Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The sculptor of God

“YOU ARE A GREAT artist, Theos. The gods use you to shower beauty upon mankind."

Theos bowed in acknowledgment of the compliment and flexed his scarred and bandaged fingers.

“Magnificent!” exclaimed his patron as he gazed in awe at the many glorious sculptures in Theos' studio never before seen by other men.

“All of this is truly divine. And to think you created these works of genius here in drab, uninspiring Jerusalem. Jerusalem of all places! The gods love you, Theos. Athena is surely pleased.”

“They bless me with my gift,” replied the Greek sculptor modestly. “I am honored by their divine favors.”

“And when do you take all these to Rome?” asked the aristocrat.

“A month from today.”

“Let those copycat Romans envy magnificent Greek art! The barbarians!” exclaimed the Greek aristocrat with pride.

“I thank you for your generous patronage. None of this would have been possible without your munificence,” said Theos.

“Think nothing of it,” said the portly aristocrat with a broad smile. “This will be a very profitable investment for my business partners and I.

“The Romans will pay extravagantly for your exquisite creations. Very extravagantly! How many sculptures in all?”

“There are 10 and they are all life-size depictions of beautiful goddesses and beautiful women,” replied Theos.

“They look so lifelike! Your hands are truly blessed by the gods, Theos. I think I desire them all,” said the aristocrat, who then broke into hearty laughter.

“I, too, love them all,” Theos stated.

“But Aphrodite is the loveliest by far among these blessed women and it is fitting the goddess of love should have a statue that makes men insane with ecstasy.”

Theos led the aristocrat to Aphrodite’s gleaming statue and the incredible realism of its beauty left the guest awestruck.

“This is miraculous! She has to be alive!” the wide-eyed aristocrat shouted.

He reached out with trembling arm to touch the statue, and exhaled in relief when he felt cold marble and not warm flesh.

“How did you do this?”

“I am possessed by the gods,” the sculptor calmly replied.

“Intense beauty is a blinding light that confounds the senses so that one is unable to discern living flesh from inanimate stone,” Theos explained.

“The gods have infused my hands with magic. They control me when I work so I feel neither exhaustion nor pain. The goad is an unrelenting quest for the beautiful. All are enslaved by the beautiful.”

The aristocrat stared at Theos and thought him half-mad after this discourse he barely understood.

Great artists were said to be like that, he had heard. Or were they half-godlike? No matter. The aristocrat shook off this unaccustomed musing and bade Theos farewell.

“Protect your creations with your life,” he said on departing.

“I shall.”

Alone with his women, Theos dropped wearily onto a cot, raising a plume of dust. He coughed heavily and massaged the fingers of his trembling hands.

A mind tormented by a manic zeal and a hairsbreadth away from insanity was not the only price paid by a great artist, he mused. His body also suffered greatly.

He failed to tell the aristocrat of the exhaustion and pain that tore through his body after the exhilaration of creation faded. But he lied when he declared Olympian gods were the wellspring of his wondrous skill.

He should have said his Lord, Jesus Christ, had blessed him with this marvelous gift through a miracle of Mary, His Mother.

But to have done so would have infuriated the aristocrat and he would have hurled Theos back into the dire poverty from whence he escaped. Theos had no more stomach for poverty.

He was now almost rich and famous and would become undeniably so when his women were presented in magnificent Rome, the capital of the universe, where art flourished amidst inexhaustible wealth.

He wept because of his lies and asked Jesus’ forgiveness. He arose from the cot and opened a locked cabinet. Inside was an ornately designed box etched with symbols from Christ’s Passion Theos himself had carved with the greatest care.

The minute, carved figures seemed to spring to life. Such was Theos’ incredible skill that he could infuse the illusion of life into objects he created, whether large or intricately small.

Inside the box were two objects wrapped in cloth dyed Tyrian purple, the color only Roman Emperors could wear. It meant certain death if he were to be caught with these purple garments, but Jesus was worthy of the highest praise.

The artist unwrapped the first object and with great reverence set upon the alcove a sculpture depicting the face of His Lord, Jesus Christ. The second was that of the woman whose intercession had changed Theos’ life forever: Mary, the Mother of Jesus.

As with his other sculptures, these two were magnificent works of genius. More than all the rest, however, they were the finest Theos had ever created or would ever create.

The detail was startling: one could discern the folds in the face of the Savior; detect a gleam that gave life to His eyes and if one stared closely, one would swear the nostrils of the Savior flared as if He were breathing.

And Theos knew that when he looked at these images through his tears, they did come to life!

The eyes of Our Savior would glow with great kindness and you could see, really see, Mary’s lips form that gentle smile Theos first saw all those long years past. And They would speak to him.

He knelt before them, whom he considered his Parents, and begged forgiveness for his cowardice. He asked for the strength to proclaim himself a follower of Christ and to use his gift to proclaim to the world the greater glory of God.

Theos would later be crucified for his faith, and his shattered body buried unmourned in a shallow grave on a barren hilltop outside Rome. He was a coward no more.

And in the darkest days of Rome’s murderous persecution of Christ’s followers, those Christians that survived drew great strength from two statues that came to life amid tears of love and terror.

And the courageous band of Christians would rejoice, knowing their Savior and His Mother were alive and spoke to them through statues made by an unknown Greek sculptor who had been crucified a Christian.

The blessed hands of the sculptor of God had worked their greatest miracle.