The Rev. Canon Laura Howell
Trinity Church, Bethlehem
Why even write about these three amazing artists who did so much to influence art in the northern European Renaissance? Why not simply include pictures of their paintings, woodcuts, and engravings and have done with it?
To look is not enough. We struggle to find words, however feeble, to express what this art stirs in our spirits. To gaze on the face of Dürer’s Man of Sorrows leads us to recognize a sense of pity and shame that our Savior should have suffered so–and for us. Grünewald’s delighted, giggling Christ Child, playing with his fondly smiling mother, evokes joy, mirroring hers. Cranach’s version of Samson’s fight-to-the-death with a ferocious lion leaves us shuddering, because at any moment his muscular hands might slip and the ravening jaws would close over them. I have known times like that…
What a wonder that God has given to some of us the ability to help the rest of us see the beauty created in the world about us. And to reveal the terror that lies just around an unseen corner. Artists like Dürer, Grünewald and Cranach capture our attention and shake us out of the ordinary, so we can perceive the light and darkness that shines through everything. And so that we can inexorably be drawn on the pathway to God’s truth.
We give thanks to you, O Lord, for the vision and skill of Albrecht Dürer, Matthias Grünewald and Lucas Cranach the Elder, whose artistic depictions helped the peoples of their age understand the full suffering and glory of your incarnate Son; and we pray that their work may strengthen our faith in Jesus Christ and the mystery of the Holy Trinity; for you live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.