The Covid19 pandemic has made the year 2020 a frightful and outrageous time for all. That is not news, especially to any artist who lives to show or perform their work for their fellow human travelers. Among the casualties of this time: the art gallery, the live theater, the music concert venue, and, yes, the church service. Enforced time away from the Sunday sanctuary has informed the creation of this artwork. But unlike paintings on the wall, a Processional Cross is a physical part of the active liturgy, and its meaning is joined with its use in a worship service. Two of the more dramatic parts of the Christian liturgical service practiced in my Lutheran congregation are the entrance processional and exit recessional - movement through the center aisle by the service leaders. This procession is always led by the Processional Cross carried by a crucifer, who holds it high aloft. The whole congregation turns to see it. Then, as it passes by, the congregation turns with it and may choose to bow in reverence. The cross is followed by the Bible bearer, and then associate or visiting pastors and finally the congregation’s senior pastor. The symbolism is clear: the living Lord Jesus Christ is always at the head, the leader. The clergy and even the Bible are subservient to Him – never the other way around. Now, since mid-April, this active drama has been experienced only from memory, suggested from a computer screen, a Zoom meeting, or a recorded service from an empty place.
A few pieces of leftover MDF panels were cut into two cross shapes in 2018. I intended to use them just as individual shaped paintings, but then I tried the idea of combining them into a double-sided sculpture. That kernel of an unfinished idea sat dormant for over two years, even as I packed them, blank, during my move from Chicago to Saint Paul MN in mid-May 2020, during the first wave of the pandemic shutdown. As all churches paused from having any in-person worship, our communities became a collection of household "bubbles", keeping their distance. That unpainted blank form which I had been moving around was now calling to me and the imagery to be painted was becoming clear. On one side is the gray and colorless rendering of the crucifixion of Jesus. He is stripped naked because Roman crucifixion was used for terror propaganda - the condemned were displayed in complete shame, vulnerability, and powerlessness. But Jesus, in glory, flips this message. He has the vindication! This is shown on the second side, the Resurrection. This is New Life - eternal and victorious - springing forth from the cross of Jesus. Color and energy replace the gray ashes of death.
Anticipating a physical gathering of people around this symbol of Hope - the cross of Jesus, leading people to a space of unity through liturgy – this processional cross is my reply to the life-stifling effects of the current coronavirus scourge. May it be used, soon, leading a joyful and lively entrance procession of songs, prayers, and the Gospel Word to worship and praise of the One who is our all in all.