Lenten Meditation #5

Passionszyklus (Dornenkrönung), Kirche Tenna, GR, um 1408, unbekannter Künstler
Passionszyklus (Dornenkrönung), Kirche Tenna, GR, um 1408, unbekannter Künstler

An elegantly robed man enthroned in the center, surrounded by two colourful sidekicks. They push with rods on his head. Neither the man in the middle, nor the actors dancing on either side seem to be happy.

  • How and why do I need cynicism and sarcasm in dealing with my fellow human beings?
  • Where does the tendency come from to categorize people in  generalized groups (eg, “foreigners”), rather than to recognize every human being as unique?
  • How far am I aware when I am not seeing my counterparts in the light of their actual actions and attitudes, but when I perceive them in form of a stereotype?

This scene from the passion of Christ fresco in the church of Tenna, Switzerland depicts Jesus in unusual clothing. He is no longer undressed or wearing his modest garb. He is rather shrouded in a shimmering, flowing robe. Zany bustle around him and, according to recorded history, a crown was placed on his head to mock him. But the helpers know that this crown is braided from thorny branches and make do with long sticks to put it on. They do not want to get hurt by the mockery.

If we describe or evaluate people whom we do not understand, we always back out of the range where we could be affected ourselves. Foreigners and immigrants are to blame, that the roads in Switzerland are clogged and that no affordable housing can be found. We find all possible errors with those who are different; this gives us the advantage that we do not need to see ourselves responsible for social tensions and economic developments.

I think it is important that we always consider ourselves as involved and affected. If the thorns prick me and it hurts me, then I know very well that the other also has to feel the pain. Not even the most sophisticated tool will be able to prevent such suffering.

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

Jesus Is Mocked (Matthew 27:27-30)

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head.

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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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