Ben Myers offers a provocative meditation on iconography that I wanted to log here. What happens when we contrast the icon of the Holy Cross, as seen below,

with Grünewald’s painting of the crucifixion?

In stepping away from the penetrating gaze of the Holy Cross to Grünewald, Myers writes:

You can see why Karl Barth so loved Grünewald’s great and terrible painting of the crucifixion. In Grünewald, one finds a complete repudiation of Christian Platonism: a theology of the cross stripped bare of all theology of glory. Yet Grünewald’s Protestant aesthetic has its own perils. Without something like a Platonic anchoring, are we not right on the brink of a steep descent into theological nihilism? In beholding the earthly historical cross devoid of all religious mediation, do we not find ourselves at the very doorstep of hell?

Or is that, perhaps, where we are meant to find ourselves when we behold the cross?

Yet in returning our gaze back to the Holy Cross, we notice something else:

The truth of the icon – a truth that Grünewald all but obliterates – is that there is, for us, no means of access to Christ accept through religious veneration. Our only contact with Christ is through worship in the company of the living tradition of the saints – even if our worship immediately becomes indistinguishable from idolatry. We cannot have Christ without religion: that is the truth that the icon teaches. But – this is what the icon forgets – we can speak of “true religion” only as we speak of a “justified sinner” (Karl Barth).

In thinking through images, Myers’s reflections offer a rapprochement between the theology of Good Friday and the Glory of Easter, between the theologia gloria and the theologia crucis, to say nothing of Barthian influenced theologies and the church catholic’s “Great Tradition.”

However, Myers’s post leaves me feeling convicted that just as we only know the joy of Easter when we experience the abandonment of Good Friday, we only fully grasp the terror of Good Friday when we can truly hope for the joy of Easter. In fact, we need all of Holy Week – from Palm Sunday, Holy Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, to the Glory of Easter. All of this is to say that the entire movement of liturgical time should be the focus and lived reality of our reflections, rather than isolating one moment at the expense of another – as the icon of the Holy Cross reminds us (in a way that Grünewald’s painting fails to see). Unlike secular time, holy time is a time of reconciliation, of exitus-reditus. Holy Time, as Charles Talyor reminds us, means that, “this year’s Good Friday can be closer to the crucifixion than last year’s mid-summer day” (A Secular Age, 58). Good Friday does not exist in secular time; it is Holy Time and therefore cannot but anticipate the hope that God will not forget us. In this manner, we can feel – in our very bodies – the Trinitarian depth of God reconciling all things back to God’s self.

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