Title: Jesus Christ Extreme Humility
Icon Number: JCEH036
the Lion of Judah
Then I saw the Lamb.
"Wastefulness is the original
Christian attitude ...
The entire Passion occurs
under the sign
of this complete self-wasting
of God's love for the
Hans Urs von Balthasar
During the late middle ages the sacred Shroud of Turin with a full length, "divine impression" of Christ in the tomb, was on display, and held a great attraction for tourists and pilgrims.
The shroud was apparently rolled up half way so that all that was seen was the head and torso coming out of the relic box. It seems that people and artists from all over the world were inspired by viewing the shroud and left with this image burnt into their souls. This is probably the origin of all the icons of the dead Christ as the King of Glory, Jesus Christ Extreme Humility.
As with the companion piece we contemplated last week, the Mother of Sorrows, this is also an icon of great silence and gravity. It is Christ dead, head bowed genlty to the right with letters in the background IHC XC say "Jesus Christ." The letters in the halo WON say "I am who am," indicating this is also God.
Depictions or paintings of Christ being taken down from the Cross (the Deposition) or laid in the tomb, or in his mother's arms have always been profoundly moving. Certainly no one who sees it can ever forget Michelangelo's Pieta, a work of such genius and pathos, that it has influenced artists and contemplatives to this day. Yet it is the title or theology of Extreme Humility which gives this image an extra dimension, and sends the viewer into deeper waters. One could ponder almost any image of Christ from his impoverished birth to his awful death and find humility. How do we begin to look again at the gospel Jesus, totally in terms of his humility ? This is exactly what this icon is asking us to do, from the point of view of a life completely poured out, wasted, emptied, we look again at everything.
We look at the Annunciation. The angel Gabriel sent to a powerless, humble girl of Nazareth, frightened yet schooled in acceptance and emptiness before God. We look at Christ's birth in a cave in Bethlehem and the outcast, poor shepherds called in to witness. Later the kings or magi come. The wisemen who humbled themselves and followed a star only to find this poor family, Joseph, Mary and Child... surely a shock to their beliefs about the way a king should come into the world. Then the terrifying brush with death, the night flight into Egypt, the return to the quiet home of a carpenter, and the "hidden life " in Nazareth. The call of the Holy Spirit to public life, and the retreat in thedesert visited by the three ominous temptations to power and the ways of this world. The rush again of the Holy Spirit and baptism at the hands of a young man thought to be a fanatic on the edge of city life, away from the temple religion. The purposeful choice of obscure, unlearned fishermen and common folk for disciples. A preference in ministry for women, outcasts, sinners, the sick and extremely poor.
This was not the Messiah Israel had hoped for, prayed for in the centuries of advent before. She, like us, wanted a leader who would embody power and destroy all enemies, the Lion of Judah who would smash them with the "iron rod." What a terrible realization that the enemy was and is sin, that the iron rod was and is the Cross.
The image of Extreme Humility exposes and then begs to convert our own lust for vengeance and power, our "culture of death" with the accompanying desire for wars and leaders of war. We along with Israel, and then ages of Christians after, call out for the Lion of Judah. Through the infinite mercy of God we are given the Lamb.