Monday, October 8, 2007

Jesus dies on the Tree

Tree ( Oil on Canvas, in a series ‘When God played the song of redemption’. 1984. Collection of the Missions Prokura sj. Nuerenberg. )

In this cross-tree, then, age-old and deep-rooted human intuitions, archetypal memories, mingle with the very particular passion of Jesus - mythic truths and his-story come together. Both streams flow deep in the consciousness and faith of Jesus-followers.

The central place for the tree in the experience of ‘tribal’ people hardly needs stressing. Of the ‘world’ religions, it is Buddhist spirituality that gives the tree most prominence. For it was under the Peepul tree that Siddhartha sat in meditation, seeking the secret of things with absolute resolve. It was there he eventually achieved inner ‘awakening’, ‘illumination’, so becoming the ‘Buddha’. (A picture in Jyoti’s Our Father series shows Jesus sitting, Buddha-style, under a tree that shines like the sun, lifting up his hands to that golden light).

The cross-tree of which Jesus is so inextricably part here seems twisted, gnarled, lacking any life or attractive shape. The figure of Jesus is deformed - rather as the Prophet wrote of God’s servant who would ‘never falter or be crushed until he sets justice on earth’ (Isaiah 42:4) : ‘ a plant whose roots are in parched ground, he had no beauty, no majesty to catch our eyes, no grace to attract us to him’ (53:2). The figure on this cross-tree is not only wounded, but de-formed. Yet, those who saw the secret of life in this death drew on the earlier prophetic word: ‘By his wounds we have been healed’ (53:5).

Yet his arms still seem almost to embrace the women, in blue and gold, who bow in bewildered but loving devotion. The outstretched arms also seem to hold in place the terracotta-coloured circular shape behind the cross. Thus the cross-tree gives meaning and life to the whole earth. The crucified one, lifted up, draws the whole earth unto himself.

The cross-tree, then, is planted firmly in earth’s life. There is a hard unflinching realism to the Jesus-story.

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