The Worlds Greatest Myth
If you gave a group a flash-card test for identifying famous people, they would immediately recognize George Washington because he had portraits painted of him during his life time, Marilyn Monroe because she was the most photographed woman of this era, and Jesus because everyone knows what Jesus looked like.
Many years ago during the Hippy Era, while visiting me, my pompous retired colonel brother-in-law took my young daughter for her first swimming lesson. They were in the shallow end of the pool at the country club when they were suddenly bumped underwater by a young man who came to the surface with his beard and long hair. The Colonel, who only saw the inside of a church at weddings and funerals, barked at him, “If you don’t mind, Jesus, I’m trying to teach this kid how to swim!”
The truth about Jesus is that no one, not even the Pope, knows what he looked like. The New Testament only confirms that he wore a robe and sandals, and that he looked Jewish. (The woman at the well knew immediately that he was a Jew). The first painting of Jesus was done 300 years after his earthly life, and since then we have been brained-washed into picturing Jesus as an extremely handsome tall, thin Mediterranean young man with cream complexion, a “holier than thou” expression and silky shoulder-length brown hair. Early European painters portrayed him in infancy as a chubby round-faced perfect baby, who would never have messed up a diaper.
Several years ago, The National Catholic Reporter conducted a contest for artists to compete in painting “Jesus 2000”. 1,004 artists from nineteen countries submitted 1,678 paintings, and a panel of judges selected the best three, leaving the final choice to Sister Wendy Beckett, the famed “art nun” on BBC television. She chose the painting of a black woman with a big wide nose, protruding lips and a brooding expression in her eyes. If you want to put your life in danger, show this as a picture of Christ to a “Born Again” red-neck in our Bible Belt.
Judaism forbids graphic representation of God. There are no displays of anthropomorphic vision in their places of worship. When Marc Chagall was a young artist, a pious uncle refused to shake his hand because he had painted God-like images. However, we Christians delight in letting our imagination go free in picturing God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit and each of the original apostles.
Regarding our religious paintings, my friend Walter Trohan, the noted journalist who was approaching his one hundredth birthday, told me, “We can never have an accurate picture of Jesus because you can’t paint spirit any more than you can paint wind. Instead, I think of Jesus as being the eyes through with I see him in others. In that way, I see clearly Jesus in a beggar, in a retarded child, a pompous rich fool, a wife mourning the death of her husband, a laughing teenager—and even in you.”
I gave this some thought. Then I said, “Walter, I’ll buy that.”
Other recommended Catholic blogs
Roster of Joyful Catholic Priests
The media loves to publicize bad priests, and we should give recognition to our Joyful Catholic Priests. Send me your recommendation for ones you think merit membership in this splendid group. (email@example.com)
Fr. Robert Aufieri (New York, NY)
Fr. John M. Bauer (Minneapolis, MN)
Fr. Edward Gorman, O.P. (Providence, RI)
Fr. Andrew Gries (Washington, DC)
Msgr. Edward Filardi (Bethesda, MD)
Fr. Raymond Kemp (Washington, DC)
Bishop Joseph N. Latino (Jackson, MS) NEW!
Archbishop Jerome Listecki (Milwaukee, MN)
Bishop Dennis Madden (Baltimore, MD)
Fr. Joseph Marini (San Mateo, CA)
Msgr. Joseph Mayo (Salt Lake City, UT)
Fr. John Mericantante (Pahokee, FL)
Msgr. Thomas Modugno (New York,NY)
Fr. Kevin Nelson, Lantana, FL
Fr. John O’Donoghue (San Antonio,TX)
Fr. Antony Pulikal (Lntana, FL)
Fr. James R. Purfield (Denver,CO)
Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi (Mobile, AL)
Msg. Paul L. Rohling (Birmingham, AL
Fr. David Ross (Lima. OH)
Fr. Matthew Ruhl, S.J. (KansasCity, KS)
Fr. Michael Scanlon (Steubenville, OH)
Fr. Walter J. Szezesny (Buffalo, NY) NEW!
Fr. Richard Trout (Sanford, FL)
Fr. Hayden Vaverek (New York, NY)
Fr. Malcolm Sylvester Willoughby, O.P. (Washington, DC)
Canon Stuart Wilson (London, UK)