Saturday, March 30, 2013

Holy Saturday--Recycling

I've been looking over some of my older posts, searching for the word "Pilate." This occurred to me to do after I listened last evening to my husband reading the Passion of Our Lord according to St. John, with its strangely vivid portrait of that first-century Roman procurator. I'd like to draw new readers' attention to some of these posts, because they may be useful Passiontide meditations here just before the glorious day of Our Lord's resurrection. So I'm taking the risk of seeming egotistical by self-quoting. Please do read the whole posts if you think they could be of spiritual value. 

On Pontius Pilate and historicity:
For this very reason, some have feared that they believe Christianity only because they want it to be true, only because it would be so wonderful if it were true. For this very reason, too many Christians have played along, fearful that the prose might cancel the poetry, separating the "Christ of history" from the "Christ of faith" and assuring the faithful that they can have the latter on which to rest their hearts and feed their imaginations even if the former is...a bit lacking.
This is to separate the prose and the passion with a vengeance.
But this is not Christianity. For Christianity affirms, "He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried, He descended into hell, and the third day He rose again from the dead." There is no separation between the great truths of the Gospel and the prosaic truths of history, between the massive miracle of Jesus risen and the all-too-human, bureaucratic hand-washing of a harassed Roman official two thousand years ago.
On "transgressive" art, the cross, and mankind's rejection of Jesus:
Via Dawn Eden, I learned this week of an "artist" (I use the term with some hesitation) in Australia named Adam Cullen who was at least short-listed for (and it appears may have won) an award known as the Blake Prize for his deliberately mocking and cartoonish painting of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. 
 As Dawn Eden says, the real kicker is in the final line of the Telegraph story, when Cullen gives us his response to the brouhaha: "How can he be so offended? It's just a Jew on the cross."
Um, yeah. Huh. And that's supposed to mean what, exactly?
The more you think about that line, the more unintentional resonances it has. It reminds me of what St. John tells us about Caiaphas--that when he said it was expedient that one man should die for the people, he prophesied though he did not know it. And when Jesus died he said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." "It's just a Jew on the cross." Pontius Pilate himself couldn't have said it better. Shaking it off. Telling himself it doesn't matter. How could it matter? How could this obscure Jewish teacher, crucified by the Romans in the first century A.D., matter? Just another of the victims of the cruelty of man in history. Lots of Jews were crucified by the Romans. It's just a Jew on the cross. "All they that see me laugh me to scorn. They shoot out the lip, saying, 'He trusted in God that he would deliver him. Let him deliver him, if he delighteth in him.'" "Come down from the cross, if thou art the son of God."
Cullen is in a long line of the mockers of Jesus on the cross. And all their mockery God Incarnate, the Jew on the cross, took upon himself, and by it they did the will of God against their own will.

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