Posts Tagged ‘The Cloisters’

These two photos are of one wooden statue depicting our Lord riding the donkey…complete with wheels! It is on display at The Cloisters in Manhattan which is a museum of nothing but Christian Medieval Art. This particular statue was used in churches on Palm Sunday.

Psalmody:  Psalm 118:19-25

Additional Psalm:  Psalm 9

Old Testament Reading: Numbers16:23-40

New Testament Reading: Luke 19:29-48

In the daily Lectionary, today’s New Testament reading is the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem and the meditation below reflects this Gospel.  The meditation below is by Pr. Scott Murray in his excellent devotional A Year with the Church Fathers:  Meditations for Each Day of the Church Year. The emphasis is my own for a post-script reflection.

Meditation:  When John Goodman’s character in the movie King Ralph is suddenly catapulted from utter obscurity to become the King of England, he initially exults in the power it gives him. He has a bowling alley installed in Buckingham Palace. However, it isn’t long until he realizes that power’s crown weighs heavily on the brow that bears it. 

Jesus comes from Galilean obscurity to Jerusalem, receiving the accolades of majesty from the frenzied crowd. Although they did not surprise Him, the burdens His kingly crown brings with it weigh upon His sacred head, wounding it for our transgressions. His coronation day is not an elevation to office, as we humans might think, but a condescension to our need. Like the unfortunate baseball manager who inherits a last-place team, Jesus has nothing but woe ahead of Him. King Jesus is acclaimed to humiliation and ignominious death. He comes not to subjugate, master, and overpower, but to suffer and die. His throne is nothing other than the cross. The crowd thought their hosannas would acclaim His power, and they were right in that He came to save. However, He came to save not by employing His power but by hiding it. He came to save not by menacing His enemies but by forgiving them. He came not to drive His subjects, but to make them His sons. Such is the one whom we hail as King.

 “What mental suffering the Jewish rulers must have endured when they heard so great a multitude proclaiming Christ as their King (Luke19:38)! But what honor was it for the Lord to be King of Israel? What great thing was it to the King of eternity to become the King of men? For Christ’s kingship overIsraelwas not for exacting tribute, putting swords into His soldiers’ hands, or subduing His enemies by open warfare. He was King of Israel in exercising kingly authority over their inward natures, in consulting for their eternal interests, in bringing into His heavenly kingdom those whose faith, hope, and love were centered in Himself. Accordingly, for the Son of God, the Father’s equal, the Word by whom all things were made, in His good pleasure to be King of Israel, was an act of condescension and not of promotion; a token of compassion, and not any increase of power. For He who was called on earth the King of the Jews is in the heavens the Lord of angels” (Augustine, Tractates on John, 51).

Post-Script:  “His coronation day is not an elevation to office, as we humans might think, but a condescension to our need.”  This reflection works well for Ascension. Ascension is the Lord’s enthronement in heaven when He sits at the right hand of God the Father.  The versicle  and response for Ascensiontide’s daily prayer makes this explicit:

The King ascends to heaven. Alleluia!/O come, let us worship Him.

He ascends to heaven still to descend in “humble water, humble words, humble food”, for His Body, the Church, that is, in Holy Baptism, Preaching and Teaching of the Pure Word of God, Law and Promise and the Holy Communion.

And He put all things under His feet and gave Him as head over all things to the Church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1)

“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
   and he gave gifts to men.”

 9( In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended intothe lower regions, the earth? 10He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) (Ephesians 4)

For 1,979 earth years He has been at the right hand of God the Father,  to be with us all and by  His scarred hand to preach and administer Word and Sacrament for His Church, for the life of the world through those whom He has called.

 Let us pray…

O King who comes in the name of the Lord, through Your birth and death, earth and heaven were joined together in peace. May Your coming as King into Jerusalem in humility on the donkey help us to see that You continue to come to us as our King hidden in humble water, humble words, humble food; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  (Prayer of the Day)

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When we go up to visit my in-laws in New Jersey, one of the favorite museums the Schroeders like to visit is The Cloisters.  The Cloisters was built with the largess  of John D. Rockefeller in the ’30s.  This museum of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Manhattan, is located on a bluff overlooking the Hudson River on the north side of the city. It is a complete reproduction of a Medieval monastery so that original arches and stained glass windows from the 12-15th centuries were incorporated into the building, complete with herb gardens typical of the time.  It is has faux sanctuaries and crypt.  It houses a magnificent collection of Medieval and Renaissance religious art, i.e. Christian.  The only aspect of it I do not like is that it is not actually a place of true worship!

We were there just this past week and here are two conversations we either heard or were participant.

1.  The my wife heard this conversation was regarding this painting:

Mother:  “What mother would leave her child on the floor, near an edge like that?!”

Daughter:  “But Mom, it is the Baby Jesus!”

Now this photo is not the best I have taken but you get the picture! Yes, the infant is in a precarious position.  Maybe that’s the point!  For instance:  He was almost killed as infant by his ruler, King Herod.  The sense of vertigo is the child seems to frail, alone and yes, on the edge and yet angels (proportionally the right size to the Infant which might indicate another level of meaning) and Mary and Joseph, quite large and powerful, and the angel, are all in prayer towards their Savior.  In one sense, it is unfortunate that the level of discourse is so low and worse:  imagination. And coupled with that, the literal work it takes to so engage.

But it is the daughter’s comment which is another aspect of the low level of theological understanding.  Her comment reminds me of the outrageous clip from Will Farrell’s Talledega Nights, the Baby Jesus Scene .  A confirmation student came to class after his family had an argument over the topical question:  Did Jesus suffer from mosquito bites?  The daughter was under the impression that Jesus was more like Superman than the Son of Man and  could not get hurt.  The poor child has not heard of the Child, as a man, would be terribly hurt, even killed, for her.  (BTW: yes, our Lord would have known mosquito bites…if He had lived in Minnesota!)  This is another level:  lack of Biblical understanding and imagination.  This then leads to the conversation I heard while my youngest son and I were looking at this work:

This is actually small and portable:  a traveling shrine, yes, in gold and the side panels are enamel.  It’s maybe a foot tall and as we were looking at the piece, a very large, 60ish, New Yorker, museum guard struck up a conversation with me:

“I don’t get people. They look at this and they all upset because this shows Mary nursing her child!  (Take a close look: it’s quite realistic)  They don’t get it.  This is what would have happened as God came down. And then they start talking about how these people worshiped statues! New York City is filled with statues and they spend all that time going up a statue…of Liberty.”  “Kind of a like idolatry?” “Yeah! They think those statues are just great! Oh, but they worshiped these statues.”

The guard was the better theologian!  Luther points out that the meaning of the John 1: 14 text, “…and the Word became flesh” means He had ears, eyes, nose…He cried, slept and yes, nursed.  Isn’t the guard’s reflection of what people get upset about on target?  He probably heard this more than once.  These folks are upset by this but go home and watch needless sex and violence with relish.  But why are they upset by Mary nursing the Child?  Answer:  The total divorce of the spiritual from the physical but they do not know, have not been taught, that God made both as one.  Body and soul are integral, it’s fallen man that makes spiritual divorced, ethereal, but not God.  As C.S. Lewis said of the Sacraments: God likes matter, after all He created it.  Lutheran theologian, Hermann Sasse, in speaking about the integrity of body and soul said this is why the Lord gives us His Body and Blood to eat and drink because, “…bodies do not believe and souls do not eat.”  Those ‘pedestrian’ Christians of long ago knew more than we do today in our post-Christendom era.  We have much to teach and learn in the joy of the Word made flesh.

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