‘Homeless Jesus. It sounds better because it sounds worse’

7 de septiembre de 2015

It was 6pm on the 26th of July last summer. The Holy Trinity Cathedral [known as Christ Church] rang out a welcome with a carrousel of perfectly combined diatonic notes from its 19 bells. Of Anglican confession, [as is the Church of Ireland], it is the largest of the two Protestant cathedrals in the city [the other is St Patrick’s]. This famous place of worship is known the world over for boasting the largest cathedral crypt in the British Isles and for its bells, one of which dates from 1038, when the cathedral was under construction [building began in 1028].


The interior is tremendously rich, but that isn’t what I remember most about the place. Nor was it the stained glass windows, though they were truly imposing. What I will always remember is a sculpture. What’s more, the sculpture isn’t even inside the Cathedral, where there are a great many, and I hardly remember any of them. Next year, I won’t remember any of them at all. I will only remember the one outside, on a bench. A sculpture of a homeless man. A tramp lying down on the bench, covered with a grubby sheet. From a distance, he is a nameless tramp, like the hundreds of thousands throughout the world. This one, however, is different as he has wounds on his feet. There are holes. He has the stigmata of Christ and represents the Homeless Jesus [the title of the work] and it certainly gives one food for thought


One thought which sticks in my mind is that we oppose any changes to the predefined order of things. The sculpture was rejected by various churches. It wasn’t right. It wasn’t suitable. Why not? Jesus was the first homeless person, from the day he was born in a manger until the day he died on the cross. He was an outcast from society. But the sculpture isn’t appropriate because it doesn’t portray the triumphant, handsome and Jesus with green eyes, saving someone, with his followers behind. Here there is none of that paraphernalia. It portrays a tramp, a poor person and that’s all there is. Those are the values. Poverty. Today we want nothing to do with all that. We refer to this who die crossing dangerous seas in small boats immigrants and thus depersonalize them. The word ‘person’ is associated with all things positive. How could we possibly use the word ‘person’ to refer to someone who dies in the sea under the apathetic gaze of each and every one of us? Immigrant sounds better and it sounds better because it sounds worse. The same is true of this sculpture. Jesus as a tramp, flat out on a bench? No way! This would be the real Jesus if today he were to descend into this cesspit called Earth. And here, it is we who invent the reality.


A round of applause for the creator of the sculpture [Tymothy Schmalz], for giving form to that reality. We are not living on the Truman Show. We live in a world that needs to be improved. But not from a television studio. From the street, with action.

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