“Monday Musings” for Monday December 23, 2013
Volume III, No. 51/155
To Ponder the Birth, Life, Death and Resurrection of Christ
By Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, DLFAPA*
[Editor’s Note: This article was originally written and published in the Fayetteville Observer on Christmas Day 1966. It has been reprinted every year since then.]
From the nostalgic days of the Sorbonne where I was a student of arts and literature, a memory stands out. A professor assigned to our class to visit the Louvre Museum and report to him, in written form, our impressions.
One morning I went to the museum and spend many hours looking at the masterpieces for which the Louvre is so well-known.
Naturally walking through the aisles and various levels of the Sully building, where old masters were displayed, appropriate notes were made to report to the professor. At the end of the day, somewhat enchanted, somewhat tired and thoroughly bewildered by the majesty of so much collected beauty and august artistry under one roof, I packed my notebooks and set out to leave the door.
Near the exit of the Mezzanine level there was a simple portrait which was partially hidden behind the curtain and the hanging branches of a plant.
I approached the painting, exposed it to my sight, and began to study its content. After a few minutes of scrutiny and concentration, I was overwhelmed by a feeling of power, awe and respect.
The painting was done by a 17th century Eastern European artist who had never gained worldwide fame. The very position of the painting in the museum was reminiscent of this fact.
The content of the picture was just as simple and unassuming at its frame and the place where it was hung.
It showed an emaciated man whose cheeks were hollowed, whose eyes were sunken, whose ribs could be counted one by one with clarity, semi-clad and semi-naked.
This man the portrait showed was struggling diligently and arduously.
An observer could see the burden of time and the pressure of public opinion written across his furrowed forehead.
His lips were dry, but pursed and determined his arms were naked and the flesh was pushed through with the gripping huge fingers of two Roman soldiers who were, holding the picture, holding him?
The Roman soldiers were enormous, steady, and through the masterwork of the artist, conveyed an air of contempt and hatred for the man they were holding. On the right side of the tableau, the artist had drawn the picture of a cross. So far, this work of art, like any other, is nothing unusual to chill the spine and overpower the observer. It was indeed the picture of Christ being carried to the cross.
This is a known historical fact, and depicted by thousands of artists in various ways. But the thing that made this pictures so powerful and different from any other concept of crucifixion was that the artist with his transcendent imagination, and I am sure, realization of the devotion of Jesus, had inserted a basic difference in this work, the difference was in this picture Jesus was struggling to go toward the cross, not as one would expect to struggle to get away from the cross. The propitious occasion of Christmas, the Lord’s birth, makes the recounting of the memory as a gift to our reader that much more meaningful. In His birth, death and resurrection. He exemplified love, hope, reason and commitment to all mankind.
May we all be good learners and Merry Christmas to everyone.
*The writer is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, Distinguished Life fellow American Psychiatric Association, and Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wake County Physician Magazine (1995-2012). He serves as a Visiting Scholar and lecturer on Medicine, the Arts and Humanities at his alma mater the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health.