Russian, 1883 – 1946
The Mystery of Christ. c. 1920s
Lithograph printed in color on paper
Gift of Mrs. D. Spencer Byard (Margaret Mather, class of 1933)
Photograph by Stephen Petegorsky
Like many posters in the exhibition, this work isolates a fragment of liturgical text which, taken out of context and augmented with a bold and disturbing image, is designed to prompt believers to question their interpretation of Christian scripture and religious rites. In this case, the viewer is directed to question the privileging of the soul over the body in Christian theology and the mystery of transubstantiation, wherein the bread and wine become Christ’s body and blood.
The figure of Christ approaches a man whose hands are tied behind his back as he faces a firing squad. Christ holds a chalice and a spoon with which consecrated wine is administered to the Orthodox faithful during communion. The text below reads: “Better to murder the flesh, and to save the soul,” a clear perversion of the Christian hope of salvation after death and the symbolism inherent in the Christian sacrament of communion.