Despised and Rejected of Men by Sigismund Goetze
Coming to Athens, the capital of Grecian culture in the height of all its glory. Saint Paul addressed people of that great city, saying: “Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religiously- minded, for passing by and seeing your idols, I found an altar also, on which was written, ‘To the Unknown God.” What, therefore, you worship, without knowing it, I preach to you,” (Acts 17:23)
This incident in the life of the great Apostle, provided the inspiration that induced Sigismund Goetze to paint this magnificent picture. Before a stately pillared temple is the altar TO THE UNKNOWN GOD — VOTUM DEO IGNOTO. Bound to this altar; is the living, shrinking, thorn-crowned Christ. His hair hangs down like a veil over His Face to hide His shame and confusion. A constant stream of humanity passes the naked Christ — utterly oblivious of the Victim of man’s ingratitude.
We see a young lady of fashion decked out in the most alluring style of the day. Flirting, she revels in the amorous glances of her dissipated escort. Neither can be distracted by the scourged Christ standing alone, forsaken. There is a learned scientist so fascinated by his bubbling test-tube that he is unaware of the Infinite Wisdom of God, standing beside him in public disgrace. The sport strolls by engrossed in the victory of his favorite horse. Hardly would he have time to notice the suffering Christ!
At the base of the altar itself, a poor mother, hugging a sickly child to her breast, rests her weary limbs. This forlorn, outcast of humanity turns her back on the bleeding Christ, little knowing that even her repentance would bring comfort to the Man of Sorrows. A ragged newsboy hawks his extra, a scandalous divorce mocking Christ’s teaching on the indissolubility and sanctity of marriage. A pompous ecclesiastic in fine robes struts by, so wrapped up in himself that he has no time for any one else. Behind him comes the business man. Scheming how to enlarge his fortune, he fails to realize that gaining the whole world at the cost of his soul is bad business.
Here we see a judge pouring over his law books. Blinded with pride, confused by graft, he cannot see the solution of his case, unmistakably written in red upon the body of the Victim before him. in the back-ground we find a politician haranguing the crowd, so worried over his popularity, that his soul would be the first thing he would barter for his re-election.
Glancing aghast at the tortured Christ is a nurse, the only one in all that mob who has caught the tones of His pleading. In hours of watching, tending the sufferings of men, she has discovered the answer to the mystery of human misery. The answer is love — love even to sacrifice, love stronger than death!
The Angel of the Passion, holding the chalice of suffering, reminds us of Christ’s Passion today in a world that passes by, unheeding, callous, selfish — “Crucifying again to themselves the Son of God, and making Him a mockery!” We, too, are somewhere in that passing crowd.