Foundation for the Biblical Arts

In sight of Truth Beauty and Goodness

The Church Aesthetic: More than What Meets the Eye

it is the middle of the night in my hotel on my hard bed, and I am awake because of this image and that memory, and my lack of compassion at the time for that girl.

by: Jeff LeFever

Monday, September 9, 2013

[a recap from the short-lived LeFever consecrated journal blog]

I thought nothing of the Pieta when I saw it in the Church of St. Giles.

I photo-documented it anyway.

It was only later in the evening, after editing the shot and going to bed, that I awoke from a shallow sleep, haunted. This image was on my mind and under my skin. The agony didn’t take immediately, but simmered sub-consciously.

What’s captured in my memory is not the image of the dead Christ lying in His mother’s lap, His lifeless arm curled up over His heart, their faces separated by opposite direction and a dark cross: a shadow of death. What I remember most is what was just out of the camera frame.

Sitting forward on a bench, her back to me, with her head in her hands, was a girl who appeared troubled. She had obviously come here seeking solace from some hardship. The church was closed except for a small entry at the very back; the main door was behind a locked cast iron gate. And it was cold in there.

I was distracted; the light was soft, and I moved to the back of the church to peer through the gate for something of interest.

Then I heard a wail from the girl. Her agony was vocal.

Hours later, it was the middle of the night, and I was awake on my hard bed in my hotel with this image and that memory, and I am struck by my lack of compassion at the moment for that girl. I think of the compassion of Christ even in death. I think of Mary’s anguish for her son. And I think maybe I will remember this next time and not hesitate to help, to say a prayer for someone in pain when I encounter them.

Even as I write this I am convicted. And I think of the dead Christ in Mary’s lap.

That statue, at the time, did not move me. But art can do this – it can resonate within us for consideration even becoming indelible, especially when the memory of an event add layers of meaning.

~JWL

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