Ecclesiasticus 4:28

"Fight to the death for truth, and the Lord God will war on your side."

Ora pro nobis,

Most Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Francis de Sales, St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. Dominic. Amen.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Body of Christ

Image © 2010 Gregory Watson

Pencil Sketch, 5 1/2" x 8 1/2".

I know I don't typically post my artwork here at Barque of Peter. That's what Doubting Thomist is for (and the image is posted there, too), but it just seemed to fit so perfectly with my recent and ongoing writings on the Eucharist, that I thought I'd put this sketch up here, too.

It's the value drawing of a painting I plan to do in the not too distant future. The image was inspired by an experience I had this past February or March. I was sponsoring someone through the RCIA process at my parish, and on one of the Rites of Welcoming, we happened to be in the front pew during Communion. At the time, we had a seminarian with us doing his internship, Deacon (now Father) Jeff Oehring, who happened to be distributing the Host directly in front of where I was kneeling after receiving the Eucharist. I looked up from prayer, and right in front of my face was the ciborium that he was holding, and reflected in it, I could see myself, and the entire church behind me. Immediately, I knew I had to paint it.

Hence the image here, depicting, in a slightly different way, the scene that I saw. I say slightly different because that's not technically me in the foreground of the ciborium. It was intentionally a generic blurry person. Also, the structure of the church is decidedly more traditional and Gothic than my parish. Finally, I had intended to depict reception of the Eucharist kneeling and on the tongue (of course, the image doesn't depict the actual communicating, so it's a bit ambiguous that way, which is good in its way because it's applicable to a wider range of Catholic experience then).

The title, "Body of Christ", is as multi-layered as is the term in Catholic theology, which is what made me want to make this image. Obviously, first and foremost, it refers to the Eucharistic Host, in which Jesus is truly present, His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. The moment captured is right when the priest or other minister of Holy Communion would say, "The Body of Christ" before administering the host to the communicant. However, the priest's hands are also a part of the meaning of "Body of Christ", since we hold that the priest is himself an alter Christus--by virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, the priest has the authority to act in persona Christi for us, a tangible sign and example of Christ's presence among us.

Finally, the reflection of the Church in the ciborium brings out a third dimension to "Body of Christ", in that we, the Church, is the Body of Christ, and we, individually, are members of it. It is through Communion that we become that Body, as St. Paul writes, "The blessing-cup, which we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ; and the loaf of bread which we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? And as there is one loaf, so we, although there are many of us, are one single body, for we share in the one loaf" (1 Corinthians 10:16-17).
God bless


Andy said...

Wow! As I skimmed past the picture straight to the text, I thought it was a simple black and white photograph, but after reading I was impressed to see that it was a sketch. I also did not notice any reflection until you mentioned it, and when you spoke of the symbolism behind it, I was truly amazed! The simple image turned out to be intricate and laced with meaning. I can honestly say that is darn good art.

Kane Augustus said...

My eyes are drawn to the shirt cuff. I'm not making a joke.

Gregory said...

That's likely because it's the point of highest contrast. The black of the priest's shirt contrasted with the white sleeve of the alb produces the eye-catching effect.

Of course, since I don't want that to be the focus, I'll have to do something to remedy that effect when I paint the image. The infusion of colour will hopefully help limit that.

Gregory said...

Oh, Andy, thanks very much for your kind comments. I hope you continue to visit.

God bless