Today we in this part of Latin America celebrate the feast of Nuestro Señor de los Misericordias, Our Lord of Mercy. But it is commonly known as the feast of the Black Christ, specifically the Black Christ of Esquipulas.
Pilgrims throng the church in Esquipulas, Guatemala, to pay reverence to the cross dating from 1594. Over the years, the crucified image turned dark – and began to be called el Cristo Negro.
There are other Black Christs throughout the region, including one in Quezalica, Copán, which I haven’t yet visited. There is also one in church in the center of the town of Intibucá.
There may be other images of a black Christ throughout the world – most notably in Africa and among African Americans.
There are also black images of Mary throughout Europe, some like the icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa, but one of the most notable (because of its connections to St. Ignatius of Loyola is Our Lady of Montserrat.
But what color was Christ?
I think it is clear that he was not blue-eyed and white skinned as many of us grew up with. But that image prevails even here. Note the image of Christ painted by a young Honduran in the Dulce Nombre de María church. (I afterwards told him that Christ was probably not white and showed him a number of alternative images.)
But how often do we white North Americans make Christ in our image and likeness – not only with blue eyes, blond hair, and white skin? How often do we make Christ according to our prejudices, a supporter of our way of life, our imperial demands, our upward mobility?
What if we thought of Jesus as marginalized – as a person of color?
Wouldn’t that make us a different kind of Christian?