a tale of two crucifixions #CIVA

Just how much vitality should there be in a crucified Jesus?

It is a peculiar question, no doubt. But it is a question that arises when different visual representations of the crucifixion are set alongside each other. This question was raised for me in a brief conversation with Tim Lennon during the recent CIVA (Christians In the Visual Arts) conference in Chicago. Lennon worked for many years as a conservator at the Art Institute of Chicago. Along with Linda Stratford and Bruce Herman, he offered reflections during a guided tour at the Institute during the conference. Given his training and experience, he was able to provide insight into the materials, condition, and provenance of various pieces.

While looking at Franciso de Zubarán’s The Crucifixion (1627) Lennon suggested to me that if there was anything unique about Zubarán’s representation, it was that this is a decidedly dead Jesus.

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Jesus’ face, here, is beyond pallid – it is grey with death. Lennon suggested that, unlike Zubarán’s crucifixion, many other such representations leave the dead Jesus with a certain vitality. While Zubarán presents the body of Jesus as strong, symmetrical, and almost-ideal, and while Jesus’ body may be described as merely pallid, the most striking aspect of the piece is the grey-blue shadow of death that lies across the face of Jesus. Continue reading

I thirst

A sermon from this past Sunday, in which I draw together reflection on the crucifixion of Jesus with reflection on Remembrance Day here in Canada.


I’m thirsty. 

These are words that have been spoken by many.  

I’m thirsty.

Our bodies, we are reminded, are made up of 60% water – water is vital to our existence – water defines us. A person can only live several days without water. And in considerably less time than that without water, the first signs of dehydration become apparent – a dry mouth, an increased heart rate, dry eyes. As soon as our intake of water becomes less than our body requires, our body begins to communicate a message loud and clear – the body needs water. That message is translated through our brains and becomes familiar words on our lips: I’m thirsty. Continue reading