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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Jesus, Is Statue?

A distinguishing mark of Catholicism is the use of statues and icons. Gazing upon them is an aid to prayer and meditation. They're reminders of our heritage and history. Statues of saints and of our Blessed Mother depict our destiny. And the most distinctive icon of all is the crucified Christ - a visual representation of His sacrifice out of love for us, a vivid reminder that, while risen and in Heaven, and also present in the Eucharist, Christ is also upon the cross, and that to follow Him, we must bear our crosses as well.

Large or small, statues are important in our faith. When made well and with artistic skill, they strengthen us in our walk and complement our prayer life.

But when statues and sculptures are ill-conceived, poorly designed or theologically incorrect, they're nothing more than distractions, distortions and downright embarrassing.

Case in point, from the 'Jesus-in-Jeans' Statue Revealed (emphases mine)

Father David Buckley unveiled the £35,000 seven-foot high bronze statue at the Our Lady Immaculate and St Philip Neri Catholic church in Uckfield.
Cornish's sculpture was funded by money left by Winifred Gregory, 87, a member of the congregation who passed away last year.

Christ is wearing jeans and a shirt billowing in the wind while his hair and beard are neatly and fashionably trimmed.

Father Buckley said: "You are always looking for new ways to enrich people in the experience of Christianity and it is good people can be open-minded to appreciate it.

"On the continent you often encounter modern representations of Jesus but it is not so common over here. We wanted a figure of Christ not in suffering but dynamic and welcoming.

I admit it. My expertise is not Standards and Guidelines for Catholic Sculpture, if there is such a thing. My approach to art is "I may not know much about art, but I know what I like." And I don't 'get' much modern art. Most of what I've seen resembles a hodge podge of stuff normally found in landfills, or indiscriminate splotches of paint. Once in awhile I come across a painting or sculpture that speaks to me, but it's a rare occurrence.

But this? A "cool" Jesus? Not buying it. And another thing - I can't detect nail marks. If so, then technically this isn't the resurrected Christ. I thought the Church preached "Christ crucified". Apparently not in this parish. Just as the pastor was quoted - "We wanted a figure of Christ not in suffering". This is an example of a parish being formed by the culture rather than transforming it. Granted, no one likes suffering - but as hard as we try, it cannot be avoided. By anybody - including Jesus. Rather than pretend suffering doesn't exist, or perhaps wish it didn't affect us, we are called to look upon our crucified Lord as the model of suffering, and how to suffer well. The message I receive from this statue is not dynamism or welcoming, but "Don't worry - be happy!" Which gospel is that from?

And answer me this - and I ask this in all sincerity, with absolutely no scandal or malice in my heart, with no intention of being sacrilegious. Take a real good look at that statue again....

Is it my imagination, but does Jesus appear....well, gay?