Each week, the Gospel for that coming Sunday will appear here along with an image to which it relates, previous years can be found in the ‘Faith’ menu at the top.
Thirty Fourth Sunday of Year (B) – Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
John 18: 33-37
‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ Pilate asked. Jesus replied, ‘Do you ask this of your own accord, or have others spoken to you about me?’ Pilate answered, ‘Am I a Jew? It is your own people and the chief priests who have handed you over to me: what have you done?’ Jesus replied, ‘Mine is not a kingdom of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, my men would have fought to prevent my being surrendered to the Jews. But my kingdom is not of this kind.’ ‘So you are a king then?’ said Pilate. ‘It is you who say it’ answered Jesus. ‘Yes, I am a king. I was born for this, I came into the world for this: to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice.’
The Gospel of the Lord.
Picture: Jesus before Pilate, painted between 1308-11, by Duccio di Buoninsegna, tempera on wood, 50 x 57 cm. It resides in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Siena.
Pilate, on learning that Jesus belonged to the jurisdiction of Herod, sent the prisoner to the king to be judged by him. After questioning Jesus and treating him with ridicule and contempt, Herod sent him back to the Roman governor dressed in white robe. Action proceeds from the bottom upwards; in the lower scene a servant is holding out to Christ the robe which in the upper scene he is already wearing. Although placed in different architectural surroundings (the governor’s palace present in the last compartment on the lower row appears again), the arrangement of the two scenes is almost identical, both in the distribution of the characters and in their movements. Christ, gazing with extreme sadness at the onlooker, is withdrawn in total silence. Herod anticipates and repeats (Pilate’s First Interrogation of Christ) the position of Pilate where the solemn movement gives a rather static effect. The king’s throne with steps, its basic structure embellished and adorned, is more ornate than the governor’s simple wooden seat.
Duccio di Buoninsegna (1255-1319) was an Italian painter, active in the city of Siena in Tuscany. He is considered to be the father of Sienese painting and along with a few others the founder of Western art. He was hired throughout his life to complete many important works in government and religious buildings around Italy. Duccio is credited with creating the painting style of Trecento and the Sienese school, and contributed significantly to the Sienese Gothic style.
Only two of Duccio’s surviving works can be securely dated. Both were major public commissions: the “Rucellai Madonna” (Galleria degli Uffizi), commissioned in April 1285 by the Compagnia del Laudesi di Maria Vergine for a chapel in the church of Santa Maria Novella in Florence, and the Maestà commissioned for this high altar painting of Siena Cathedral in 1308 and completed by June 1311.
His known works are on wood panel, painted in egg tempera and embellished with gold leaf. Different from his contemporaries and artists before him, Duccio was a master of tempera and managed to conquer the medium with delicacy and precision. Duccio’s style was similar to Byzantine art in some ways, with its gold backgrounds and familiar religious scenes but also different and more experimental. Duccio’s paintings are warm with colour, and inviting. His pieces held a high level of beauty with delicate details, sometimes inlaid with jewels and almost ornamental fabrics. Duccio was also noted for his complex organisation of space. Duccio began to break down the sharp lines of Byzantine art, and soften the figures. He used modelling (playing with light and dark colours) to reveal the figures underneath the heavy drapery; hands, faces, and feet became more rounded and three-dimensional.
Duccio was also one of the first painters to put figures in architectural settings. He began to explore and investigate depth and space. He also had a refined attention to emotion, not seen in other painters at this time. With this he flirts with naturalism but his paintings are still awe inspiring.
Thirty Third Sunday of Year (B)
Mark 13: 24-32
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘In those days, after the time of distress, the sun will be darkened, the moon will lose its brightness, the stars will come falling from heaven and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory; then too he will send the angels to gather his chosen from the four winds, from the ends of the world to the ends of heaven.
‘Take the fig tree as a parable: as soon as its twigs grow supple and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. So with you when you see these things happening: know that he is near, at the very gates. I tell you solemnly, before this generation has passed away all these things will have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
‘But as for that day or hour, nobody knows it, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son; no one but the Father.’
The Gospel of the Lord.
Picture: The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem, painted by David Roberts. 1850, oil on canvas, 1356mm x 1965mm.
The Olivet Discourse is a biblical passage found in the Synoptic Gospels. It is also known as the “Little Apocalypse” because it includes Jesus’ descriptions of the end times, the use of apocalyptic language, and Jesus’ warning to his followers that they will suffer tribulation and persecution before the ultimate triumph of the Kingdom of God. The Olivet discourse is the last of the Five Discourses of Matthew and occurs just before the narrative of Jesus’ passion beginning with the Anointing of Jesus. In the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, Jesus spoke this discourse to his disciples privately on the Mount of Olives opposite the Temple. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus taught over a period of time in the Temple and stayed at night on the Mount of Olives. The discourse is widely believed by scholars to contain material delivered on a variety of occasions.
