Image source: photographed at the San Gabriel Mission Museum.
Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.
In the painting, there are the three women, the three Mary’s (mother of Jesus, wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene) who grieve the death of Jesus. The spear is driven into the side of Jesus that confirms his death. The “INRI” is above the cross refers to the Latin phrase, “Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum” that means Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews. Interestingly, on the upper left appears to be the sun and on upper right what looks like the moon. The light that dominates the day and the lesser light that rules the night are personified and they appear sad – Jesus, the light of the world, has died.
Most of us have all seen death at some point in our lives. In some cases, our loved one is taken suddenly. In some cases, death is anticipated and we can gather for those final moments. But even anticipated, the moment and the moments afterward takes our breath away and there is sorrow.
For those who are followers of Jesus, we know that there is the victory of Easter Sunday and the glory of Resurrection that is the guarantee that those who trust in him though they inevitably die, will live again!
Nonetheless, we sit with the feelings of the death of Jesus at the Cross. Jesus entered this world to dwell among us. He lived, laughed, cried, did good works, and taught truth and embodied grace. He lived a fully human life and he died. When we arrive at that moment in our lives, we will know that Jesus has walked through it and will walk with us.
Górecki’s Symphony No. 3 Symphony of Sorrowful Songs
Words to the first movement translated from Polish
My son, my chosen and beloved
Share your wounds with your mother
And because, dear son, I have always carried you in my heart,
And always served you faithfully
Speak to your mother, to make her happy,
Although you are already leaving me, my cherished hope.