I would like to take a moment to talk about our new mural on the right side of the sanctuary. This mural completes the design of the sanctuary and I hope you all enjoy the balance that it brings. On the left we have Jesus at the beginning of His life as a child. He is at peace with His Blessed Mother sleeping. The right side is the complimentary image of Jesus being taken down from the cross. He is sleeping the sleep of death and His mother is present suffering the kind of sorrow only a mother can know because her own son is dying. So, in these images, we see a beginning and an end to Jesus’s earthly life.
This image is called “Descent from the Cross” by 19th and 20th century Russian painter Vasily Vereshchagin. Vereshchagin had a very fascinating career being a war artist (after learning his craft in Paris). He travelled all over the world from the Turkish-Russo war, to British ruled India to the first Sino -Japanese war to eventually dying in Port Arthur (China) during the Russo-Japanese war. His style of painting is known as realism and his art was considered so realistic that he could not get it published in Russia, despite being world renown. His images of Christ in particular was considered to be unseemly since in the East the tradition was for Christ to be portrayed in icons.
While being more realistic than an icon, the image in the sanctuary has an otherworldly quality to it. Christ’s body is ghostly white, having been drained of so much blood during His passion. Also, His body seems to be almost supporting itself by sitting up, unlike other similar images that have Him completely lying down. The marks of His suffering are still present and you can even see the remnants of blood on the cross itself. So, we know that He has been through an ordeal but His body shows that He has transcended the momentary suffering and is no longer affected by it.
I am sure much more can be said about this image and I hope you all take time to contemplate it as we are reminded that Jesus gave His life in order to save us.
Side note: Someone can tell that this painting is from Russia because the letters on top of Jesus’s cross are written in Russian. According to scripture, Pilate wrote in Hebrew, Latin and Greek, the crime that Jesus was accused of. Specifically, He is being tried by the Romans for claiming to be the King. So, the placard reads, “Jesus Christ King of the Jews.” (Luke 23:38) So, the tradition in our Churches to abbreviate it in Latin to INRI (Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum). However, since this painting is of Russian origin, the artist decided to follow the Russian tradition of abbreviating it in Russian: ІНЦІ.