Some believe the passage largely refers to the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and the events leading up to it, although there are also references to events following this. This is one reason why scholars date the Gospel of Mark to the period just before, or just after, the events of the year 70.
It is unclear whether the tribulation Jesus describes is a past, present or future event. In each of the three gospel accounts, the sermon contains a number of statements which at first glance seem predictive of future events. However, modern Christian interpretation diverges as to the meaning of the additional topics in the discourse. Many evangelical Christian interpreters say the passages refer to the Second Coming of Jesus. They disagree whether Jesus describes the signs that accompany his return.
The picture is a reproduction of a rare lost oil painting titled Jerusalem by the Romans Under the Command of Titus, A.D. 70 by David Roberts, a member of Britain’s Royal Academy. The original, dating from the mid-19th century, was sold at auction in 1961 to an Italian art dealer in London. The painting made its way to Rome and was sold shortly thereafter, but there is no record of the transaction.
The original lithograph from which this picture is reproduced is owned by the Jerusalem Historical Society. Its president, author and journalist J.S. Peeples, has authored a book titled The Destruction of Jerusalem. He began a search for the original painting after he saw a damaged lithographic reproduction in Texas. The 1850 lithograph, measuring 27.5 inches by 42 inches, was taken from the original oil painting, which was an incredible 7 by 12 feet.
David Roberts, a Scottish-born artist, rose from poverty to become one of the most popular painters of the 19th century. He travelled extensively in the Middle East in 1839, creating well over 250 paintings and drawings beautifully depicting majestic and historic scenes of this ancient land. His pictures of the Holy Land were his most famous; they catapulted him to his first great success as an artist.
Many art collectors and critics consider The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem to be the finest work of the prolific Roberts. When it premiered in London it won unanimous acclaim from critics. But the painting disappeared in 1854, reappearing only briefly at the 1961 sale at Christie’s auction house.
Since Peeples began his search for the missing original, he has located two other lithographic reproductions, which, like the one he first stumbled across, were made by 19th-century Belgian platemaker Louis Haghe. Haghe was considered the premier lithographer of that time.
From these well-preserved lithographs and with the help of scientists from the Xerox Corporation’s Digital Imaging Technology Center in Rochester, New York, the Jerusalem Historical Society has launched an effort to create a reproduction that will match as closely as possible the original luster and colour of the Haghe print.
Thirty Second Sunday of Year (B)
Mark 12: 38-44
In his teaching Jesus said, ‘Beware of the scribes who like to walk about in long robes, to be greeted obsequiously in the market squares, to take the front seats in the synagogues and the places of honour at banquets; these are the men who swallow the property of widows, while making a show of lengthy prayers. The more severe will be the sentence they receive.’
He sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the treasury, and many of the rich put in a great deal. A poor widow came and put in two small coins, the equivalent of a penny. Then he called to his disciples and said to them, ‘I tell you solemnly, this poor widow has put more in than all who have contributed to the treasury; for they have all put in money they had over, but she from the little she had has put in everything she possessed, all she had to live on.’
The Gospel of the Lord.
Mosaic: The Widow’s Mite, resides in the Basilica di Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna, Italy, 6th century.
The Basilica of Sant’ Apollinare Nuovo is a basilica church in Ravenna, Italy. It was erected by Ostrogoth King Theodoric the Great as his palace chapel during the first quarter of the 6th century. This Arian church was originally dedicated in 504 AD to “Christ the Redeemer”.
It was reconsecrated in 561 AD, under the rule of the Byzantine emperor Justinian I, under the new name “Sanctus Martinus in Coelo Aureo” (“Saint Martin in Golden Heaven”). Suppressing the Arian cult, the church was dedicated to Saint Martin of Tours, a foe of Arianism. According to legend, Pope Gregory the Great ordered that the mosaics in the church be blackened, as their golden glory distracted worshipers from their prayers. The basilica was renamed again in 856 AD when relics of Saint Apollinaris were transferred from the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe because of the threat posed by frequent raids of pirates from the Adriatic Sea.
