It always gives great pleasure when we can combine interests in a satisfactory way.
As a necessary break from working at my desk, either in musical composition or the written word, I would often spend a little time in the greenhouse or removing a patch of weeds.
However, a new interest developed in the last few years has captivated me and serves as yet another diversion. I have begun to collect and restore damaged antique – for the most part – crucifixes mainly from the Continent but sometimes from large dusty boxes eagerly presented to me by tidy priests from the dark recesses of sacristies and vestries.
It is a splendid diversion ultimately benefiting the refurbishment plans of the Oxford Oratory. But it gives me insight into the creators of those crucifixes:
those who modelled the corpora;
those who decided upon the styles of the Labels at the top of the cross;
those who veneered the pine or polished the hard wood;
those who chose chestnut over mahogany, oak over ebony;
those who modelled in clay and cast in silver, bronze, brass or spelter.
And behind these practical things…
why does the loincloth hang to the left or right;
why are the arms almost erect, straight or at an angle;
why is the left foot on the right and vice versa or why are the feet side-by-side?
Besides learning new techniques in the workshop, I was able to ponder all these questions as I worked and saw in them the potential for both a book and a useful meditation booklet to encourage, perhaps, a deeper consideration of the many ingredients in the Passion of Our Lord, which would lead the mind to see more clearly the whole of our Salvation History as it is gradually revealed to us through Scripture, from the Patriarchal narratives to the words of the later prophets.
It seemed to me that in allowing the gaze to dwell upon the damaged knees of the Crucified Christ, for example, the mind might dwell on the attitude of humility, prayer and service and consider Christ’s kneeling before his disciples in the upper room, Christ’s agony in the Garden and Christ’s crashing to his knees under the weight of our sin on the road to Golgotha,
and how the people of God were forewarned that the Messiah would be the servant of all and would suffer severely on account of mankind’s fall from grace (cf. the Suffering Servant passages in Isaiah).
Therefore, from the label on the cross to the feet of Christ, I concluded that we could learn to think more deeply and these thoughts gave rise to Praying the Crucifix.
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