Friday, March 21, 2003

The Mystery of Being in the Shadow of the Cross

My father and I just returned from a delightful vacation in New Mexico. Stops in Taos, Chimayo, and Santa Fe. I viewed the definitely mysterious Mystery Painting called Shadow of the Cross in Taos's San Francisco de Asís Church, a painting far better in quality than any of those I saw hanging in various galleries around the town--an artist's haven, itself. Granted, I am a fan of the realist school--realism always reminds me of the Incarnation--and this was one of the few realistic paintings I encountered on my trip: it depicts a haloed Christ standing by the sea of Galilee, his eyes painted in just such a way that they follow one around the room.

Simple enough, it seems, even quotidian. But you see, the "mystery" in the Shadow of the Cross is only revealed in darkness. After the room darkens, the sea and sky of the painting radiate an astounding blue-white glow. The figure of Christ appears in silhouette, bearing a cross upon His left shoulder. The pulsating shadow appears to move outward, towards the viewer, as though Christ is slowly moving towards one on his way to Golgotha. It provokes one to wonder what exactly is the meaning of such a work?

This question, of course, runs into difficulties, because the painter denies having ever intended to create such an intriguing piece. But it seems a few bits can be discovered, like mystery being an integral part of reality.

Onward from Taos, dad and I stopped at the Sanctuario in Chimayo, a small 19th-century adobe church featuring wooden kneelers, a barely-fluent priest, and holy dirt. According to the locals, this earth has curative properties. There are two methods of application: a light sprinkling on the affected area of the body, or direct geophagy: that is, dirt-eating. Being in a rather desparate state on account of my alleged schizophrenia, I did both. It seems to have worked so far.

Finally, a brief stay in Santa Fe. We stopped in a beautiful small church and a hideously modernist cathedral, each within blocks of the other. Why did Catholics ever have to indulge in such terrible bad taste?

Bush went to war during our trip, and Arvada received 3 1/2 feet of snow while we were gone, so we returned to a different world. Still, it was some trip.

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