On the upper band of the left lateral wall are 13 small mosaics, depicting Jesus’ miracles and parables; and on the right wall are 13 mosaics depicting the Passion and Resurrection. They describe the parts of the Bible that were read aloud in the church during Lent under the rule of Theodoric the Great. On the left, Jesus is always depicted as young, beardless man, dressed as a Roman Emperor. On the right, Jesus is depicted with a beard. For the Arians, this emphasised that Jesus grew older and became a “man of sorrows”, as spoken of by the prophet Isaiah. These mosaics are separated by decorative mosaic panels depicting a shell-shaped niche with a tapestry, cross, and two doves. These mosaics were executed by at least two artists.
The next row of mosaics are a scheme of haloed saints, prophets and evangelists, sixteen on each side. The figures are executed in a Hellenistic-Roman tradition and show a certain individuality of expression as compared to the other figures in the basilica. Each individual depicted holds a book, in either scroll or codex format, and, like many of the other figures throughout the basilica, each of their robes has a mark or symbol in it. These mosaics alternate with windows. They were executed in the time of Theodoric.
The entrance of the church is preceded by a marble portico built in the 16th century. Next to the church, on the right side of the portico, stands a round bell tower dating from the 9th or 10th century.
When the UNESCO inscribed the church on the World Heritage List, its experts pointed out that “both the exterior and interior of the basilica graphically illustrate the fusion between the western and eastern styles characteristic of the late 5th to early 6th century. This is one of the most important buildings from the period of crucial cultural significance in European religious art”.
Some art historians claim that one of the mosaics contains the first depiction of Satan in western art. In the mosaic, a blue angel appears to the left hand side of Jesus behind three goats (mentioned in St Matthew’s account of Judgement Day).
Thirty First Sunday of Year (B) – Solemnity of All Saints
Matthew 5: 1-12
Seeing the crowds, he went up the hill. There he sat down and was joined by his disciples. Then he began to speak. This is what he taught them:
How happy are the poor in spirit, theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Happy the gentle, they shall have the earth for their heritage.
Happy those who mourn, they shall be comforted.
Happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right, they shall be satisfied.
Happy the merciful, they shall have mercy shown them.
Happy the pure in heart, they shall see God.
Happy the peacemakers, they shall be called sons of God.
Happy those who are persecuted in the cause of right, theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven, this is how they persecuted the prophets before you.
The Gospel of the Lord
Picture: The Forerunners of Christ with Saints and Martyrs, painted 1423-24, egg tempera on wood, 32 x 64cm, by Fra Angelico. It resides in the National Gallery, London. The three rows on the painting represent the various precursors of Christ, male martyrs (with palms) and female saints.
This, along with four other panels showing respectively, ‘Christ Glorified in the Court of Heaven’, ‘The Virgin Mary with the Apostles and Other Saints’, ‘The Dominican Blessed’ and another panel of ‘The Dominican Blessed’, formed thepredella, or lower section, of the high altarpiece of San Domenico at Fiesole, near Florence. This was the church of Fra Angelico’s own Dominican friary. The predella shows the most elaborate depiction of the Court of Heaven in the Collection. Christ stands in the centre surrounded by angels, saints and martyrs.
The church of San Domenico was dedicated in 1435, and Fra Angelico’s picture was probably in place on the high altar by that time. The main panel was modified by Lorenzo di Credi around 1501. This and the painted pilaster are still in the church. Fra Angelico (born Guido di Pietro; 1395 – 1455) was an Early Italian Renaissance painter described as having “a rare and perfect talent”. He was known to contemporaries as Fra Giovanni da Fiesole (Brother John of Fiesole) and Fra Giovanni Angelico (Angelic Brother John). In modern Italian he is called il Beato Angelico (Blessed Angelic One); the common English name Fra Angelico means the “Angelic friar”.
In 1982 Pope John Paul II proclaimed his beatification, in recognition of the holiness of his life, thereby making the title of “Blessed” official. He is listed in the Roman Martyrology as Beatus Ioannes Faesulanus, cognomento Angelicus—”Blessed Giovanni of Fiesole, known as ‘the Angelic’ “.
The earliest recorded document concerning Fra Angelico dates from October 17, 1417 when he joined a religious confraternity at the Carmine Church, still under the name of Guido di Pietro. This record also reveals that he was already a painter, a fact that is subsequently confirmed by two records of payment to Guido di Pietro in January and February 1418 for work done in the church of Santo Stefano del Ponte. The first record of Angelico as a friar dates from 1423, when he is first referred to as Fra Giovanni, following the custom of those entering a religious order of taking a new name. He was a member of the Dominican community at Fiesole. Fra, a contraction of frater (from the Latin), is a conventional title for a friar.
