Saturday, May 5, 2012

Angels and the Sacred Made Real

Are We Not All Angels?

Angels by Anthony Trott

Angels by Anthony Trott

The Angel with the Broken Wing

I am the Angel with the Broken Wing,
The one large statue in this quiet room.
The staff finds me too fierce, and so they shut
Faith’s ardor in this air-conditioned tomb.

The docents praise my elegant design
Above the chatter of the gallery.
Perhaps I am a masterpiece of sorts—
The perfect emblem of futility.

Mendoza carved me for a country church.
(His name’s forgotten now except by me.)
I stood beside a gilded altar where
The hopeless offered God their misery.

I heard their women whispering at my feet—
Prayers for the lost, the dying, and the dead.
Their candles stretched my shadow up the wall,
And I became the hunger that they fed.

I broke my left wing in the Revolution
(Even a saint can savor irony)
When troops were sent to vandalize the chapel.
They hit me once—almost apologetically.

For even the godless feel something in a church,
A twinge of hope, fear? Who knows what it is?
A trembling unaccounted by their laws,
An ancient memory they can’t dismiss.

There are so many things I must tell God!
The howling of the dammed can’t reach so high.
But I stand like a dead thing nailed to a perch,
A crippled saint against a painted sky.


When I read this I immediately thought of the exhibit at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D. C., The Sacred Made Real which highlighted Spain's mostly wooden sculptures that leave the churches once a year for Holy Week clad in real clothing and  are venerated as they are carried thru the streets during the week. 

Mater Dolorosa Roldan. Our Lady of Sorrows
(Mater Dolorosa) by Pedro Roldán
I am often amazed by paintings that seem to defy the picture plane, but nothing prepared this self-professed humanist for the visceral emotions caused by the tears, blood, sweat, bruises, and wounds so realistically rendered on these statues.  They are nothing short of master pieces and miracles.  I had to sit in a mesmerized state for the longest time, transfixed by the beauty in the pain.  I wondered what stories they would tell if they could speak - and trust me it seemed that at any moment they would just move and tell me their secrets..... 

This poem reminded me of that day, of that exhibit, of that profound emotion which was beyond religion, beyond gender or race or creed or station..... 

Gregorio Fernández, Dead Christ (detail), 1625-30, ©
Photo Imagen M.A.S. Courtesy of Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid
As a human being seeing the straining in the veins, the tears on the cheeks, the sorrow in the eyes, the thorns pushed into Jesus' head, and knowing that for centuries people in the streets follow them with so many hopes, fears, and prays was so moving.  

Pedro de Mena (1628–1688)Christ as the Man of Sorrows (Ecce Homo) 

This poem embodies all those things.... What would these sculptures say after all they have seen.... What would the angels say? Not all angels need wings do they?

Spanish Pietà - The artist of this sculpture (polychromed plaster, wood and other materials), circa 1680-1700, is unknown. Polychromed plaster, macerated linen fibers, gesso- or glue-soaked fabric wood, papier-machÃ

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