Thursday 1 April 2010

Stations of the cross in Sydney

Yesterday I went to see the Stations of the Cross exhibition at St Ives Uniting Church in Sydney. It features 15 commissioned works (the 14 traditional stations, plus the resurrection) by some of Australia's leading visual artists. If you're in Sydney, you might like to go along and check it out – Easter Sunday is the last day of the exhibition.

My favourites (click to enlarge) include this triptych by Kevin McKay – this is the 13th station, where Jesus is taken down from the cross. The middle canvas is torn open:

After we viewed the exhibition yesterday, I gave a short impromptu reflection on this work. The outstretched hand of God has become the lifeless hand of Adam. A little ladder leans against the cross. The ladder, like the cross – and like the painting itself – is our own handiwork. Silent and bereft, we wait to receive the dead god into our arms. And at the heart of all things is a gaping wound. As the spear rends Christ's side, the very fabric of creation is torn open. This wound is the world's healing. It is the opening through which God's glory shines into the world. As Leonard Cohen sings: "There is a crack, a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in."

Here's another triptych from the exhibition. This is Euan McLeod's depiction of the 9th station, where Jesus falls:


Anonymous said...

I am now inspired to go along and have a look.
Our church is, for the first time, having a dawn service (6 am) on Sunday at our local beach.

roger flyer said...


Paul Tyson said...

So we (even Australians) can make offers of worship that are not totally banal - most encouraging!

Sandra said...

A wonder of a post Ben. Leonard Cohen echoing, complementing, the profound mystery: "Forget your perfect offering... there's a crack, a crack in everything... that's how the light gets in..." Beautiful. This is intoxicating me.

J said...

Must he fall? I mean, JC had once walked on water, raised the dead, converted a few loaves of bread and can of tuna into food for 5000, agua a vino, etc. So couldn't any time, even when stapled to the cross, fly off, superman-style?--ergo, compassion/pity would seem unwarranted (ie most don't pity superman). Or does JC lose his supernatural powers. Holy Docetist heresy batman.

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't such a view just be an under-realization of the "wholly man" aspect of Christ? I mean the question is really just the normal puzzlement over the incarnation. In light of Christ's being "wholly God," we are puzzled over how he could be human at all. In light of his being "wholly man" we're scratching our heads trying to figure out how he could be "wholly God." Either way, neither aspect can be reduced to the other and produce an accurate picture of Christ. Instead, I think, our understanding of what it means to be human has to be reinterpreted in the light of the paradox of Christ. Otherwise we're just trying to understand the humanity of the new Adam, in terms of the humanity of the old. Old wine, new wineskins and all. ...I don't know, I got nothin'

J said...

I believe the docetist heresy, like gnosticism as a whole, proceeded from somewhat rational grounds, related to the various dualisms of the time (mostly neo-platonic, it appears). Docetists did not consider ..Jesus part of the material world; matter itself was fallen, and Logos, spirit separate from the natural world.

Docetists thus considered JC a type of illusion, or manifestation of...G*d; he didn't really die on the cross for he was not "wholly human"; in an extreme form docetists and gnostics denied he was actually born a man (ie thus sort of contra-Marian assumptions), since He is eternal--the Aeon...

Of course later theologians termed this a grave error, heresy, etc--yet...why? Given the events of the NT JC does not appear to be bound by ordinary natural laws (there's of course stuff online, in cat. encyclopedia, and the Wiki-swamps). If He was...Deus, it would seem the docetists could not be considered completely mistaken. Or conversely, assuming docetism is mistaken or blasphemous, then seems we must conclude the New. T most likely concerns...a human, all too human (ie, he genuinely suffered), and thus the NT reports of miracles are unlikely.

Sandra said...

I love Barth for saying that "The incarnation is inconceivable, but it is not absurd..." (CD I/2, 160). And somehow managing to articulate the paradox of Christ being fully human (with all the temptations, limitations, weaknesses and more) and fully God without compromising either. I think it was T.F. Torrance in capturing Barth's thought that said "God became what he is not without ceasing to be who he is".

kim fabricius said...

On the hand:

... What is the hand
for? The immaculate conception
preceding the delivery
of the first tool? "I let you go,"
he said, "but without blessing.
Messenger to the mixed things
of your making, tell them I am."
-- R.S. Thomas, "The Hand"

On the wound:

"Love has pitched his mansion in
The place of excrement;
For nothing can be sole or whole
That has not been rent."
-- W.B. Yeats, "Crazy Jane Talks with the Bishop"

On the ladder:

Climb up there and see if
anyone’s listening?
-- Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore, "Ladders"

Fat said...

Ben - I was so glad to see this mentioned.

I am condensing my own thoughts from the same Stations of the Cross exhibition and attempting to put together a sermon for Easter Sunday morning - Although the triptych by Kevin McKay was deeply moving I was brought to tears by a different painting - “Simon helps Jesus carry his cross” by Amanda Penrose Hart

It showcased a broad Australian landscape of almost treeless hills and valleys but one so darkened by heavy cloud such that the centre was difficult to make out. Only the forground and far distance were light enough to be really visible.

But down in the closest corner lit by a break in the cloud but overlooked in the vastness of the picture we finally notice the rear view of a white ute (read small pick-up truck - to non Aussies) and there on the passenger side a blue shearer's singlet clad bloke pointing into the distance and on the ground a wooden cross, recently dropped. Another figure - just a shadow - is in the drivers seat.

It suddenly dawned on me - God could easily have walked the distance - he was afterall God - Even as fully man the journey through that darkness ahead could have been easy. He need not have come as a vulnurable man (although to ruin the argument I have to observe that the Romans would have had methods to bring the strongest man low) but for some reason Jesus needed Simon in his walk to Golgotha to ask in what I'd call typical Aussie fashion "do ya need a hand mate?" or as in this painting to pull up in the ute - wind down the window and ask "do ya need a lift mate?"

Suddenly what Nate Kerr said about praying over Haiti made more sense - because Jesus isn't so much in the hands of the helpers (where my pride likes to place me) but in the victims. "God is in the shouts and cries of this oppressed people..." Nate said.

Suddenly reading that God created man to have fellowship with us came to life.

Suddenly "whatever you did for the least of these you did for me" has new meaning.

God didn't need to be frail and breakable so we could identify with him - he became weak and human so that he could identify with us.

He loved us enough to need our fellowship and to meet on our level to share in it.

The communion service we shared at that art installation stated:
"Dying you destroyed our death
Rising you restored our life
Lord Jesus come in glory"

That's love.

I'm now left wondering if the resurrection was not just for our benefit but also so God wouldn't be alone in Heaven. Would this make God selfish?
Does this mean that God was not infinite because something was missing?
Would creation have been complete with just the death to pay the price or was the resurrection needed to reconcile creation?

Sorry but that painting really got to me.

"Yeah no worries - I was goin' that way meself - chuck the cross in the back and hop in - warm enough for ya - I tell ya this humidity's killin' me"

J said... sunday school??

Wow many of us might still stand a chance...(WBY was not christian, really...probably closer to gnostic thinking for better and/or worse).

another sign to the Res. relates Magdalena

Anonymous said...

Thanks Fat for your insightful comments, Aussie style.

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