Broadway at 61st Street is the site of a museum that is receiving increasing attention from lovers of religious art…and art in general: The Museum of Biblical Art (MOBIA) at the American Bible Society headquarters.
MOBIA’s current exhibition, which will run through June, is “Passion in Venice: Crivelli to Tintoretto and Veronese.” It highlights a theme central to the history of Christianity and Christian art: Christ as the Man of Sorrows described in Isaiah 53. Its origins rooted in Byzantium, the figure entered Venetian art in the late Middle Ages after which it flourished locally for centuries, eventually acquiring its own name in dialect, Cristo Passo. This depiction of Christ, his head bowed down with suffering and death, was a particular devotion for Venetians.
It is truly a spiritual experience to walk through the exhibition room and take in all the representations of the Man of Sorrows. These treasures range from tempera on wood, to marble, even to a polychrome papier mâché depiction that somehow has survived for nearly 500 years.
The exhibit is not huge but it might be emotionally draining for some. On the other hand, our culture doesn’t like to look at suffering and death. Even we Catholics, who have been surrounded by crucifixes all our lives, have lost our sense of shock at the suffering Jesus endured for us. “The Man of Sorrows” might provide the jolt that we need in this season of Lent, a reminder of the Son of God who fulfilled what Isaiah said:
“…he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.”
Speaking of treasures, more than 600 catechumens from all over the Archdiocese will come with their sponsors to St. Patrick’s Cathedral this coming Sunday afternoon. In the presence of Archbishop Dolan, these catechumens will sign the Book of the Elect, another milestone in their RCIA journey to the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and First Eucharist, which they will receive in their parishes at the Easter Vigil. The following Sunday, hundreds of baptized adults seeking full initiation in the Roman Catholic Church at Easter will gather at the Cathedral and three other large churches in Orange County, Dutchess County and Staten Island for the Call to Continuing Conversion.
Isn’t it fascinating that in spite of the bleak picture the mainstream media paints of the Church, people still want to join us!