Giovanni Antonio Bazzi’s high renaissance painting “Procession to Calvary” was created over 500 years before Mel Gibson’s film “The Passion”; however, each are masterpieces in their abilities to capture the torment of Christ. Bazzi, also known as II Sodoma, masterfully reflects the majesty, although willingly lowered, of Christ here. He is a strong and muscular figure with the light of glory reflected throughout His being. Here is God. He is bowed but is there any doubt that it is by His choice?
We are in the painting as well. Bazzi portrays our ability to be both kind and cruel but in both sinful. On one side of the painting are those with clinched fists, angry expressions, and aggressive stances. On the opposite side there are those with open palms and saddened faces, but they do nothing. We do see Simon from Cyrene appearing to grasp the cross as he begins to take it for our Lord. But we know that even he did not do so willingly. No one was without fault. No matter if their sin was intentional of passive, it was all sin and how horrible sin must be to have brought God’s Son here and place that look of agony upon his face.
The process of separation has begun and it is this truth which Bazzi captures so clearly. This strong muscular figure, this one with the glow of glory so clearly communicating His divinity has the face of agony. The agony we see here is not from nails, nor blood, nor humiliation. The agony is from the separation which has begun. John Calvin tells us that Christ “paid a greater and more excellent price in suffering in His soul the more terrible torments of a condemned and forsaken man.” In the face of the Son of God we see a soul experiencing a pain we can never fathom.
God came. God kneeled Himself willingly. God allowed Himself to experience the pain we see here in this tormented face and it was all just beginning. The agony you see is the look of grace in the face of our Lord and there is nothing cheap about it. How He must love us.