Archive for March 6th, 2009
A few weeks ago, my friend and I went to Our Lady of Pentecost Church near Katipunan Avenue, Quezon City. The church looks like a church from the outside. But inside it looks more like a museum for modern art, with its cylindrical, two-floor design. The stark simplicity of geometrical forms from candlesticks to the priest’s chair forms a striking contrast to the elaborate baroque churches of centuries past. The centerpiece is a huge crucifix on the altar wall. I can’t gaze at the crucifix for long: it is terrifying.
On two cross beams was nailed a man with linen cloths wrapped around him–a crucified mummy. The linen cloths are in the motion of unwrapping, perhaps suggesting resurrection. The artist tried to combine the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Christ in a single image, as the picture of the Divine Mercy, for example, combines the white garment of the resurrected Christ with the rays of blue and red suggesting water and blood which flowed out of the side of Christ during his agony on the cross.
But the iconography of the crucified mummy Christ does not speak of biblical truths.
First, it was customary in Jewish burial that the dead be wrapped in strips of linen cloths, as done, for example, to Lazarus. But Jesus was not wrapped with strips of linen: his burial was made in haste because he died at 3:00 p.m. on Good Friday and Jewish Sabbath (Saturday) begins at 6:00 p.m. Since no one can do any work in the Sabbath, Jesus was most likely wrapped only by a Shroud (see Shroud of Turin).
And second, even if we assume that Jesus was bound with linen strips in his burial, then the icon should not depict him also crucified at the same time. True iconography is based on the literal texts of the scriptures. Departing from this is perilous (and scary). And we must also remember that icons are meant to instruct the illiterate and the ignorant. So woe to us who put stumbling blocks in the understanding of these little ones. For the good of their souls, this crucified mummy Christ must be replaced by a more traditional crucifix.