This article is reprinted from the April 15, 2010 edition of the Catholic Standard & Times, the newspaper for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. I requested an electronic .jpeg of the article, however the Standard was unwilling to provide one. So, in order for you to read the article, I am posting it to my site, http://catholicsacredarts.blogspot.com
I understand the Catholic Standard & Times will have an electronic format mid summer. Until then, I will just publish my articles here as they appear once a month in the Standard & Times.
When we attend Mass at our local parishes in Philadelphia, we are surrounded by many examples of sacred art and architectural features that help us in our prayerful pursuit of the Catholic spiritual life. Sacred art is intended to help us in our spiritual journey and provide us inspiration as we journey along in our everyday lives, trying to become more deeply immersed in our relationship with God. A great example of sacred art that helps us focus our prayer intentions is located at Saint Rita’s Church, Broad and Ellsworth Streets in Philadelphia.
The piece, “Christ of Holy Saturday,” by Philadelphia artist, Anthony Visco (www.anthonyvisco.org ) is the first thing you notice when you enter the lower chapel at Saint Rita’s. Struck in bronze, the full figured relief depicts the crucified Lord, lying on his burial shroud in anticipation of future resurrection on Easter.
Christ, in the tomb after the horrendous events of the crucifixion presents a very tranquil Jesus, hands crossed, with the wounds of the cross visible to all believers. Christ’s face slightly tilted with partially closed eyes gives us a hint that His repose is just temporary, waiting to be raised by the Father in glory.
The beautiful representation of Christ in repose shows us in a starkly mute fashion that we as Catholic believers are called to share in the Passion of Jesus through the Sacraments of Catholic Initiation. In Baptism, we too, die with Christ and are reborn through water and the Holy Spirit into a new life with God. At Saint Rita’s Church, the close location of a holy water font, placed strategically placed in front of the crucified Jesus Christ offers a powerful symbol of hope every time we immerse our hands into the water, recall our sacramental death and rebirth in Baptism. Jesus portrayed at death keenly illustrates for us there is new life through the Sacraments of the Church.
The placement of “Christ of Holy Saturday,” is a masterful representation of the image of Christ envisioned by Saint Rita of Cascia, in which the image came to her in a vision during a period of prayer. The vision of Saint Rita, reproduced for all of us is one that draws us more deeply into an appreciation of the death and ultimate Resurrection of Jesus, which follows the solitary period of Holy Saturday in the tomb.
Most significantly the artistic bronze prepares us for a celebration of the Holy Eucharist, in the chapel on the other end of the chapel. There daily Mass is celebrated and the Blessed Sacrament is exposed for Eucharistic Adoration on a daily basis. In placing the deeply moving representation of Christ’s death at the entrance to the chapel at Saint Rita’s Church, the faithful Catholic makes a sacramental journey from the font to the Eucharistic celebration, the ultimate indication that Jesus’ suffering and death was the transition to a resurrection to new life.
During our observance of Lent, each of us needs to keep the journey and the ultimate destination in mind, namely the joy of Easter, when Christ overcame suffering and death.
Sacred art invites us to travel on a personal and community spiritual journey with faith. At Saint Rita’s Parish in South Philadelphia( www.stritashrine.org ), the artistic journey begins at the entrance to the chapel and leads us to the Eucharistic liturgy.
Throughout the entire Archdiocese of Philadelphia there are numerous examples of qualitative sacred art that assists us in our pilgrimage of faith. Make it a point to visit, “Christ of Holy Saturday,” at Saint Rita’s. At the same time, make it a point to look around your own parish church for good examples of sacred art that will help deepen your prayerful Catholic spirituality.