asking questions – deep questions. Permutations of the “Why?” question pop up in the wake of tragedy. Folks want answers to the cause. People want answers to questions they cannot – or dare not – ask.

Holy Scripture, of course, has answers. And that, of course, is an understatement. Sacred art that is faithful to Scripture sometimes gives answer, as well. Perhaps by coincidence, I was recently working on a chancel piece for King of Kings Lutheran Church in Frankenmuth, Michigan, and I took notice of the pose in which I put Christ.
“The King of Kings Chancel Piece”
(In progress) Edward Riojas.

The well-worn pose can be found in many images of The Christ. His right hand, with three fingers extended, is in an attitude of blessing. His left hand, however, is in a rather relaxed position against His breast. That same position is often used in classical art to show thoughtfulness or devotion – usually among women. But it takes on a larger meaning when applied to Jesus.

Yes, Jesus was thoughtful toward mankind and devoted to our salvation, but there is something beyond those understatements. As if anticipating a question during tragedy, He is poised with an answer even before we ask. Tragedy sometimes causes us to ask “Who is in control?” or even “Who is caring for us?” With the same powerful answer that brought down the Roman guard; with the same reply that defines who Christ Jesus really is; with a deeply-caring, assuring voice, Christ answers, “I am.”

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