In my mind's eye, when I imagine Good Friday and the crucifixion, Christ is far removed. The cross is high above my head, high upon a hill and I must strain my neck to see him.

Rembrandt's "Christ Crucified Between the Two Thieves" brings Christ down among the spectators. Soldiers, horses, mockers and followers are pressed upon each other. Horses seem to spill upon the crowd.

Grievers hold their bodies in wretched poses. The two thieves flank Christ on either side. They are within speaking distance of him, not shouting distance, as I imagined.

And then there are the women. They hold on to each other, weeping. One clings to the foot of the cross, her head upon Christ's feet. The scene is intimate, yet also claustrophobic — bodies pressed upon bodies.

What strikes me is the utter spectacle of the cross. If I am quiet, I can hear the voices crying out in grief or screaming out in ridicule:

"If you are the Son of God, come down and save yourself!"

"Ha, the king of Israel. Some king!"

"Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."

And if I am very quiet, I can hear Jesus himself: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

This is the image St. Paul had in mind when he wrote to the Philippians:

"He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross" (Phil 2:7-8).

Rembrandt van Rijn was one of the Dutch masters. He was born in 1606 to a Catholic mother and a Protestant father. It is unknown which church Rembrandt belonged to but it is clear his faith was deep. Religious themes are often the subjects of his art.

Rembrandt used drypoint to create this print, a technique where lines are scratched onto a metal plate with a sharp tool. Ink was rolled upon the plate, then pressed against paper or velum to create the print.

The outlines of Rembrandt's figures overlap one another. Many are faint, remnants of the original pressing, almost ghostly in appearance. Christ alone has substance. His body clear and solid. He is lit in glorious vertical light that cast all others in shadow.

The darkness is deep and terrifying. One thief is plunged entirely in darkness; the other shares some of Christ's light. The image echoes John's Gospel, that "the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."

"Visio Divina," or sacred seeing, is a form of prayer where one enters a work of art through imagination. We sit in silence to listen to what God might show us through the image. Art illustrates the story to us, illuminates the Gospel in a new way. In Rembrandt's image, one could reach out to touch Christ. He could hear our voice.

Place yourself in the picture. What do you notice? What is your eye drawn to? Who are you in this image? A solider? A thief? One of the women?

What do you hear? What do you smell? What would you say to Christ? Or would you simply sit in silence?

This Good Friday, place yourself in front of the cross and experience it with fresh eyes and heart. The Gospel of John says, "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends" (Jn 15:). May we sense Christ's love for us.

Gonzalez is a freelance writer. Her website is

Art: "Christ Crucified Between the Two Thieves (The Three Crosses)," by Rembrandt van Rijn, 1653, drypoint and engraving on laid paper

National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.