Outside, it is snowing.
Inside, St Mary’s is dark, or dimly lit. But then what is light without darkness upon which to show it?
My eyes adjust.
I see the homeless in the pews. Some are sleeping upright. They are in the safety of St. Mary’s church.
I make my way to one of the side chapels and sit. Above me is a wooden sculpture of the crucified Christ. I feel as though He looks upon me. This is not something I think about on a regular basis. But here, now, with this woodcarving, I imagine the Christ is watching me. And because this sculpture is not Him, I can look back and consider His gaze.
In between the services of mass and worship, it is the art in this church that tells me this is a church, and shares with me The Story. In this quiet time the art captures my imagination from where it was wandering, like a sheep astray only minutes before, outside in the snow and the hustle of life.
Now the crucified Yeshua holds my mind, weighing heavily on my conscience with all we have attached to this image, but also filling me with the hope of the resurrection and all that implies and promises. On the other side of the crucifixion carving is a painting of Christ in Majesty. Christ is encircled by His heavenly hosts, sits on the throne marked Alpha and Omega, and reminds us of Love and Grace and Divine Justice, Divine Mercy.
It is here, in this little chapel with its theological décor, that I am drawn to consider what resurrection life might mean, and how that relates to my perception of daily reality in the city, in the snow.
On one side is the pain of the sacrifice to consider in all its profound depth and meaning; symbolically, historically, continually “once and for all.” On the other side is the joy of the promise.
Art does this: it captures our imaginations and allows us moments to contemplate its message, realize its expression, internalize its being into our memory as a tangible symbol to a narrative. As much as these murals identify the space of St. Mary near Times Square, it also slows us down into a moment that we can “hear” the Spirit “speak”–our minds can reflect, our souls can expand.
Just sitting among these visuals has an effect, as sitting among the visuals of commercial media has its effect. This is church as alchemy, converting earthly lead to heavenly gold.
Here I can rest and remember myself as made in His image, to be perfected in His likeness, to more accurately bear the image of God and to consider the things unseen but no less transformative.
St. Mary the Virgin, Times Square, NYC