In celebration of our 25th anniversary my husband and I went to Paris for a week. It was a glorious time and we admittedly indulged ourselves. There is a lot to do and see in Paris; and we immersed ourselves in it all. Some call Paris a “city of strangers”, but by our departure I had struck up new friendships in numerous hotels, bistros, and boutiques.
During our week long adventure, we were fortunate to have an afternoon to visit the Louvre. Le Louvre c’est fantastique!The sculptures, artifacts and wall-to-wall paintings – a feast for the eyes. Napoleon’s palace exhibition was breathtaking. The ornate ceilings were something to behold, as was the opulence and grandeur. One can see why Napoleon clung to dominance.
In Search of Mona
The journey through the salons of the Louvre were dizzying and completely crowded with tourists from all over the world (this was pre-COVID, of course). But we weren’t as bothered by the crowds once on our way to the ultimate destination – the Mona Lisa. There was plenty for us to stop and marvel at.
As we strolled through the remaining salons of the Louvre, Sean overheard a young American say to a companion, “why are there so many pictures of Jesus?” We couldn’t stop to see who asked, and he didn’t hear the reply. But it caused us to stop and ponder.
Most striking indeed were the paintings, endless characterizations of Christ: as infant, often with mother Mary, on the cross, being laid in the tomb, risen! The images were vivid and embellished, like one of Christ on the cross with two Popes standing beneath on either side in pious humility.
Our attention was caught by an alarming crucifixion scene that was extraordinarily dark, except for the three figures hanging – their bodies appearing stark white, which more appropriately placed the emphasis on the event, and not those crowded around the cross.
Crowded Salons & Paintings
Both French and Italian artists seemed to fill their artwork with as many characters as possible – today’s equivalent of trying to take a selfie with a large group of people. The patrons of these artists had motivation to “stack” paintings with figures and scenes. There was much to say, particularly when a patron wanted to get a point or person across. A painting was history, so grandeur mattered.
The Louvre crowds grew larger and there was a noticeable swell of energy as we neared the Italian painters salon. A large sign pointed to the gallery where DaVinci’s masterpiece hung. A quick turn to the right and we were in her presence.
My first reaction was sudden shock at the size of the crowd waiting to get a glimpse of the Mona Lisa. Guarded on both sides by nonplussed attendants, we waded through the masses to find a suitable vantage point. I pushed my way forward, while Sean stood back – he decided to take a photo of the people taking photos. It seemed appropriate.
Who Deserves the Glory?
And then there she was. The Mona Lisa was poised at a safe distance and had an entire wall to herself. We got our glance at “glory on canvas”. She smiled…I think. Leonardo’s “supreme expression of paradox.”
Sean motioned to me and pointed towards the other end of the gallery. Just behind the throng of Mona Lisa onlookers, a massive depiction of Christ’s ascension hung high above the enormous gallery. The soaring ceilings of the salon only served to enhance the rich image.
Yet, it seemed as if no one registered the momentous occasion of the resurrection and ascension of Christ. Not when Leonardo’s Mona is in the room.
Notice the Hope
In that stuffy gallery on the Denon wing of the Louvre, there was paradox. An audience obsessed with grabbing a piece of “life” and consuming culture. The paradox is that the Mona Lisa stared back at each of us…while Christ is waiting to be seen. Mona is encased behind glass and carefully guarded. Christ is available to anyone.
In our sometimes ceaseless pursuit of life, it is worth pausing to reflect on what Easter truly means.
The astonishing message of Easter is that Jesus, claiming to be God’s Son, lived a faultless life, only to take on the shame, persecution, punishment and ultimately, death that he never deserved. Then he arose after being dead.
The story is as incredible as it is necessary. Someone had to defeat death, in order for this world to have hope.
So, the hope of Easter is that “God so loved the world He gave…His son”. If God would do such an absurd thing, it must mean that he values every single person who ever walked on this planet of ours. No matter who you are, what you have done (or not done), how you self-identify, no matter your past, present or future…we are immensely valued…uniquely precious.
This Easter there is hope for true love and life. We only need to take notice of it.
A Happy and Hopeful Easter to you all!