Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Morning Thanks--The Cherubic Jesus
Right now, this little angel is my wallpaper so I see him every time I come downstairs to the computer. Maybe it's just me, but I find the image weirdly haunting, but in a way that makes me smile. Not until I took the picture, a week or so ago, did I realize that the stained glass artist, from Germany, a man named Emil Frei (I think) had actually signed it--maybe you can see the name at the bottom of the picture. I didn't know that it was kosher to sign stained glass meant for churches. Maybe it wasn't.
The tiny church where it's displayed got this odd little round image as a freebee when they ordered an assortment of larger stained glass windows from the company. Old Emil, I guess, just packed it up along with the order, tossed it in like a bonus, and today it sits above the exit to the little Grace Episcopal Church, no longer in use, in Red Cloud, NE.
In a move that was not at all unusual, the Cather family, having moved to town, gradually took some furtive steps up the social ladder; and when they did, they left the certainly more "common" Baptists for Grace Episcopalian, where the members were, of course, significantly higher on the social ladder. So Ms. Willa started out Baptist, but ended up Anglican. In fact, it was her gift of stained glass windows to Grace Episcopal, tributes to her parents, that prompted the gift to her parents' church.
I'm guessing it's Jesus, but it's really something of a baby picture, a shot Mary might have got done at K-Mart. One doesn't often see him bedecked with angel's wings, nor elbowed on the puffy clouds. His fat little face is darlingly cherubic, don't you think? It's the kind of image one wouldn't expect to find in a Baptist church of the early 20th century, not especially helpful for a preacher given to hellfire. Old Emil, somewhere in Germany, likely knew it was a going to a sweet and loving Anglican fold, if it's Jesus at all.
Maybe it's just an angel.
Who might Jesus have been when he was four years old? We don't know really. There's so much of his life we don't know or understand. Was he cherubic? Did he eat dirt? Was he a pain to potty train? Did Mary have to kid proof the bungalow once he started to creep along? When Mom and Dad put him on a donkey and traveled to Bethlehem the next time it was tax season, did he drive them nuts with "are we there yet?" Did he fight with his brothers? Did they wrestle a lot and roll around on the floor? Did he have chores? Did Mary have to remind him to bring out the garbage? Did he leave his bike in the driveway?
He is, of course, the greatest human mystery of all because he was, like no one else, only half human, an impossibility we're asked somehow to buy. He wasn't just kid, he was a Lord Kid, and maybe, just maybe, he looked like this odd little saintly version of him, Emil's.
I think not. But what I do know?
I know only what I believe. This morning's thanks are for him.