Monday, August 1, 2011

The Pietà

The Road Not Taken
 Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
 --Robert Frost, 1916

Choices are a God-given right to all mankind and inevitably, each of us will make some that are not ideal and others that will be glorious.  What is left are these moments in the present to evaluate and learn from the past.  Perhaps some of us will enjoy the opportunity to revisit that diverge of roads and choose to take the one we did not the first time.  For others, though, the road chosen has become one-way with no chance of returning.

The Pietà by Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564) is a sculpture of Jesus Christ in the lap of his mother, Mary.  Christ is portrayed as deceased, feeble in size and from circumstance while Mary is shown as a younger woman than she was at the time of His death.  The piece is a combination of classic beauty and naturalism and is considered one of the most finished and detailed works by Michelangelo.

Much focus has been given to the two subjects and to the implied interpretation of Christ's size and Mary's age.  For one, Christ has been sculpted to be smaller than was believed and is in a crumpled heap in Mary's arms.  Secondly, Mary has been sculpted to appear to be about the age she was when she bore her Son for whom she now passionately embraces.  The detail of both, however, is incredible and there is much to be gained from spending a significant amount of time admiring the piece.

For me, I see a mother whose body expresses her love and anguish for the loss of her Son.  Her face, though, appears to be at absolute peace signifying her acceptance and understanding of the sacrifice her Son just made.  From a Christian point of view, there is some irony in this moment considering Mary was the one who bore Jesus, while Jesus was the One who bore the sins of man.  Thus, a circle of life extending beyond conventional means is on display and pointedly so. Mary, for the sake of this piece and with respect to history, was a wonderful woman hand picked by God to bare His Child.

Christ in this display also creates an irony of circumstance.  He is shown in His state upon being taken off the cross yet He is not actually Him.  What I mean is that this is merely His body, not Him as a Man.  Yet laying across Mary's lap, scars from His torture vividly displayed, He symbolizes His own existence and what could have happened to man had He not laid down His life for everyone else.

Though the subject of Christ's death and sacrifice are a controversial one, it is well documented that He had a choice and even struggled with it.  His entire life was meant to come to this point and although He knew it, He was also a man embodied with the ability to make choices through free will given by God.  Frost's poem, for me, is something I can envision Jesus saying to Himself as he ascended to Heaven.  He had an opportunity to choose which road to take:  One that would lead Him away from His purpose in life and mankind, or one that would lead Him to a moment where the sins of every man, woman, and child for all eternity would be paid for in full, by Him.  Rightfully so, He-

He chose the road far less traveled,
And it has made all the difference.

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