Lenten Meditation #4

Passionszyklus (Geisselung), Kirche Tenna, GR, um 1408, unbekannter Künstler
Passion of Christ fresco (Flagellation), Kirche Tenna, GR, around 1408, unknown artist

An almost naked man, tied to a pillar, surrounded by four men that seem to act against him. They are menacing or look indifferent. Despite the lack of graphic violence and blood, the viewer understands the physical and verbal mistreatment. The body appears unscathed, no expression of pain or suffering on the man’s face.

  • How can I, despite opposite external influences, keep my uniqueness?
  • How much do I accept my body as part of me that experiences lust and pain, illness and well-being, as well as age-related changes?
  • How much do I understand myself as a sufferer, as a victim, in this world? How do I find ways to act, even thou I feel my hands are tied?

This scene from the passion of Christ fresco in the church of Tenna, Switzerland depicts the interrogation of Jesus through the religious authorities. They laugh at him for being different and for his unique world view. The gospel writers vary in their description of these events. Matthew and the synoptic gospels focus on the hands-on mockery of Jesus. The flagellation, as shown by the artist in Tenna, ist only mentioned in the gospel of John.

Reflecting on this picture, I did not dwell with the depicted scene of humiliation. Instead, I reflected on how we view our bodies in contemporary times. Through the media, an ideal is being suggested. All deviation from it is either being associated with illness or guilt. We even categorize growing older as something that needs to be prevented. I have written elsewhere about the concept of healthism.

I think it is important that I keep a healthy relationship with embodiments, and thus with reality, particularly in a world where I can encounter many things in a virtual manner. It is easy, for example, in a game to kill creatures or to let my own persona die; I can completely disconnect myself emotionally from the virtual action, and experience none of the consequences. Nevertheless, it remains a violent attitude which thus becomes trivialized and belittled. The suffering of the people is thereby not being reduced or eliminated.

Here is the bible text that informed the above painted scene:

Jesus before the Council (Matthew 26:65-68)

Then the high priest tore his clothing to show his horror and said, “Blasphemy! Why do we need other witnesses? You have all heard his blasphemy. What is your verdict?”
“Guilty!” they shouted. “He deserves to die!”
Then they began to spit in Jesus’ face and beat him with their fists. And some slapped him, jeering, “Prophesy to us, you Messiah! Who hit you that time

Jesus Delivered to Be Crucified (John 19:1)

Then Pilate had Jesus flogged with a lead- tipped whip

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More meditations based on the ten scenes in the fresco that I will publish (in English and German) throughout the lenten season can be found here: Betrachtungen zur Fastenzeit

Here is an overview of the entire fresco:

(photo credit: Foto-Kunst Andreas Keller, kirchen-online.org)

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