Lenten thoughts on burial

Recently I’ve thought a lot about burial. I celebrated a funeral Mass with my family in Illinois for my beloved uncle, and it made me think how ancient and important the Christian burial rites really are. Each burial ceremony is a memorial of Jesus’ own burial. Because Jesus really died and was buried His bodily resurrection from the grave was the greatest miracle, and, indeed, the greatest event of all time. As Christians bury the dead we are reminded of the promise of bodily resurrection and everlasting life. Echoing the cliches of almost any high school commencement ceremony, for Christians, death is not the end, but just the beginning.

Below is an interesting painting a priest friend of mine in Ohio displays in his parish during Lent. It depicts Jesus’ burial, as painted and described by its contemporary Ukrainian artist.

The Placing of Christ in the Tomb, by Litvinov Oleg Arkadievich (1957 – )

Pictured from left to right above the body of Jesus: Mary, His distraught mother, Joseph of Arimathea, Mary Magdalene and Nicodemus. To the far right, two angels are in attendance.

“The theme of the Passion of Christ has run through my work for thirty years. This began in 1986 after Chernobyl. I did not come to Jesus Christ from childhood, like other people, it was a gradual arrival though the reading of great literature. Lev Tolstoy had a great influence on me. He gave me the impetus and from that time on I began to study the Bible, both the Old and the New Testament.

In my work I pay a lot of attention to the Christian theme of the Passion of Christ, because in this theme, the Holiness of Christ and His ideal image are fully manifested. The meaning of Christ’s suffering is in opposition to our aggressiveness, our rejection of the world of freedom. Freedom is found in the famous phrase, “If I hit you on the left cheek, turn the right one.” The point is not to turn your head but to forgive the person who offended you. You will be better and he will be better, and maybe he will think. Because if you start a conflict with him it cannot be known when it will end.”

About the artist: Born on August 27, 1957, in the city of Lubny, Poltava region in Ukraine. He graduated from the Odessa Theater and Art School (1982). He works in the field of painting and graphics. His main areas of work are in easel painting and illustrations of books, creating multi-figure scenes of historical, religious and mythological themes. He has been a member of the National Union of Artists of Ukraine since 1989.

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