The Crucifixion


Maria am Gestade, the oldest Marienkirche in Vienna, has been furnished with a contemporary sacred work of art since 1 May 2008.

The Salzburg artist Eva Kaiser has loaned it to the church. It will be on display here until the beginning of October. Faith wants to be experienced.

For this reason, there is always a need for an appropriating encounter, for personal involvement, for inspiration in many ways.

The Catholic Church has a rich and long tradition of consciously using visual works in this sense. Images ceaselessly tell the story of God with humanity, they signify the miracle of God's incarnation in Jesus of Nazareth,

they follow the life of Jesus in his healing and sanctifying actions, and they trace the mystery of redemption through his death and resurrection. Images with religious content also illustrate the historical breadth and cosmic consequence of the central mysteries of the Christian faith. By translating what he has experienced as a believing, hoping and loving human being, an artist gives these mysteries present-day power and creates access to faith for others.

In Eva Kaiser's painting, the event of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ shines forth. It shows the "Crucifixus", the Servant of God suffering on the wood of the cross, and at the same time the life-giving Saviour. In connection with this, the picture opens up a Pentecostal perspective in that the crucified is surrounded by vibrantly painted colours - an indication of the work of the Holy Spirit. With all this content, the depiction is a visualisation of the sermon of the Apostle Peter at the first Pentecost in Jerusalem:

"Israelites, hear these words: Jesus the Nazarene, whom God authenticated before you by mighty deeds, miracles and signs (....) - you crucified and killed him at the hands of outlaws. But God delivered him from the pangs of death and raised him up, for it was impossible for him to be held by death. (...) Having been lifted up by the right hand of God and having received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit, He poured Him out, as you see and hear. (...) Know ye therefore with a certainty all the house of Israel, that God hath made him Lord and Messiah, this Jesus, whom ye crucified." (cf. Acts 2:14-36)

The cross indicated in the painting is reminiscent of the old Gothic tree crosses and deeply impresses itself on the mind of the viewer. The body of Jesus is clearly perceptible. It is unmistakably the bodily reality of Christ that nestles against the wood of the cross, the wood of life. The crucified is not shown in the centre, but assymetrically in the broad, so to speak slowly spread out picture space. His body shimmers in pale colours. Jesus' head does not reveal any facial features. His face is smeared with blood - a sign of the immeasurable agony of his suffering. At the same time, however, Jesus' unrecognisable facial features can be seen as an indication of his divine nature, because the mystery of God always eludes earthly visibility. On closer inspection, the prongs of a royal crown are indicated above the head: an expression of omnipotence over heaven and earth.

In addition to the actual content of the picture, the position of the painting in the church interior is also significant. It is attached to the parapet of the organ gallery on the west wall of the church and thus at a central viewing point. More precisely, it is located on a small bay window of the gallery, which once served as a private chapel for the official of the Passau diocese who resided at the Gestadekirche. In a way, the picture guards the centre of the organ gallery and acts as a modern reflection of the impressive historical radiant-crown crucifix on the high altar remotely opposite.

In the Middle Ages, the west work of churches was often the place where a depiction of the Last Judgement was shown. In this position, Eva Kaiser's painting shows the source and measure of all divine justice: the crucified love of the Son of God, who came into the world not to judge but so that the world might be saved through him (cf. John's Gospel 3:17). In this love of his, of course, Christ's judgement also consists of love and unkindness in the hearts of men.

The gallery of Maria am Gestade is located above the large west portal of the church, which is wide open in the summer months. The painting invites the viewer to lift his gaze once more and look at Christ before leaving the church (cf. the motto of Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Austria, September 2007: "Looking at Christ"). Beyond the picture, the viewer's gaze reaches the organ prospect with its soaring pipes. Thus, this situation encourages one to listen with the spiritual ear to the mighty resounding praise of the Church, the world and heaven to the redemptive mystery of Christ.

The painting "The Crucifixion" by Eva Kaiser is attractive and memorable. May the visitor to the church - whether he comes for silent prayer or worship, or whether he enters the church as a tourist - experience something of the grace that it means to stand at the feet of Jesus Christ and to walk the path of life with confidence, strengthened by him.

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K & K

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