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Queen Jadwiga's Knights



No. 2, April 2005


Sister W. Beckett


Figure 1. Cristo Salvator Mundi c.1600 (oil on canvas) Greco, El (Domenico Theotocopuli) (1541-1614)

National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, Suplied by the Bridgeman Art Library

We can never know what Our Lord looked like. The writers of the gospels were wholly concerned with what He was, what He meant, not at all with how He appeared. Does it matter? Artists, of course, had to ‘portray’ Jesus, and nearly all do it in much the same manner: he is beautiful, majestic, a man of dignity and, often, compassion. El Greco, it seems to me, is alone in venturing into that area where, although Jesus ‘appears’, it is what does not appear that is so moving. His Jesus does not come before us with a glowing halo, He is not about the works of His earthly apostolate, (the gospel Jesus). No, this is Jesus Saviour of the world, glimmering on the canvas as if for a sacred moment. He emerges from a murky obscurity; the light that is His very self (‘I am the Light of the world’) hardly contained His body: it softly irradiated His head. He holds with one gentle hand the discoloured globe of our sad earth, not holding it up – that is His Father’s work – but holding it in place, gentling it, soothing down its roiling passions. With Jesus’ hand laid upon it, our world is safe. Whatever tempests sweep it, peace is, in the end, assured. This is what it means to be saved: nothing can truly hurt us. This does not mean we shall not suffer, as He Himself did. The pale face of this Saviour is unmistakably that of one who has suffered. He has laid down His life for the ransom of many – (the Aramaic phrase for all). It is not enough, thought, just to see that Jesus holds the world still beneath His hand. With His other hand he both blesses and beckons. We are not saved passively. It may be all God’s work, but haw can He become effective in us unless we let Him? So Jesus calls us close, calls us to enter into the radiance of His presence, with all that means of desire and attention. He is always there, loving the world, offering Himself. Prayer means that we too are there, letting Him save us, accepting that transforming blessing. While He lived on earth, that transformation was possible for those who actually saw Him, met Him, heard Him. But for our sakes He died on the cross and – mysterious reality - rose. It is that trans-temporal Jesus, that risen Lord, that El Greco holds before us, the Jesus Saviour that is spiritually present to us always. This is the inward Jesus, the Jesus whom we never see but who gives our lives their meaning. This is not His face so much as His spirit. This is the Jesus of our prayer, whose very presence takes us to the Father. The Jesus in whom we live.


Copyright The Queen Jadwiga Foundation


The Queen Jadwiga Foundation

P.O. Box 654, Toorak, VIC 3142