Image: Anthony Muhs, with permission

Over at Word on Fire, my piece this week contemplates the “Lessons from the Rabbi on the Cross” — a meditation that came about thanks to the unusual cross featured above, not a crucified Christ, but also Christ the High Priest, and the King. For me, something else seemed evident, too, even if only in my own mind:

As with a crucifix, this Christ is before bare-footed, arms splayed wide, but he is alive — a triumphant King and High Priest of the New Covenant. The fringed stole signifying his priesthood just peeks out from the bottom of his chasuble. It is a very Catholic priesthood we are presented with — specifically Roman Catholic — and yet whenever I get a glimpse of the fringe, I am reminded of a Tallit, the Jewish prayer shawl and I interiorly echo Mary Magdalene’s words of recognition after his resurrection: “Rabboni!” (John 20:16)

There is a rabbi on the cross, and he looks like a king, but he was a “carpenter’s son” (Matt 13:55), a “tekton” (i.e., artisan, builder, technician) like his stepfather, the righteous man who likely drilled him in the Talmud even as he taught him how to take the measure of whatever construction material was before him and determine its best usage — to envision, design, attach, refine and finish.

Perhaps parables of mercy were launched in the imagination of the rabbi when he was still very young, when the master taught him his craft, urging the apprentice to discover metaphors before his eyes: how the difficult process of planing something down — of making straight what is gnarled and knotted — brings out its inner beauty, even as it exposes its tiniest deformities to the scrutiny of the world.

An adolescent with the wisdom and confidence to debate the temple elders might have nodded in agreement, while countering that those minute flaws only served to better emphasize all that was intrinsically lovely within the wood — what made it worth saving and finishing, rather than tossing into the fires.

You can read the whole thing, here. Triduum, here we come!


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