Fra Angelico initially received training as an illuminator. San Marco in Florence holds several manuscripts that are thought to be entirely or partly by his hand. The painter Lorenzo Monaco may have contributed to his art training, and the influence of the Sienese school is discernible in his work. He had several important charges in the convents he lived in, but this did not limit his art, which very soon became famous. The first paintings of this artist were an altarpiece and a painted screen for the Carthusian Monastery of Florence; none such exist there now.
Between 1418 and 1436 he was at the convent of Fiesole where he also executed a number of frescoes for the church, and the Altarpiece, deteriorated but restored. The predella of the Altarpiece remains intact in the National Gallery, London which is a superb example of Fra Angelico’s ability, showing Christ in Glory, surrounded by more than 250 figures, including beatified Dominicans.
Thirtieth Sunday of Year (B)
Mark 10: 46-52
As Jesus left Jericho with his disciples and a large crowd, Bartimaeus (that is, the son of Timaeus), a blind beggar, was sitting at the side of the road. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout and to say, ‘Son of David, Jesus, have pity on me.’ And many of them scolded him and told him to keep quiet, but he only shouted all the louder, ‘Son of David, have pity on me.’ Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him here.’ So they called the blind man. ‘Courage,’ they said, ‘get up; he is calling you.’ So throwing off his cloak, he jumped up and went to Jesus. Then Jesus spoke, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ ‘Rabbuni,’ the blind man said to him, ‘Master, let me see again.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has saved you.’ And immediately his sight returned and he followed him along the road.
The Gospel of the Lord.
Sculpture: “Jesus healing blind Bartimaeus” by Johann Heinrich Stöver, 1861. St John’s Church, Erbach, Rheingau, Hesse, Germany. Johann Heinrich Stöver was a Dutch, 19th century, sculptor, born 1829, in Amsterdam. Stöver lived in Rome from 1852 to 1872. In 1856 he exhibited a group depicting Christ Curing a Blind Man. This exquisite 19th century Italian marble sculpture The gestures is masterfully carved. The work is signed “Stöver Romae 1859” on the reverse. He also has a statue of an “Allegory of Hope” and a “Blessing Jesus Christ” at St John’s Church, Erbach, Rheingau, Hesse, Germany.
Each of the three synoptic gospels tells of Jesus healing the blind near Jericho, as he passed through that town, shortly before his passion. Mark tells only of a man named Bartimaeus (literally “Son of Timaeus”) being present, as Jesus left Jericho, making him one of the few named people to be miraculously cured by Jesus. Matthew 20:29-34 is a similar account of two blind men being healed outside of Jericho, but gives no names. Luke 18:35-43 tells of one unnamed blind man, but seems to place the event instead as when Jesus approached Jericho. The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges asserts a reconciliation of the gospel accounts by observing two Jerichos—Old Jericho and New Jericho—meaning that whether Jesus encountered the blind on the way in to Jericho or the way out of Jericho depends on which Jericho was in the individual writer’s perspective as Jesus went between the Jerichos.
These men together would be the second of two healings of blind men on Jesus’ journey from the start of his travels from Bethsaida (in Mark 8:22-26) to Jerusalem, via Jericho. It is possible, though not certain, that Bartimaeus heard about the first healing, and so knew of Jesus’ reputation.
Vernon K. Robbins emphasises that the healing of blind Bartimaeus in Mark 10:46-52 is the last of Jesus’ healings in Mark and serves a transitional function as it links Jesus’ teaching about the suffering, dying, and rising of the Son of Man in Mark 8-10 with Jesus’ Son of David activity in Jerusalem. Robbins states that the pericope also brings the Markan healing tradition to a climax in a story that blends the Markan emphasis on the disciples’ inability to understand the nature of Jesus’ messiahship (their blindness) with the necessity to follow Jesus into Jerusalem, where he embodies suffering-dying kingship in a form that makes him recognisable to Gentiles as Son of God.
Twenty Ninth Sunday of Year (B)
Mark 10: 35-45
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, approached Jesus. ‘Master,’ they said to him, ‘we want you to do us a favour.’ He said to them, ‘What is it you want me to do for you?’ They said to him, ‘Allow us to sit one at your right hand and the other at your left in your glory.’ ‘You do not know what you are asking’ Jesus said to them. ‘Can you drink the cup that I must drink, or be baptised with the baptism with which I must be baptised?’ They replied, ‘We can.’ Jesus said to them, ‘The cup that I must drink you shall drink, and with the baptism with which I must be baptised you shall be baptised, but as for seats at my right hand or my left, these are not mine to grant; they belong to those to whom they have been allotted.’
