Art and the pursuit of making things has always connected me, especially when things in life get tough. In recent weeks our world has seen terrorist attacks in Brussels, Turkey, and Yemen. Today is Easter Sunday, and with it the tradition of spring and new life. As a faith seeker, I embrace Resurrection, but today I find my heart grieving.
There is a multi-paneled painting on my bucket list to see in person: The Isenheim Altarpiece, painted by Matthias Grunewald in the early sixteenth century. I imagine the artist as a rebel painting away in a German Monastery, a true expressionist when it was most likely uncool to be one. The altarpiece was created, scholars tend to agree, somewhere around 1515. A painter of Matthias's stature would almost certainly have been exposed to the ideas of the Italian Renaissance. For reference, Botticelli's Birth of Venus was created around 1480 and Michelangelo had completed the Sistine Chapel Ceiling around 1512- idealism and perfection were all the rage in art at this time. Ah, but look at Grunewald's image--the distortions--those hands how they wring and twist, the body of Christ in his suit of flesh--greenish blue--skin that looks as if it is peeling and falling away from the bone. It is unflintchingly gruesome. Botticelli and the other artists of the Italian Renaissance, they lift my soul to great heights, but Grunewald connects me with the wounds that I struggle to put to rest. It is honest about the horror that exists in this world--and for that honesty I am grateful.
Despite this, I have to believe that there is more this Easter Sunday. More mystery and connection to the All in all things. There is a rootedness that darkness cannot touch or take away. I will say a prayer and creep my heart on to Resurrection because I find that it pursues me. "Put it down, it is not yours to carry," I've heard whispered to me. In the voice that is not my own, whispered, "not mine to carry." I like to think that Matthias heard similar words spoken to him, too. So now, to you I say the same: Whatever heaviness, grief, or loss that you may be carrying, it is not yours and you can set it down now. If you pick it up again, that's okay, because there is always an open invitation for you to put it down again. Resurrection, this amazing newness and life, it pursues us. It pursues us, and again, and again, and again.