Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Christus Consolator

Göran, Glen and I paid a recent visit to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. While we were there, just browsing the general collections, a painting I had never noticed before caught my eye. It was a stunning image of Christ, sitting on his throne. Before him lies a dying man. Kneeling next to the dying man, just behind him, is an African slave, pleading for help. There are peasants, serfs, and soldiers, women, a mother mourning over the death of her infant, a man who has committed suicide. All have come to Christ for aid and comfort, and Christ's hands are stretched out in a gesture of mercy, in one hand shackles that have just been broken from the arms of the dying man.

I was utterly arrested by this beautiful painting, and found myself studying it and reflecting over it, long after Glen and Göran had wandered on to other parts of the gallery. It was a deeply moving experience, finding Christ this way in the heart of the museum. Not the first nor the last spiritual experience I've had at the MIA, but certainly one of the more memorable ones.

On the way out of the museum I stopped at the gift shop to inquire whether there was a book containing an image of the painting, or a poster-sized reproduction of the painting I could purchase. Nobody seemed to know about it.

Later I googled the title of the painting, the "Christus Consolator," and then I learned why nobody in the gift shop seemed to know about it. The painting has only recently been installed at the MIA, as of March 31, 2009. The painting, considered one of the more important works of art produced by nineteenth-century Dutch painter Ary Scheffer, was discovered recently by accident in the basement of Gethsemane Lutheran Church, in Dassel, Minnesota, covered with dust in a janitor's closet. When the Pastor Steven Olson discovered it, he was stunned, and turned it over to the MIA for cleaning presentation to the public. Rev. Olson has my deepest thanks and appreciation for this beautiful and timely gift. I'm grateful that he and his congregation felt moved to share this beautiful work of art with the world, rather than keeping it for themselves, as I'm sure many would have been tempted to do.

Isn't it strange though, how Christ so often comes to us in this way? Unexpected.

3 comments:

Bravone said...

Beautiful painting. Thank you.

Ned said...

I agree with Bravone. What a blessed painting and story about how it came out of obscurity.

I continue to be amazed at the story of your ward. Sarah reposted your testimony on her blog and I was moved to tears a second time when I read it there.

Do you think that if more of us were willing to come out and even remove our names from membership or be excommunicated but still attend...do you think that would pave the way for more wards like yours?

J G-W said...

Ned -- I don't know if my being excommunicated has as much to do with the support I experience in my ward as my efforts to live as faithfully as possible in spite of my excommunicated status.

I can't recommend my path to anybody else. The only part of my path that I can recommend is the part that involves prayerfully seeking God's guidance to help address the unique tests and challenges you face.

I do think it is good for people to come out in their wards in whatever way seems appropriate. But we should be careful to do this in a way that is not disruptive, and that does not focus attention on ourselves, but rather helps to strengthen our wards and the mission of the Church within the ward.

I started to discuss how that has worked for me, but I think it would be much better to put this in a separate post.