“Angel of Grief” was carved in 1894 by William Wetmore Story and serves as a headstone for him and his wife, Emelyn, in the Protestant Cemetery in Rome. Story was an American sculptor who studied and lived in Italy to help him with commissions he was receiving in the US.
The angel portrayed despairs over a tomb; her posture and emotion reflect the sentiments of the Lamentations text as it is applied to the death of Jesus. The Lamentations passage expresses affliction and darkness, but also recognizes hope in the Lord. Holy Saturday is a significant moment, one in which the world looks bleak and hope disappears. Jesus’ disciples spent this day in great fear and grief, because their master was dead. They had forgotten his promise to rise again on the third day, and they mourned their loss while fearing for their own lives. These were their darkest hours as they questioned all that they had seen and heard, failing to see how the Lord’s mercies would come in the morning.
Christians today celebrate the resurrection far more than they recognize Christ’s suffering, but we must go through the darkness of Holy Saturday before arriving at Easter. We must encounter and deal with loss and death before we can celebrate life. It is in these moments when all hope seems to be lost that we acknowledge our own need for the Savior, and that recognition makes Easter morning that much sweeter. This angel is a memorial to the dead, and its weeping honors both the death and the life of Emelyn Story. The angel weeps like William wept for his wife, like the disciples and angels wept for Christ, and like we weep for the grace given to us all on Easter morning. ~ Maggie Jarrell