When the other ten heard this they began to feel indignant with James and John, so Jesus called them to him and said to them, ‘You know that among the pagans their so-called rulers lord it over them, and their great men make their authority felt. This is not to happen among you. No; anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be slave to all. For the Son of Man himself did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’
The Gospel of the Lord.
Picture: Fresco in the Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi, painted by Pietro Lorenzetti, between 1310-1329. Pietro Lorenzetti was an Italian painter, active between c.1306 and 1345. Together with his younger brother Ambrogio, he introduced naturalism into Sienese art. In their artistry and experiments with three-dimensional and spatial arrangements, the brothers foreshadowed the art of the Renaissance. Many of his religious works may still be seen in churches and museums in the Tuscan towns of Arezzo, Assisi, and Siena.
His masterwork is a fresco decoration of the lower church of Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi, where he painted a series of large scenes depicting the Son of Man. The massed figures in these pieces display emotional interactions, unlike many prior depictions which appear to be iconic agglomerations, as if independent figures had been glued onto a surface, with no compelling relationship to one another. The narrative influence of Giotto’s frescoes in the Bardi and Peruzzi Chapels in Santa Croce (Florence) and the Arena Chapel (Padua) can be seen in these and other works of the lower church. The Lorenzetti brothers and their contemporary competitor from Florence, Giotto, but also his followers Bernardo Daddi and Maso di Banco, seeded the Italian pictorial revolution that extracted figures from the gilded ether of Byzantine iconography into pictorial worlds of towns, land, and air. Sienese iconography, generally more mystical and fantastic than that of the more naturalistic Florentines, sometimes resembles a modern surrealist landscape.
Son of Man came to serve refers to a specific episode in the New Testament. In the Gospel of Matthew 20:20–28 and the Gospel of Mark 10:35–45, Jesus explains that he “came as Son of Man to give his life as ransom”. The ransom paid by the Son of man is an element of a common doctrine of atonement in Christianity. In the Gospel of Mark 10:35–45, this episode takes place shortly after Jesus predicts his death. The identification of Jesus with the Son of Man, in the context of the Book of Daniel (7:13–14), places the death of Jesus and the ransom he pays at a higher level of prominence than other prophets and martyrs, even his contemporary John the Baptist.
Twenty Eighth Sunday of Year (B)
Mark 10: 17-30
Jesus was setting out on a journey when a man ran up, knelt before him and put this question to him, ‘Good master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: You must not kill; You must not commit adultery; You must not steal; You must not bring false witness; You must not defraud; Honour your father and mother.’ And he said to him, ‘Master, I have kept all these from my earliest days.’ Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him, and he said, ‘There is one thing you lack. Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ But his face fell at these words and he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.
Jesus looked round and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!’ The disciples were astounded by these words, but Jesus insisted, ‘My children,’ he said to them, ‘how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’ They were more astonished than ever. ‘In that case’ they said to one another, ‘who can be saved?’ Jesus gazed at them. ‘For men’ he said, ‘it is impossible, but not for God: because everything is possible for God.'<
Peter took this up. ‘What about us?’ he asked him. ‘We have left everything and followed you.’ Jesus said, ‘I tell you solemnly, there is no one who has left house, brothers, sisters, father, children or land for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not be repaid a hundred times over, houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and land – not without persecutions – now in this present time and, in the world to come, eternal life.’
The Gospel of the Lord.
Picture: Christ and the rich young ruler, painted 1889 by Heinrich Hoffmann. The painting was purchased by John D Rockefeller Jr and now resides at the Riverside Church in New York.
This painting illustrates a story from Mark where a wealthy young man approaches Jesus and asks Him what he must do to inherit eternal life. Christ gestures toward an impoverished woman and man and invites the man to sell all he has, give it to the poor, and follow Him. The young man is richly dressed with refined features, testifying of his life of wealth and ease. The contrast between rich and poor, pleasure and misery, spiritual and worldly is paramount in this painting.
However, it is the detail of the sympathetic head of Christ that has captured the imagination of millions of Christian viewers. It has been reproduced perhaps more than any other image of the Saviour. The success of many of Hofmann’s paintings is his ability to offer such empathetic emotion in his figures. Hofmann successfully portrays a mixture of regret and compassion, capturing the great love of the Saviour as He invites the young man to sacrifice personal desires to follow Him.
Heinrich Hofmann (March 19, 1824 – June 23, 1911) was a German painter of the late 19th to early 20th century. He was the uncle of the German painter Ludwig von Hofmann. He was born in Darmstadt and died in Dresden. He is best known for his many paintings depicting the life of Jesus Christ.
