Touching Jesus: Art and Absence

1
Luigi Territo, SJ

 Luigi Territo, SJ / People / 14 February 2018


Paid Article

Contact always generates a twofold transformation, for one cannot touch without being touched. Indeed, of the senses, touch is the most compromising for it represents proximity, violation, relationship and familiarity. All in all, it is the most human and the most mystical of the senses.

In biblical anthropology, “touching” is something that goes beyond the perception of physical contact; in fact, by way of touch, Scripture speaks of purification, healing, forgiveness and desire.

In the Gospels the verb haptomai (“to touch”) occurs eight times in Matthew, 12 times in Mark, nine times in Luke, and once in John. The Fourth Gospel alludes to the verb in the words of the Risen Lord to Mary of Magdala, using a negative imperative form. The evangelist desires that the lives of the new disciples be “no longer based on being able to see or touch Jesus, no longer available phenomenally to their senses, but through the faith that comes from listening to his witnessed word.”[1]

Unlike idols,[2] Jesus sees, hears, smells, touches and walks. The Gospel reminds us of many healing experiences where he cures the senses of sick people. Jesus does not fear contact with disease and impurity: “He caresses, embraces” (Mark 10:13-16), “raises” (Mark 1:31), “takes by the hand” (Mark 5:41), “he lays his hands on” (Luke 4:40), “touches” the sick (Mark 1:41, 7:33). Breaking the precepts of the Mosaic law, Jesus touches and is touched. From the moment of his birth he is placed into the hands of humanity.

The Messiah awaited by Israel is a person who arouses curiosity; his body is the object of care and attention, but not only, for he is also “slapped,” “crushed,” “led,” “captured,” “kissed,” “killed” and “deposed.”[3]

This article is reserved for paid subscribers. Please subscribe to continue reading this article
Subscribe