You might need to click on the image to really see its parts. It will also help if your screen is about 4 feet by 6 feet in size! What a breathtaking painting! For the sheer number of images and complication of various narratives, it's a stunner. Now that I've seen several of these Hans Memling paintings, I'm considering getting a few copies or prints or something for my own walls. This is imagery. This is iconography. This is a picture worth a few thousand words, and the contemplation that ensues can be as deep as the human soul and as high as heaven.
Holy Week began yesterday for the western church.
Think of Kenneth Branagh's Much Ado About Nothing. Remember the horror of grief that consumes the character Claudio when he finds that his jumping to uncharitable conclusions has caused the death of his beloved Hero. Remember the funeral procession? The steady, steady drum beat of movement toward the burial place? The certainty and finality of the tomb?
That is how Holy Week feels to the traditionalist. Participating in the rites and ceremonies of the ancient Faith of the Church brings us, one beat at a time, step, step, step, to the foot of the cross "whereon was hung the world's salvation." We feel again the outrage and injustice which now satisfies the great Justice and Love of God. We long to beat back the soldiers with our own fists and we know with the thief on the cross that He has not deserved this agony. He does not hang in agony because of his own doings. We know "mine is the guilt, but thine the righteousness." We know He hangs and bleeds and dies for us. For me.
And we weep.
We also know how the story ends, of course. We know that, in the words of Sister Elaine of All Saints, "For the Christian there is always a resurrection." We know that our grief is deserved but also that the God who dies for us will live for us too. We know this.
But this week, we weep.