A Muslim’s “Turning Point” Standing Before Michelangelo’s Pietà
The Pietà by the young Michelangelo is one of the world’s most recognized and priceless works of art. This past Lent and Holy Week, I’m sure that you’ve seem many images of the Pietà which depict that moment when the pierced and blood Body of Jesus is placed in Mary’s arms. As the literal name for this most lamentable scene implies, many people’s reaction is “pity” or “compassion”.
I remember taking the photo above when I made a pilgrimage to
Catholic Disneyland Rome last October. Sadly, upon seeing this famous sculpture, I am ashamed to admit, that my first reaction was not one of pious devotion. Rather, I was a little annoyed that so many people were gathered around the small chapel (next to Bl. John Paul the Great’s tomb) where the Pietà is displayed behind bullet proof glass. As I maneuvered my way through the crowd of tourists, all I was focused on was getting the shot. Once I got to the front of the crowd, I was struck by the great cultural, historical, and artistic significance of this piece. Then, I was moved by the broken, lifeless body of Christ held in the lap of His Mother. With her left hand, Mary tenderly bears the Savior of the World, and with her right hand, she raises her palm up to heaven, every ready to accept and follow the will of God.
While still basking in the joyful light of the Resurrection, I cannot help but see Michelangelo’s Pietà as an image of the Church: our ancient but ever youthful Mother who embraces the cross and presents the Body of Christ to the Body of Christ.
For us Catholics, art is more than church decoration, something pretty to look at. Art can provide us with an encounter with God who is the source of all that is True and Good and Beautiful.