Preparing for Worship – Doug Haney, associate pastor.
It’s an Italian word that means “light-dark.”
I learned that word in an art appreciation class that Lori and I took together when we attended Georgia State University in Atlanta. In our undergraduate programs there were very few classes that applied to both of us; she was an English major and I was a music major. But it turned out art appreciation was required in both our curricula, so we decided to take what we hoped would be an interesting and fun class one summer.
One of the papers we had to write was based on a visit to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. Our professor had given us instructions to choose an artist whose work appealed to us and then to read about the artist and write about some aspect of the works we viewed.
Thinking back, I can’t remember if I learned the word chiaroscuro in class or perhaps read about this dramatic technique where light and dark contrast on one of those plaques located beside a painting.
Are you wondering what painter caught my eye? If you guessed Caravaggio, you win the prize. The works by Caravaggio are brilliant; his paintings are so vivid you can imagine the characters are only frozen and will soon resume talking and breathing and living. Caravaggio’s use of shadow interrupted by bright shafts of light vividly captures the crucial moment of a scene as in, for example, “The Calling of Saint Matthew.”
Palm Sunday/Passion Sunday is a service of light and dark, a chiaroscuro sort of day. We begin with waving of palms and the hosannas of the people. There is joy and gladness as we hear “Ride On, King Jesus.” But towards the end of the service, the darkness begins to fall. The gospel reading is foreboding and a forewarning, the sacrificial act of the woman unnamed who anoints Jesus’ head with ointment, a tender gesture typically reserved for a burial ritual. What wondrous love is this, O my soul.