Helmut Thielecke, the distinguished German theologian, visited the US in 1963 and was asked what he thought was the most important question Americans were facing. His response caught many by surprise. He replied that he thought the question of how Americans deal with suffering the most significant. He recognized that the American response was one of simply trying to eliminate suffering but never that suffering could be the raw material to shape our souls.
Ken Gire relates this story as part of this collection of meditations on the suffering of Christ centered around Michelangelo’s Pieta. The book includes photo images of the sculpture taken by Robert Hupka at the World’s Fair in New York in 1964, when the sculpture was there on loan. Each image is from a different vantage point and shows the statue illuminated against a black background. The chapters in the book move back and forth between reflection on the Pieta from these different perspectives and biblical material reflecting on the suffering God, the humanity of Christ, the wounds Christ suffered, the suffering of Mary, the body of Jesus as a broken sacrifice, and the resurrection. Word and image come together in taking us into both what Christ suffered and how as his disciples, his body, we may enter into and be transformed by suffering when it comes. The closing chapter recalls The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe when Aslan breathes life on the menagerie of animals frozen into statues, and reflects on the liberation of the living Christ from death, from stone to be the first of many who will know this new life.
Each chapter concludes with a prayer and questions for personal or group reflection. This would be a marvelous book to use during Lent for personal devotions, or group study.