A Sign Of The Times
80 year old Cecilia Gimenez was only trying to help. She’d watched the over 100 year old painting in her church suffer great deterioration. As she told local Spanish television, she tried to restore the fresco, which she called her favorite local representation of Jesus, because she was upset that parts of it had flaked off due to moisture on the church’s walls. Previously, she had applied her brush to the brown robe of the century-old “ecce homo” portrait of Jesus crowned with thorns, in Santuario de la Misericordia, a Roman Catholic church in Borja, near the city of Zaragoza. That part of her restoration went well. Next, she applied her hand to restoring Jesus’ face. There was one big problem with that idea. Ms. Gimenez is not what one would call “a portrait artist.” The result was what some have called, at best, a work of vandalism and at worst, a depiction of “a crayon sketch of a very hairy monkey in an ill-fitting tunic.”
Reactions to this have ranged across the spectrum. Her church denies authorizing her actions, despite Cecilia’s claims to the contrary. Local authorities claim that, while she may have had good intentions, they are considering taking legal action against Ms. Gimenez. The rest of the world have awarded Cecilia celebrity status and her “work” is being both heralded and parodied across the internet.
These reactions are a sign of the times. The idea plays well to the modern skeptic that, through updating Jesus, he becomes a monkey. Once more it seems, evolution trumps religion, this time in a church. According to a popular online petition in favor of keeping the art as-is, these changes are “a clever reflection” of the political and social situation of our time. That petition’s author may be correct, but I doubt he is looking at this from my perspective; through the lens of Romans, chapter one, verse 25 and following. That Bible passage indicts the entire human race for exchanging the truth for a lie and worshipping the creation rather than the Creator.
Continuing to examine this event from the church’s perspective, it seems to me the trouble began when Ms. Gimenez felt it was her responsibility to “paint a fresh face” on Jesus. To what extent do we damage God’s kingdom when we undertake to paint Jesus in a new light or make Him more “seeker friendly?” When will we, who are called upon to draw near and reflect His image, realize that we are poor “portrait artists” when it comes to pictures of Jesus? We put too much of ourselves into the picture whenever we put our hands to that task, and often as not, the result is something looking less like Jesus and more like “a very hairy monkey.” Therefore, let us put aside such temptations and reaffirm our calling to Christlikeness. People don’t really want to see how well or poorly we can paint Jesus on a church building. What they will truly notice is how well or poorly the Church images Him.
Praying you are growing in all things toward Christlikeness,
PS: At it turns out, descendants of that fresco’s original artist had donated money for its restoration. If Ms. Gimenez had only been more patient, she would have seen her beloved painting professionally restored to its original image. What ways are you being tempted by impatience today? There’s more than one lesson to be learned in this story.