What do you feel when you look at the cross? Do you feel horror, guilt and shame that Jesus had to go through such suffering? How do you endeavor to call his sacrifice into view?
As we consider this in the following weeks, I hope you will join me for this series of posts that will consider different perspectives and listen for new voices as we explore and question our emotional response to the cross.
Standing firm at the foot of the cross, we plant our heart and our mind into the “full gaze of adoration” we see demonstrated here by Mary Magdalene. She is often thought to be the woman who bathed Jesus’ feet in her tears and perfume, then wiped them dry with her hair. Because of this she has become the ultimate symbol of the repentant sinner who humbly and whole heartedly falls at his feet. This then becomes her permanent pose in iconography. She is always the woman who is tearfully gazing at Jesus’ feet. (Luke 7: 36-38)
But here, Pietro Perugino, poses her differently. She strikes a sacred gesture of kneeling in prayer as she looks upward with an expression of love and complete devotion. Since the name of this church is Santa Maria Maddalena, I can only imagine that someone, perhaps a wise old abbess or mother superior, gently suggested to Perugino that Mary Magdalene had been worshiping Jesus’ feet long enough:) It is marvelous to see how this artist places here center stage within her own space to carry on her private act of devotion.
“To adore is to recognize the whole of the object and the nothingness of the adorer. Adoration is nonentity swooning away and gladly expiring in the presence of infinity.” ~ Pere Sertillanges
Just as we are bonded to our mothers with a special kind of gratitude for the pain and suffering they endured to give us life, the sight of Jesus’ suffering reminds of his broken body and the blood he shed for us to give birth to our spiritual life.
“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes…For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.” ~ Romans 1:16-17
and in Habakkuk 2:14
“For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.”
Help us now to look on with devotion at your sacrifice. Lead our thoughts so we might be purified to honor you. We adore you. We worship you. We love you. May we see the beauty and feel the loving hand of the Father’s love to us, when we close our eyes to sleep and when we rise to greet a new morning. Cure us of all our blindness so we might see your love in tangible ways this week and give us the courage and the strength to care.
In Jesus we hope and pray Amen. Peace be with you:)