Heinrich Hofmann grew up in a family that harboured a deep interest in art. His father, advocate Heinrich Karl Hofmann (1795–1845) painted in watercolors, his mother Sophie Hofmann, née Volhard (1798–1854) gave lessons in art before she married, and his four brothers all showed artistic talent. Heinrich, however, was the only one for whom art was not only a profession but the center of his life.
He travelled to the Netherlands and France to intensify his studies of art. In 1846, Hofmann visited the Academy of Art in Antwerp. After passing a longer period of time in Munich he returned to Darmstadt in 1848, and at that time, he began an intensive phase of painting portraits. The young artist found that the political activities of his family opened many doors to influential persons of the time. This afforded him the opportunity to create two portraits of Heinrich von Gagern and one of Justus von Liebig (this portrait is now in the possession of Queen Elizabeth II). In 1853, Hofmann returned to Darmstadt, and in the beginning of 1854, his beloved mother died. He was deeply moved by her death and it inspired him to paint his first large religious work: Burial of Christ.
In fall of 1854, he started on a journey to Italy. He was deeply impressed by artwork of Antiquity, Christianity and the Renaissance. Not long after his arrival in Rome, he was introduced to Peter von Cornelius and frequently paid him a visit. When he began his masterpiece The Arrest of Jesus in 1854, this work awakened the interest of Cornelius and for 4 years he accompanied Hofmann with his counsel and his constructive criticism. In 1858 the painting was finished and acquired by the Grand Duchy Art Gallery in Darmstadt.
In 1858, Hofmann returned to Darmstadt and in the following year he married Elisabeth Werner. Now another period of painting portraits began. In addition Hofmann created a large altarpiece for the church in Obermörlen (Hesse): “Madonna with Christ Child and apostles Paul and Peter”. Some time later an altarpiece for Væggerløse Church (Denmark) was painted: “The Resurrected Christ”.
In 1862, Hofmann and his wife moved to Dresden. More and more he devoted himself to the genre of religious paintings. In 1870, Heinrich Hofmann was appointed successor of Professor Johann Carl Baehr of the Academy of Art in Dresden whose honourable member he already was. In 1872, King Johann bestowed on him the Great Golden Medal and later he received the Albrecht-Medal from King Albert.
Twenty Seventh Sunday of Year (B)
Mark 10: 2-16
Some Pharisees approached Jesus and asked, ‘Is it against the law for a man to divorce his wife?’ They were testing him. He answered them, ‘What did Moses command you?’ ‘Moses allowed us’ they said ‘to draw up a writ of dismissal and so to divorce.’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘It was because you were so unteachable that he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation God made them male and female. This is why a man must leave father and mother, and the two become one body. They are no longer two, therefore, but one body. So then, what God has united, man must not divide.’ Back in the house the disciples questioned him again about this, and he said to them, ‘The man who divorces his wife and marries another is guilty of adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another she is guilty of adultery too.’
People were bringing little children to him, for him to touch them. The disciples turned them away, but when Jesus saw this he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. I tell you solemnly, anyone who does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ Then he put his arms round them, laid his hands on them and gave them his blessing.
The Gospel of the Lord.
Picture: Jesus Christ with the Children, painted by Carl Heinrich Bloch, 1870. The painting resides in the Frederikborg Palace in Copenhagen, oil on copper.
Carl Heinrich Bloch (May 23, 1834 – February 22, 1890) was a Danish painter. He was born in Copenhagen, Denmark and studied with Wilhelm Marstrand at the Royal Danish Academy of Art there. Bloch’s parents wanted their son to enter a respectable profession – an officer in the Navy. This, however, was not what Carl wanted. His only interest was drawing and painting, and he was consumed by the idea of becoming an artist. He went to Italy to study art, passing through the Netherlands, where he became acquainted with the work of Rembrandt, which became a major influence on him. Carl Bloch met his wife, Alma Trepka, in Rome, where he married her on May 31, 1868. They were happily married until her early death in 1886.
His early work featured rural scenes from everyday life. From 1859 to 1866, Bloch lived in Italy, and this period was important for the development of his historical style. His first great success was the exhibition of his “Prometheus Unbound” in Copenhagen in 1865. After the death of Marstrand, he finished the decoration of the ceremonial hall at the University of Copenhagen.
In a New Year’s letter from 1866 to Bloch, H. C. Andersen wrote the following: “What God has arched on solid rock will not be swept away!” Another letter from Andersen declared “Through your art you add a new step to your Jacob-ladder into immortality.” In a final ode, from a famous author to a famous artist, H.C. Andersen said “Write on the canvas; write your seal on immortality. Then you will become noble here on earth.”
