This morning during meditation I asked the Holy Spirit for an idea for this blog. During the past years I’ve already covered most topics related to our faith. This creative Spirit did not disappoint. As I sat down before my computer, strangely my crucifix was clearly reflected, centered, in the shiny black apple at the bottom of my iMac. I had never noticed this before. I took it as a direct divine message, which led to some interesting discoveries. You might also find them interesting.
When we first received this crucifix, I did not care for it. I preferred our former one that depicted the crucified Jesus as usual. An understanding of the symbolism, however, gave me a greater appreciation of our new crucifix. For one thing, the entire Trinity is present. The Father’s right hand at the top is sending the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove to bring about our salvation. This is the same trio that was present at the baptism of Jesus. The Father has not abandoned Jesus, but is with him. The Spirit of God will draw new life out of death.
The face of Jesus is not tortured but reflects the dignity and peace he had when submitting to his Father’s will. The hands of Jesus are exaggerated and point downward, breaking through the frame. They show him extending his love to all humankind.
The bare body of Jesus shows his humanness. As the artist once explained, “For me Christ is not an otherworldly figure floating over humanity in a long robe. He is in our midst as a simple farmhand or a cabinet-maker.”
The crown of thorns is a regal crown, for Jesus is truly King of the universe.
On the reverse side of the crucifix is a symbol of our congregation. The ND stands for Notre Dame, Our Lady, who was one with her Son in his sacrifice for us. The cross atop the letters reminds us that St. Julie Billiart, the origin of our congregation, predicted that our lives would be marked by the cross. In that way we share in Our Lord’s redemptive action.
Researching the German man responsible for our crucifix, Egino Weinert, unearthed some fascinating facts. He was a goldsmith, sculptor, and painter. His artwork has been described as “stylized and primitive and tender,” rather like folk art. I would agree.
Egino was born in 1920 as Franz Stanislaus Gunter Przybilski. Later his father changed the family name to Weinert. When Franz entered a Benedictine Abbey at the age of fourteen, he received the name Egino.
In 1941 he passed his examination as a goldsmith and silversmith with distinction. That same year he was arrested and imprisoned for refusing to give the Nazi salute. During World War II he was drafted into the Navy and fought from 1941 to 1945. He was charged with “undermining military strength” and sentenced to death. He escaped and hid from the Nazis with the help of two princes.
At the end of the war, Egino returned to the monastery. In 1945 at his parents’ house in Berlin, he lost his right hand due to a booby trap the Red Army had installed as an electrical fuse. For over a year he developed goldsmithing techniques with his left hand and practiced.
In 1947, Egino attended the Cologne factory school where he learned various crafts. A few weeks before he was to make perpetual vows in 1949, he was asked to leave the monastery. The Benedictines were disturbed by the drawings of female nudes he brought from the art school and considered his art style too abstract.
Egino went on to establish his own studios and workshops where he produced numerous sacred objects. Several hundred churches house his works, such as altars, ambos, and tabernacles. He created works for Saint Pope John XXIII and Saint Pope John Paul II. Some of his pieces are in the Modern Art Gallery of the Vatican Museums. His specialty was enamel art.
In 1951 he married and had four children. After his wife died, he remarried. At the age of 92 he died.
Interestingly, a medal designed by Egino is awarded as the Edith Stein Prize in Germany every two years. Also, the Christ Cathedral in the Diocese of Orange has the last tabernacle of enamel work he designed. His widow reluctantly parted with it. Scenes from Christ’s life are pictured on its four sides.
Here are a few of the artist’s other works: