Kamikaze (2004)
by Anne Tinetti
copyright, 2004

Baptism of Our Lord, Mark 1:4-11

Historical Description:

The artist is the remarkably talented but publicly obscure Anne Tinetti. She also happens to be my wife.”Kamikaze” was painted in 2004, as she wrestled with the nature of the Christian life as presented by the Scriptures. The artist confesses, however, that this was an instance of the original intention being surpassed (happily) by the final product.

Devotional Reflection:

The peaceful dove, alighting on the Prince of Peace below, with wispy wings and a whimsical descent: this is the familiar depiction of the Holy Spirit. That picture of the Spirit corresponds to a certain understanding of his work, that he is the “feel-good” person of the Trinity, bringing about the abundant life in those he indwells. In St. Mark’s account of Jesus’ baptism, however, the dove is there and his descent–but his work is not so much peace, as the sword. He offers the familiar image of the Holy Spirit, but with an unfamiliar twist.

Anne Tinetti’s painting “Kamikaze” invites us into deeper reflection upon Mark’s depiction. There is that dove, but his descent looks less like the gentle fall of a leaf and more like the nosedive of a missile. The Spirit plummets with a pointed aim. He has a mission.

Then there are the colors: cool blues give way to hot reds, with flames like fingers reaching upward. We expect to see movement from heaven to earth, life to life, as countless paintings of Jesus’ baptism have shown. But this dove’s plunge from celestial hues to less than heavenly ones suggests that may be too superficial a scene.

Finally the jarring word, broken across the painting: “kamikaze.” It evokes a pilot with a one-way ticket down. This dove has a mission, all right, but it doesn’t seem to have much to do with abundant life. This painting gives a different perspective on the peaceful dove, to say the least.

And likewise St. Mark. The heavens don’t merely swing open, like the door of a birdcage; they are torn, rent asunder like some heavenly curtain, for the Spirit to come through. And after descending upon Jesus, we are told that the Spirit casts him out into the wilderness–the way Jesus will later cast out all manner of evil spirits.

This is not a Spirit who merely stirs up good feelings in those he indwells. This is the Holy Spirit, who imbues Jesus with a mission: a non-transferable ticket down. Throughout His ministry, our Lord moves inexorably from the heavenly heights down: incarnate in our very flesh; down, obedient unto death; down, down, to cast us all out, hell-bound, from the clutches of those fiery fingers. And he has succeeded.

This is the Jesus into whom you have been baptized: the One who came down for your salvation; whose ticket to the grave was not one-way, but round trip, from death and back. His resurrection is now yours. And so also His Spirit: not the one who would just give you warm Jesus-fuzzies, but the Holy Spirit who has given you a mission, who compels you constantly to lay down your life on behalf of your neighbor.

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