Theological Reflection by Fr. Richard M. Kingsley & Marilyn Gustin
The Sonoran Christ is a multilevel theological symbol. It is not meant to be viewed as a simple, literal, representation of the resurrected body of Jesus. Rather, it invites us to contemplate broad realities of Christ’s unification and redemption of all creation.
It is, and at the same time it is not, the Risen Jesus. For the Christ not only incarnates and is fully revealed in Jesus, but is also more than Jesus. The historical Jesus lived approximately 33 years; the Christ is eternal. Demonstrably manifested in time and space, the Christ also transcends time and space. Authentic Christianity flies on two wings: the historical Jesus and the Cosmic Christ, the light in all things and the wounds in all things.
Notice that this figure is not definitively male, as the Christ is neither male nor female, but without gender as God is. This archetypal figure symbolizes the coming together of the material and the spiritual where God-in-Christ lives. The spaces throughout the body of the figure suggest the pervasive Spirit that gives it life, just as it is the Spirit that gives life to your body.
The same Christ that was in Jesus is in us and permeates the entire universe. The Sonoran Christ appears both transcendent and grounded. Its arms are wide open, welcoming all to the embrace of all-inclusive, unconditional divine love.
At its Center is a cross and rays revealing a heart that radiates light and life and love in all directions, including and surrounding all creation. Here we contemplate the crucified Jesus. Here we enter into the depths of God's love. All that can be known of God is revealed in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus the Christ.
As Jesus, raised by God, is suggested in this figure, we see his wounds have been healed and transformed. We see that the Spirit (in the form of a dove in his left hand) is given, so that as we follow in his way of self-giving love, our wounds too will be healed. We will share in the resurrection.
The first thing you might notice about the Christ figure above our altar is that it is not anatomically correct. It was not meant to be. It was sculpted to be both a symbol and a collection of symbols. It offers many layers of meaning and invites contemplation toward deeper understandings.
We hope it is an invitation to you to allow your inner being to resonate with God’s love.
The Sonoran Christ is built of locally found elements of creation that have been bronzed. They remind us of our relationship with, and Christ’s presence in, all creation.
Please enjoy finding these aspects of the work:
At the top, what might be hair is made of eucalyptus bark. The interior cross and the facial approximation are of ironwood, a native tree that is exceptionally heavy and strong; it can live up to 1,600 years.
In the arms, you will see saguaro cactus ribs, prickly pear skeleton, and more eucalyptus bark. In the left arm is a saguaro "boot"; it is the scar tissue the plant creates to line holes excavated by nesting birds. In the left hand is the body of a dove; it died in the artists' yard while the sculpture was being created. It is a traditional symbol for the Holy Spirit as well as purity and peace. In the right hand, the palm and three fingers are of cactus pieces and the thumb is ironwood.
In the torso you will find a heart made of a saguaro blossom and fruit. Notice also the mesquite branches incorporated here. These are the branches with which Bishop Gerald Kicanas sprinkled holy water throughout our church at its dedication Mass in May, 2009.
The red rays emanating from the heart invite us to ponder the love and light of the Christ, as well as Jesus' blood freely shed. Jesus says, in John’s Gospel, "I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows me… will have the light of life". Matthew’s Gospel records him saying that we, too, are be light for the world.
The loincloth is made of palm husks. The knot at the top of the loincloth is a hummingbird's nest, included to suggest a new beginning of life.
The legs and feet of the Christ figure are made of prickly pear wood.
The subtle colors in the figure also have significance,. You are welcome to come close to find them. Deep red in the rays suggest the spiritual blood of Christ. The purple on the cross inside the torso reminds us of sorrow and penitence, of Advent and Lent. The pale blue on hands and feet represents the wounds of Jesus' crucifixion and also our own life wounds. The green oxidized copper patina evokes life triumphing over death.
The Sonoran Christ is the result of a collaboration between artists David and Julia Andreas and Fr. Richard M. Kingsley seeking to offer a new visualization of the eternal, redemptive, self-giving, and all-encompassing nature of Christ.
This symbol was lovingly created to offer praise and thanksgiving for the life, ministry, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ. In it we proclaim the invitation he extends to each of us to participate in God's loving provision and mercy for all creation. It is, further, an expression of our collective and individual seeking to become full participants in the living Body of Christ alive in and for the world today.
We sincerely hope it helps all who meditate upon it to move forward in this sacred journey.
Corpus Christi Catholic Church / 300 N Tanque Verde Loop Road / Tucson, AZ 85748 / 520-751-4235