by Deaconess Carolyn S. Brinkley
In the Small Passion Albrecht Dürer devotes three woodcuts to the Scriptural accounts of Easter day enabling us, with our own eyes, to see holy events as if they are happening right now. He places you, me, and himself as participants in salvation’s narrative as he draws us into the resurrection of Christ.
“The image of the living and triumphant Christ dominates the Easter woodcut. The artist pictures the exact moment of the resurrection. In the foreground the stunned guards are knocked to the ground. They shield their eyes from the dazzling glory of the resurrected Christ. And for fear of Him the guards became like dead men (Matthew 28:4).” Your place in the dawn of Easter is to stand by the little stone sarcophagus bearing Dürer’s initials as you witness the miracle of life triumphing over death right in front of your very eyes. “In the distance the women can be seen coming to the tomb as the first rays of sunshine penetrate the gloom of night. Mt. Calvary, topped with a tree reminiscent of the Garden of Eden and Adam’s sin, is in the background.
Shroud linens are now the King’s mantle. His scepter and resurrection banner proclaim the victory of the cross. The large white cloud is similar to the one in Dürer’s Annunciation print. It symbolizes the presence of God the Father. It shows His approval of the perfect sacrifice of His Son, the Second Adam, for the sins of all mankind. The deity of Christ is clearly shown by the Trinitarian nimbus. His body with wounds of side, feet, and hands proclaims His humanity. “It is finished!” (John 19:30) Death is defeated. HE IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA!”
Albrecht Dürer’s first Easter woodcut proclaims the glorious power of Christ’s resurrection, while the second shows the earthy humanity of our risen Savior. The distinctive “AD” monogram lies flat on the ground inviting you to kneel in worship with the Renaissance artist. “This charming print is probably the most recognized and loved of all of the woodcuts in Albrecht Dürer’s Small Passion. It is early on Easter morning. The sun’s first rays illumine the Risen Lord as Mary Magdalene kneels before Him. Dressed as a gardener, Christ’s resurrection ushers in the new creation. He holds a shovel over His shoulder; the work is done. The sin in the Garden of Eden has been paid for on the cross by the Second Adam. He is the obedient, perfect Gardener.”
Dürer’s Small Passion closes Easter Day with the evening meal at dusk. “The Emmaus woodcut captures the stunning moment of faith’s recognition of the Savior. Jesus is the host at the meal. His presence brings forgiveness, life, and salvation. These gifts were destroyed at the first meal in the Garden of Eden. Just as the nail-pierced hands of Jesus are breaking the bread, the eyes of Cleopas, dressed as a Renaissance traveler, are opened. He clutches his heart. It is the Lord! The Risen Lord! Suddenly all the truths of Scripture their traveling companion had taught them on the afternoon’s walk become crystal clear. Although the Lukan narrative mentions only two people, the artist has inserted several others in the background, providing a foretaste of the Holy Christian Church, where many will gather in the real presence of Christ. Dürer leaves space at the end of the small table for you to join in the supper. He is also present, for his monogram is on the bench, as well as in the table legs and cloth.”
Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.
And He went in to tarry with them.
Luke 24: 29 KJV
Deaconess Carolyn S. Brinkley is Military Project Coordinator at Concordia Theological Seminary Fort Wayne, Indiana.
For ordering information on Bearing the Cross: Devotions on Albrecht Dürer’s Small Passion, please visit Concordia Publishing House online at www.cph.org or their Customer Service team for assistance at 800-325-3040.
 Carolyn S. Brinkley, Bearing the Cross: Devotions on Albrecht Dürer’s Small Passion (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2012).