Before a God who lets Himself be crucified out of love, all discourse becomes silent and every thought is lost. Only art, mysticism and love can sustain the gaze and turn into prayer.
The Crucifixion (Mathias Grunewald, the Isenheim Altarpiece, for the Church of the St. Anthony's Hospital) is the central panel of a tryptic with its doors closed. This was the ordinary view that was constantly seen, except on the most important fests of the liturgical year, when the doors were open and the inner panels revealed. The sick were invited to contemplate the Crucifix with faith, to find nourishment in the blood of the lamb in the Eucharist, to share his sacrifice in order to take part in his life. They were encouraged to persevere in the faith and the love of Mary, John the Evangelist and Mary Magdalene, who bend and stoop under the weight of the tragedy, but defeat the darkness, as the splendor of the colors suggests.
The immense darkness looming over the world symbolizes the universal dimension and cosmic of evil. It affects the body of Jesus, who has just died but still bears visible signs of a terrible struggle. He hangs on the cross like a huge livid corpse with greenish wounds; his face is contracted, disfigured, and his hands and feet are contorted; even the loincloth on his hips is torn and he is cambered on the transverse axis of the cross. The crown of thorns too is huge; indeed, it seems to have spread over his entire body, which is bristling with splinters and thorns, as if they were coming from within. "No one died like him," said St. Bridget of Sweden, the great mystic.
For love’s sake, he became one with all sinners, truly identifying himself with us. So, we are not alone, not even in the deepest abyss of sin and perdition. No refusal and no despair are too strong for his love. The white cartouche at the top of the cross stands out in the thick darkness and victoriously proclaims that Jesus of Nazareth is the King of the Jews, the Savior of all people. The same whiteness illuminates Mary's robe and the book of prophecies that John the Baptist is holding. It attests that the darkness of evil has been vanquished, and invites to hope.