Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Mystical Body Of Christ: Sacred Art and the Theology of the Body

This masterpiece is one of surrealist Salvador Dali’s best known works. Completed in 1955, "The Sacrament of the Last Supper" was commissioned by art collector Chester Dale. It is a shimmering, symmetrical feast of translucence, crisp edges and imposing angles. In the fashion of one of his inspirations, Leonardo da Vinci’s own Last Supper, Dali has Christ positioned in the center of the painting so that our eyes, while free to explore the air of reverence surrounding Him, are always drawn back to Christ in the end.

The Apostles appear around him as if in adoration, cloaked in glimmering robes, heads bowed. The bread and wine appear set in a triangular formation, pointing off center to the place where Christ’s side will be pierced by a soldier’s lance. Above and embracing the entire scene is another body, massive, encompassing the whole celebration. This is the feast of the Body of Christ, and the Theology of His Body has become, to the utter amazement of the cloaked men around Him, the gateway to Infinity. Wrapped in contemplation, we can imagine them, like us, pondering this mystery. Jesus’s very chest is now translucent; it has become a portal allowing us access to the Father! Dali has the enigmatic symbol of this journey of faith well represented; a boat appears waiting for us, behind or perhaps through the Heart of Christ.

In this holy season, this Easter season now dawning in the month of April, we are invited to see with this new light. A divine and diaphanous light has now penetrated and permeated into the cracks and dark spaces of each and every human experience. If we choose to turn our faces towards Him, open these spaces before Him, He will fill us up with that same light. Let us heed the words of Blessed John Paul II:

“To contemplate the face of Christ, and to contemplate it with Mary, is the “program” which I have set before the Church at the dawn of the third millennium, summoning her to put out into the deep on the sea of history with the enthusiasm of the new evangelization.” - Ecclesia de Eucharistia, #6 

And in this post-resurrection feast of love and light, in the breaking of this bread, we will truly see “each other, as if through the mystery of creation, man and woman see each other even more fully and distinctly than through the sense of sight itself...” (Blessed John Paul II, TOB, Jan. 2, 1980)

Originally published for the Theology of the Body Institute April 2012 newsletter.
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