Strolling through the Met, I could barely see through my tears.
Because how can I look at the delicate brush strokes, specific words painted thousands of years ago by Egyptian artists, the individual strokes evident, and not think about the person who sat there recording those ideas? Laboring to use his abilities and make something beautiful using his particular talents?
How can I see silky smooth stone, every detail of a magnificent human body, and not be overwhelmed with awe? That someone could see life in the hard rock and could coax it out of a block of cold stone until it seems even more real than I am?
How can I look at a 6” thick manuscript of a Bible, each page hand-painted with elaborate gold borders and flowers, characters carefully written in tidy lines, and not fathom the greatness of a God who can inspire such effort?
How can I witness the meticulous detail in a painting depicting Christ’s agony? See the thorns on his crown press into his brow? See the individual whiskers, the lines around his eyes, the shadows of His ribs, the nuances of a living, breathing person, and not have my eyes fill with tears?
I looked at smears made by VanGogh’s palette knife, dabs of color by Seurat, gestural lines by Matisse. Layer upon layer of dimensional color put to canvas by the hands of geniuses who once stood before the same canvas as I was, and I marveled.
I’ve never been so overcome by emotion looking at art before. But today it was visceral. I felt each stroke. I imagined each artist. I looked into the eyes of Van Gogh’s self-portrait and wondered at the sanity, the emotion captured there. I lingered over the detail of the frescoes, the Medieval portraits of our Lord. And was overcome by the sanctity of the moment. Of the blessing of being able to witness this.
Something about seeing evidence of someone’s devotion makes it that much more real to me. The reason I love religious artifacts, besides that some of them are just quirky and cool, is because they’re tangible symbols of someone’s faith. The depths of their passion. Their fervent beliefs. The comfort found as warm fingers rubbed smooth the metal relief on the holy medals. The tears shed as artists imagined the pain, the loss, the darkness of the crucifixion. The hope portrayed, the glory revealed, the agony shared.
Whether the artists were specifically creating out of their faith or not, I see God in each of those objects. I see an attempt to create — to re-create — the beauty (or agony, or pain, or glory or suffering or peace) each artist witnessed in this glorious world.
In this world that I believe God created so that we could experience each of those things.
One stroke at a time. Each detail crafted by a careful, inspired hand.
The loving hands of a Master.
My soul soars with delight, as inside I fall to my knees in wonder.