The severed head and the risen Christ


Part 2 (A) in a multi-installment series for Lent

2. Down the Road of Doubt – When did a crack in your faith first appear? Was it a moment of intellectual questioning or emotional disappointment?

My faith didn’t crack so much morph into something new. It was gradual and happened in a two steps up and one step back staggering journey. Over the next few days I’ll share about some of the most important episodes in my life that contributed to this process.

The Severed Head

photo of stained glass window
Not the stained glass window of the severed head from my childhood church, but not much different either.

The Catholic parish my mom took us to for most of the seventies was in the next town over from us. I generally didn’t mind church there. But one stained glass window creeped me out. Near the front on the left side was a huge stained glass window of David and Goliath, the scene from what I now know was 1 Samuel 17:51 where David stands over Goliath and uses the giant’s own sword to behead him. There David stood over the lifeless, headless body, the borrowed sword in one hand and the severed head in the other, held aloft as a victorious trophy, its eyes closed, drops of blood falling from the neck. This did not jive with the Jesus message of loving enemies and turning the other cheek coming from the folk Mass singers and priest. Something was off. Something was wrong. A full color glass window of a beheading didn’t seem like something to have in church. Then again, neither did a huge sculpture of a man being tortured to death on a cross.

The Risen Christ Crucifix

A risen Christ made of wood
Not the risen Christ in my grandmother’s church, but not much different.

The first time I noticed the crucifix in my grandmother’s parish was different than others I had seen was the day of her funeral. This Christ was not tortured. He was not nearly naked. He didn’t look in pain. This Christ was fully robed, in painted vibrant colors. He was smiling slightly, more with his eyes than his mouth. It wasn’t a Buddy Christ from the film Dogma, but a believable, realistic expression of welcome, kindness, and hope. His arms were three quarters aloft with hands in an orans position. He wasn’t attached to the cross, but was clearly separated from it and some inches higher in relation to where his body would be if his hands were nailed to the cross beam. This Christ was rising! I like the rising Christ MUCH better than the tortured one. This would go on to be a major theme in my own spiritual life. Even though I do not believe in bodily resurrection, I do believe in rising from the dead. I believe the cycle of life and death includes periods of renewal and rebirth. I believe in being born again and again and again and again and again