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St Johns Southgate

20 Mar 2012

The beauty remains, the pain passes

Although Henri Matisse was nearly 28 years younger than Auguste Renoir, the two great artists were dear friends and frequent companions. When Renoir was confined to his home during the last decade of his life, Matisse visited him daily.

Renoir, almost paralysed by arthritis, continued to paint in spite of his infirmities. One day as Matisse watched the elder painter working in his studio, fighting torturous pain with each brush stroke, he blurted out: “Auguste, why do you continue to paint when you are in such agony?”

Renoir answered simply: “The beauty remains, the pain passes.” And so, almost to his dying day, Renoir put paint to canvas. One of his most famous paintings, The Bathers, was completed just two years before his death – 14 years after this disabling disease struck him.

Life regularly brings along times when pain, suffering and sorrow fills our hearts and minds. Loneliness, illness, our children or friends’ struggles and a plethora of other problems weigh us down. In times like these, our heavenly father wants to comfort and encourage us. Ultimately the pain will pass, but the beauty of Christ’s cross will remain forever.

In Roman times, the cross was a symbol of death. It stood for the abrupt, violent end of a human being. The man, who took the cross and started down the road, had already said goodbye to his friends, to his family. He wasn’t coming back.

But God, in his son, Jesus Christ, transformed the cross from a symbol of death and hopelessness, into a symbol of beauty, hope and victory. St Paul writes to the Corinthians: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor.1:18).

The sight of Jesus on the cross disclosed God as one who suffers with humanity. There is no suffering closer to God than the suffering of the man Jesus. Thus, the human suffering of Jesus is really God’s own suffering. But God helps us in our suffering through the cross, keeping us through his word and sacraments at the cross of Christ, so that we are comforted in our struggles.

Here at St Johns Southgate we encourage one another with the message of the cross. Our community of faith weekly celebrates the victory that Christ has earned for us by his own death. It is a great privilege that we are reminded by the Easter message that ultimately our pain, whether physical or emotional, will pass, if not here on earth, then at least in eternity. But the life giving hope, the “beauty” of Christ’s cross, will remain forever as our true hope and salvation.

Rev. Ian Vainikka
Pastor, St Johns Southgate Lutheran Church

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