Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Taking of Christ

The Taking of Christ (Italian: Presa di Cristo nell'orto or Cattura di Cristo) is a painting, of the arrest of Jesus, by the Italian Baroque master Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. Originally commissioned by the Roman nobleman Ciriaco Mattei in 1602, it is housed in the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin.
There's the hand of Judas, pulling Jesus in close, laying claim to him somehow.  "This is the one.  This is my Lord."  There's the exasperated hand, the fleeing, flailing hand of another disciple, already in retreat.  There's the armored hand, the gloved hand, the soldier intent on grabbing Jesus by the throat, perhaps stifling his voice, silencing his stories.

And there are Jesus' own hands, his fingers patient, even resigned to the chaos all around him, to the frightened flight of his friends and the grim warriors of empire.  Jesus seems almost to rest in the midst of it all, his forehead, his mind at peace, while Judas' is pocketed by anxiety, by effort.

Theologian Gil Bailie notes the other hand in the painting, the observer's hand, the one holding a lantern so as to make visible the scene in Gethsemane.  And he notes that Caravaggio (the painter) has described that hand much as an artist's or a painter's hand.  It seems poised to paint, poised to tell a story.  And maybe Caravaggio sees himself in this way, in Gethsemane, the artist illuminating the suffering of Christ, the anxious betrayal of Christ, and the faithfulness of Christ there.

What do you see?  In all these hands?  In your own tonight?