What do you feel when you look at the cross? In other words, what is your emotional response to the sight of our Lord’s sacrifice? Do you feel horror, guilt and shame that Jesus had to go through such suffering?
As Christians, most of us have favorite pictures of Jesus we can easily call to mind. Jesus as the Good Shepherd or Jesus loves the little children. These are the time honored “comfort foods” of our faith.
But how do you most frequently endeavor to see his sacrifice in your mind’s eye as you pray; as you worship on Sunday; and as you work with others throughout the week?
Over the centuries, we have inherited a wealth of art and music that reveal varied perspectives of the Cross. Spending time with such works can help us form a powerful bond that nourishes our relationship with our Lord in new ways.
With this work by Pietro Perugino, we stand firm at the foot of the cross, planting our hearts into the “full gaze of adoration” as we experience Mary Magdalene’s upwardly turned face. She is often thought to be the woman who bathed Jesus’ feet in her sweetly perfumed tears and drying them with her hair. Because of this, she has become the ultimate symbol of the repentant sinner who whole heatedly falls at Jesus’ feet. She then is most frequently posed in iconography as the woman who is tearfully gazing at Jesus’ feet at the foot of the Cross. ( see Luke 7: 36-38)
But here, Perugino, poses her differently. She strikes a sacred gesture of kneeling in prayer as she looks upward with an expression of love and complete devotion.
Since we find this fresco in the Santa Maria Maddalena church, I can only imagine that someone, perhaps a wise old abbess, gently suggested to Perugino that Mary Magdalene had been worshiping Jesus’ feet long enough:)
It is marvelous to see how this artist places here center stage within her own space to carry on her private act of devotion.
To adore is to recognize the whole of the object and the nothingness of the adorer. Adoration is nonentity swooning away and gladly expiring in the presence of infinity. ~ Pere Sertillanges
Just as we are bonded to our mothers with a special kind of gratitude for the pain and suffering they endured to give us life, the sight of Jesus’ suffering reminds us of his broken body and the blood he shed for us to give birth to our spiritual life.
I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes…For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith. ~ Romans 1:16-17
and in Habakkuk 2:14
For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.
Help us now to look on with devotion at your sacrifice. Lead our thoughts so we might be purified to honor you. We adore you. We worship you. We love you. May we see the beauty and feel the loving hand of the Father’s care for us, when we close our eyes to sleep and when we rise to greet each new day. Cure us of all our blindness so we might see your love in tangible ways and give us the courage and the strength to care for others more than ourselves.
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