Peaceful and Welcoming
The Cosmic Christ Triptych
“The Cosmic Christ Triptych began with a conversation that Elizabeth Oleksak and I had in the summer of 2010 about how to make the chapel at Genesis more reflective of the thought of Thomas Berry, CP. As a result of that talk, and further conversations in which the circle was widened and others were brought into the discussion, I was commissioned and this panel painting resulted.
From the beginning, I wanted to paint a contemporary altarpiece in the tradition of the Medieval and Renaissance works that were such powerful aids to people in prayer and contemplation in sacred spaces. Along those lines, the Cosmic Christ Triptych is composed of three panels, the central one being the largest, depicting the Cosmic Christ, and the two side panels showing other aspects of the Mystery. Along the bottom of the central panel are four small sections corresponding to the traditional predella often found on classic altarpieces.
The Cosmic Christ of the central panel derives from St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (1:9-10): “With perfect wisdom and insight God freely displayed the mystery of what was always intended: a plan for the fullness of time to unite the entire cosmos through Christ.”
A gloriously resurrected Christ is shown against a background of “the compassionate curve of the earth” so beloved of Thomas Berry, CP. That gives way to a galaxy, and Christ permeates the whole. His wounds are visible, reminding us of the ongoing “passion of the earth,” and yet they shine with an energy that strengthens our belief that “all will be well, and all will be well and all manner of things will be well,” to quote Julian of Norwich. The Christ depicted is of no one specific race, but rather a composite of all races: the Cosmic Christ transcends all specific races and yet includes all.
The left-hand panel depicts the “passion of the earth.” The landscape is sere, barren, the tree bare against a night sky with a moon in an eclipse of blood. In the distance a factory belches out smoke that forms unearthly clouds, reminding us of the devastation wrought on the planet by humans. The man in the foreground raises a hand in supplication to Christ for deliverance. Yet the scene is not without hope; the tree still has a few green, living leaves.
The right-hand panel shows the “resurrection of the earth,” what can be if humans learn to live in harmony with creation as ordained by God and so eloquently spoken of by Thomas Berry, CP. The tree is lush, in a clear blue sky. The water contains life. The woman is relaxed, at peace and one with the birds and the animals.”
-Br. Michael Moran, CP, Friend of Genesis
Along the bottom of the panel the predella contains the four traditional elements of earth, air, water, and fire the components of the classical cosmos.
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