Like many Soviet anti-religious posters taking aim at the Russian Orthodox church, The Mystery of Christ takes a fragment of liturgical text out of context and adds a bold and disturbing image. The work is designed to prompt believers to question their interpretation of Christian scripture and religious rites. In this case, viewers are encouraged to ask why Christian theology values the soul over the body, and to question the mystery of transubstantiation (the transformation of communion bread and wine into 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.
Lithograph printed in color on paper
Gift of Mrs. D. Spencer Byard (Margaret Mather, class of 1933)
ID Number: SC 1964:60-8