Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
I am struck by two ‘spaces’ in this picture.
The first ‘space’, shows Jesus a huge separation from his mother and the disciple whom he loved. Even though Jesus is still rooted, by the cross, within humanity, this painting denotes that he has entered into another realm which is beyond our sight. He is present in both realms and near yet distant from those he loves. Jesus, faceless, still gently guides their discipleship with his voice, echoing the words he said hours before, “love one another as I have loved you”. The words he utters in this passage, encompass care in the fullest sense. Mary must have felt frustrated that she could not touch or embrace Jesus in his hour of need and despair, yet the connection is clearly visible in this picture, a connection that transcends words, as faces and eyes connect in a private interaction. Within this space, the artist has used the colour purple, a colour linked to mourning and pain, yet also royalty and sovereignty.
The second ‘space’ is observed by Mary and the disciple, whose body language indicates their support for each other as they hold and cling, displaying the closeness that Jesus wills for them. One question that is not clear from the painting, is whether the disciple that Jesus loved happens to be male or female?
In our most desperate and painful times, physical touch can be healing, soothing our souls. The artist has used vibrant colours to dress the onlookers, to portray the effect that Jesus has on them, even as he is dying on the cross, he is healing and restoring relationships.
This painting relates to each one of us, as there can be times Jesus seems distant and remote. Occasionally it’s hard to grasp or understand what he is trying to say to us as disciples. Let us never move our gaze from the face of Jesus, for it is only there will we see the true face of God.
Gracious Saviour, as your words flow from the Cross, may we always have to courage to listen to your words that guide our path to wholeness and healing; may we always gain strength in the knowledge that you love us, and always will; may we always be committed to look into your face, and see the face of God; Amen
The Rev’d Ruth Dillon is Minister of Fleet and Hindhead URCs