He was then commissioned to produce 23 paintings for the Chapel at Frederiksborg Palace. These were all scenes from the life of Christ which have become very popular as illustrations. The originals, painted between 1865 and 1879, are still at Frederiksborg Palace. The altarpieces can be found at Holbaek, Odense, Ugerloese and Copenhagen in Denmark, as well as Loederup, Hoerup, and Landskrona in Sweden.
Carl Bloch died on February 22, 1890. His death came as “an abrupt blow for Nordic art” according to an article by Sophus Michaelis. Michaelis stated that “Denmark has lost the artist that indisputably was the greatest among the living.” Kyhn stated in his eulogy at Carl Bloch’s funeral that “Bloch stays and lives.” A prominent Danish art critic, Karl Madsen, stated that Carl Bloch reached higher toward the great heaven of art than all other Danish art up to that date.
Twenty Sixth Sunday of Year (B)
Mark 9: 38-43, 45, 47-48
John said to Jesus, ‘Master, we saw a man who is not one of us casting out devils in your name; and because he was not one of us we tried to stop him.’ But Jesus said, ‘You must not stop him: no one who works a miracle in my name is likely to speak evil of me. Anyone who is not against us is for us.
‘If anyone gives you a cup of water to drink just because you belong to Christ, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward.
‘But anyone who is an obstacle to bring down one of these little ones who have faith, would be better thrown into the sea with a great millstone round his neck. And if your hand should cause you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life crippled, than to have two hands and go to hell, into the fire that cannot be put out. And if your foot should cause you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life lame, than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye should cause you to sin, tear it out; it is better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell where their worm does not die nor their fire go out.’
The Gospel of the Lord.
Picture: St Mark the Evangelist, painted by Andrea Mantegna (1431-1506) in 1450. Tempera on Canvas, 82x64cm, currently residing in the Städel, an art museum in Frankfurt am Main, with one of the most important collections in Germany.
Andrea Mantegna was an Italian painter, and a student of Roman archeology. Like other artists of the time, Mantegna experimented with perspective, e.g., by lowering the horizon in order to create a sense of greater monumentality. His flinty, metallic landscapes and somewhat stony figures give evidence of a fundamentally sculptural approach to painting. He also led a workshop that was the leading producer of prints in Venice before 1500.
His first work, now lost, was an altarpiece for the church of Santa Sofia in 1448. The same year Mantegna was called, together with Nicolò Pizolo, to work with a large group of painters entrusted with the decoration of the Ovetari Chapel in the transept of the church of the Eremitani. It is probable, however, that before this time some of the pupils of Squarcione, including Mantegna, had already begun the series of frescoes in the chapel of S. Cristoforo, in the church of Sant’Agostino degli Eremitani, today considered his masterpiece. After a series of coincidences, Mantegna finished most of the work alone, though Ansuino, who collaborated with Mantegna in the Ovetari Chapel, brought his style in the Forlì school of painting. The now censorious Squarcione carped about the earlier works of this series, illustrating the life of St James; he said the figures were like men of stone, and had better have been coloured stone-colour at once.
The sketch of the St. Stephen fresco survived and is the earliest known preliminary sketch which still exists to compare to the corresponding fresco. In the preliminary sketch, the perspective is less developed and closer to a more average viewpoint however. Despite the authentic look of the monument, it is not a copy of any known Roman structure. Mantegna also adopted the wet drapery patterns of the Romans, who derived the form from the Greek invention, for the clothing of his figures, although the tense figures and interactions are derived from Donatello.
Among the other early Mantegna frescoes are the two saints over the entrance porch of the church of Sant’Antonio in Padua, 1452, and an altarpiece of San Luca Altarpiece from 1453, with St. Luke and other saints for the church of S. Giustina, now in the Brera Gallery in Milan (1453). As the young artist progressed in his work, he came under the influence of Jacopo Bellini, father of the celebrated painters Giovanni Bellini and Gentile Bellini, and of a daughter Nicolosia. In 1453 Jacopo consented to a marriage between Nicolosia and Mantegna.
Twenty Fifth Sunday of Year (B)
Mark 9: 30-37
After leaving the mountain Jesus and his disciples made their way through Galilee; and he did not want anyone to know, because he was instructing his disciples; he was telling them, ‘The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men; they will put him to death; and three days after he has been put to death he will rise again.’ But they did not understand what he said and were afraid to ask him.
