Lenten Meditation #9

Passionszyklus (Beweinung am Kreuz), Kirche Tenna, GR, um 1408, unbekannter Künstler
Passion of Christ fresco (Crucifixion), Kirche Tenna, GR, Switzerland, around 1408, unknown artist
Passionszyklus (Grablegung), Kirche Tenna, GR, um 1408, unbekannter Künstler
Passion of Christ fresco (Burial), Kirche Tenna, GR, Switzerland, around 1408, unknown artist

These two panels show the crucifixion and burial of Jesus. The people who became direct witnesses to these tragic events seem more prayerful and grieving than upset and angry. 

  • How far am I ready to make sacrifices when it concerns the common good, versus when it serves personal benefits and conveniences?
  • Why I am not succeeding in saving others from suffering, in changing their fate?
  • What brings me to amuse myself or rejoice at the detriment of others?
  • How do I view death and dying?

This scenes from the passion of Christ fresco in the church of Tenna, Switzerland, depict people close to Jesus grieving under the cross and the burial of the one who has been executed. No wailing and whining. But active compassion and attention. I appreciate this representation because death itself is not depicted as a calamity: I find the unjust treatment of Jesus, the betrayal, the denial, the sham trial, the mockery that are deplorable.

I have been confronted with senseless death before. There are still human beings who scream “My God, why have you forsaken me”. Fellow humans are being treated unfairly, ridiculed, betrayed, objected to violence on a daily basis. I want to assist these people on the margins, even though it may be a rather unpleasant experience for me, or may even bring hardship with it.

I can be of service to the suffering people in this world not only with humanitarian missions; I can rather find ways that do not perpetuate and amplify the global injustices and the violence. I need to adjust my everyday actions in order to contribute to the cause and to reduce the pressure!

Years ago I wanted to change, even improve the world according to my visions and ideas. This is an arrogant claim in itself. Today I concentrate on accompanying people, to help them find their way in life, and to be with them throughout the dying process. I hope I can find the necessary calm, just like the artist of the frescos in Tenna has visualized it many centuries ago.

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

Death of Jesus (John 19:25-27)

Standing near the cross were Jesus’ mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary (the wife of Clopas), and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother standing there beside the disciple he loved, he said to her, “Dear woman, here is your son.” And he said to this disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from then on this disciple took her into his home.

Burial of Jesus (Luke 23:50-56)

Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph. He was a member of the Jewish high council, but he had not agreed with the decision and actions of the other religious leaders. He was from the town of Arimathea in Judea, and he was waiting for the Kingdom of God to come. He went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Then he took the body down from the cross and wrapped it in a long sheet of linen cloth and laid it in a new tomb that had been carved out of rock. This was done late on Friday afternoon, the day of preparation, as the Sabbath was about to begin.
As his body was taken away, the women from Galilee followed and saw the tomb where his body was placed. Then they went home and prepared spices and ointments to anoint his body. But by the time they were finished the Sabbath had begun, so they rested as required by the law.

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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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