Reflection Masthead
Issue 168 - Crucifixion - February 2018
In this issue, we reflect upon "Crucifixion," an oil painting by George P. Englert, Jr. (Jan's uncle) which won 1st Place in a 1955 All-Army art contest. As property of the U.S. Army, the painting was on a 5-year world tour of art museums and Army installations including the finest Italian museums, followed by residency in the Pentagon
 until recently returned to the family.
Pondering Treasures
       For now, I am the keeper of the stories. As I ponder the striking oil painting, "Crucifixion," I see in it the reality of Jesus's suffering and death; I see in it my place with Mary and the Beloved Disciple at the foot of the cross; I see the redemptive event that unites us all as Christians; I see an image of " Le Devot Christ" which inspired this painting; I see my uncle George in casual conversation with Thomas Merton at Gethsemane Abbey (KY) where he was inspired to paint "Crucifixion"; I see "Crucifixion" being awarded 1st place in three All-Army art contests. Most of all I see the gentle man, George Englert, Jr, who inspired many and touched them with the love of Christ through his art. 

       Since the painting has been returned to the family, it has always held a place of prominence. Just recently it was passed on to me, the next eldest in line. As I ponder in prayerful imagination, remembrances of "my favorite uncle" arise afresh as if he were here with me now as he was 60 years ago. I, an impressionable pre-teen, was enthralled by his stories of love - love of art, of people all over the world, of photography, of Vermont snow skiing and ice skating, of adventure, and of his faith. 
       I hold dear the stories of George's life. He was a quiet, humble man, small of stature but a giant in the world of art, photography, and architecture. The stories cannot be contained in a 36" x 48" frame, no more than the magnitude and meaning of the "Crucifixion" can be contained. Likewise, the stories of the Crucifixion of Jesus we find in the Gospels cannot be contained, even by the human hearts. We continue to ponder. During this season of Lent, let us ponder the treasures that have been passed down to us and also what treasures we will leave to those who come behind us. Let us ponder the Crucifixion and Resurrection event that calls us into one family in redemptive love as Christians.   --Jan


How would you describe the crucified body of Jesus, as depicted by George Englert? Gaunt? No; not nearly strong enough, not harsh enough. "Emaciated" is the word that comes to my mind, and even that falls short.
In this highly stylized work, Englert depicts the scene from John 19, where Mary, Jesus' mother, and John, the Beloved Disciple, stand together at the foot of the cross. In this passage, Jesus commends his mother into the care of John (vv. 26-27). But that tender blessing is not the moment Englert portrays. Jesus looks to the heavens, not to the figures below him. He looks up and cries, "It is finished" (v. 30).
Notice the figure of Mary. Think of the countless paintings where the Madonna cradles her son in her arms. Now look for her arms here. They are missing; she is helpless - unable to comfort her son, unable to ease her grief.
She can only stare at that emaciated body. As I, too, stare at Christ's wasted body, two other scriptures come to mind:
"He emptied himself" (Phil. 2:7). In this great hymn, Paul praises how Christ emptied himself of his divine nature to take on human form, and then "became obedient even to the point of death." Englert's emaciated Christ has emptied himself - fully.
"He gave himself" (1 Tim. 2:6). In yet another hymn-like passage, Christ is praised as the "one mediator between God and humankind, ... who gave himself a ransom for all." In Englert's
painting, the figures of Mary and John are sharply delineated from the background, using long dark lines. But the figure of Jesus has no sharp edges. As the detailed view shows, it almost seems like pieces of his body are falling away, as he gives more and more of himself for the sake of others.
John's raised arm draws our gaze back to the body of Jesus, emptied and given up. Not a bad place for our gaze to be focused during this season of Lent.
- Bill

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Copyright (c) 2018 Soul Windows Ministries


Bill Howden and Jan Davis
Soul Windows Ministries