facing the cross: wednesday of holy week

He Was Wounded for Our Transgressions by Sandra Bowden

Today let’s consider the mixed media piece He Was Wounded for Our Transgressions, a work by artist Sandra Bowden. In this piece Bowden layers together a facsimile of a 14th century crucifix by Italian painter Maitrede San Francisco with a fragment from Benjamin Britten’s composition of Sanctus from his War Requiem. 

Sanctus
Holy,holy,holy
Lord God of hosts.
Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Holy.
Blessed is he who cometh in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.
Holy.

After the blast of lightning from the East,
The flourish of loud clouds, the Chariot Throne;
After the drums of time have rolled and ceased,
And by the bronze west long retreat is blown,
Shall life renew these bodies? Of a truth
All death will He annul, all tears assuage? –
Fill the void veins of Life again with youth,
And wash, with an immortal water, Age?
When I do ask white Age he saith not so:
“My head hangs weighed with snow.”
And when I hearken to the Earth, she saith:
“My fiery heart shrinks, aching. It is death.
Mine ancient scars shalls not be glorified,
Nor my titanic tears, the sea, be dried.”

The War Requiem was written for the consecration of Coventry Cathedral, which was built after the 14th century cathedral had been destroyed by the bombing raids of WWII. After the bombing devastated the sanctuary, the Provost of the Cathedral committed the congregation to the work of reconciliation. The work of the Community of the Cross of Nails continues as a vital part of this ministry.

Churchill visits Coventry Cathedral after the bombings of 1940.

Behind the crucifix and the musical score is a handwritten text of Isaiah 53.

….But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have all turned to our own way,
and the Lord has laid on him
 the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:5-6)

Bowden invites the viewer to hold these disparate images together as we consider her work. How do we encounter the holy as we view the piece? What relationships do you see among the parts that make up her piece? As you practice visio divina with this image using the guidelines from Monday’s blog post, you may wish to listen to Britten’s great masterpiece. Here is a 2013 performance in Strasburg with Anna Netrebko and Thomas Hampson on Youtube.

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