They came to Capernaum, and when he was in the house he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the road?’ They said nothing because they had been arguing which of them was the greatest. So he sat down, called the Twelve to him and said, ‘If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all.’ He then took a little child, set him in front of them, put his arms round him, and said to them, ‘Anyone who welcomes one of these little children in my name, welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’
The Gospel of the Lord.
Picture: Christ as the Saviour of the World by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519). Painted 1499, oil on walnut. 66 x 46cm, in a private collection.
In late 2011, we heard the unexpected news that researchers had identified a long lost Leonardo painting entitled Salvator Mundi (“Saviour of the World”). Previously, this panel was thought to exist only as copies and one detailed, 1650 etching by Wenceslaus Hollar (Bohemian, 1607-1677). The last painting by Leonardo to be authenticated was the Hermitage’s Benois Madonna in 1909.
When the present owners bought it, it was in dreadful shape. The panel on which it is painted had split and someone, at some point, attempted to put it back together with stucco. The panel had also been subjected unsuccessfully to a forced flattening, and then glued to another backing. The worst offenses were crude areas of overpainting, in an attempt to hide the botched panel repair. And then there was the dirt and grime, centuries old. It would have taken a huge, nearly delusional leap of imagination to see a Leonardo lurking underneath the mess, yet that is exactly how the painting’s story concluded.
According to the many Leonardo experts who examined Salvator Mundi during various stages of cleaning, several tangible characteristics stood out immediately:
The ringlets of hair
The knot-work crossing the stole
The right fingers raised to offer a blessing
The fingers were especially significant because, as an expert put it, “All the versions of the ‘Salvator Mundi’, drawings of the drapery and lots of copies, all of them have rather tubular fingers. What Leonardo had done, and the copyists and imitators didn’t pick up, was to get just how the knuckle sort of sits underneath the skin.” In other words, the artist was so well-versed in anatomy that he had studied it, most probably via dissection.
To prove that Salvator Mundi is a long lost Leonardo, researchers had to uncover facts. The provenance of the painting, including some lengthy gaps, was pieced together from its time in the collection of Charles II until 1763 (when it was sold at auction), and then from 1900 to the present day. It was compared to two preparatory drawings, housed in the Royal Library at Windsor, that Leonardo made for it. It was also compared to some 20 known copies and found to be superior to all of them. The most compelling evidence was uncovered during the cleaning process, when several pentimenti (alterations by the artist) became apparent, one visible, and the others through infrared imagery. Additionally, the pigments and the walnut panel itself are consistent with other Leonardo paintings.
It should also be noted that the way the new owners went about seeking evidence and a consensus earned them the respect of Leonardo experts. Salvator Mundi was given the special treatment by those who cleaned and restored it, even though the owners weren’t certain what they had. And when the time came to begin researching and reaching out to experts, it was done quietly and methodically. The entire process took nearly seven years.
Leonardo naturally had to deviate just a bit from the traditional formula for a Salvator Mundi painting. For example, note the orb resting in Christ’s left palm. In Roman Catholic iconography, this orb was painted as brass or gold, may have had vague landforms mapped on it, and was topped by a crucifix, hence its Latin name globus cruciger. We know that Leonardo was a Roman Catholic, as were all of his patrons. However, he eschews the globus cruciger for what appears to be a sphere of rock crystal. Lacking any word from Leonardo, we can only theorise. He was constantly trying to tie the natural and spiritual worlds together, and in fact made quite a few drawings of Platonic Solids for Pacioli’s De Divina Proportione. We know, too, that he studied the as-yet-to-be-named science of optics whenever the mood struck him.
Look at the heel of that left hand. It is distorted to the point that Christ appears to have a double-wide heel. This is no mistake, it is the normal distortion one would see through glass or crystal. Or maybe Leonardo was just showing off; he was something of an expert on rock crystal. Whatever his reason, no one had ever painted “the world” over which Christ had dominion like this before.
Twenty Fourth Sunday of Year (B)
Mark 8: 27-35
Jesus and his disciples left for the villages round Caesarea Philippi. On the way he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say I am?’ And they told him. ‘John the Baptist,’ they said, ‘others Elijah; others again, one of the prophets.’ ‘But you,’ he asked, ‘who do you say I am?’ Peter spoke up and said to him, ‘You are the Christ.’ And he gave them strict orders not to tell anyone about him.
And he began to teach them that the Son of Man was destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and to be put to death, and after three days to rise again; and he said all this quite openly. Then, taking him aside, Peter started to remonstrate with him. But, turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said to him, ‘Get behind me, Satan! Because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.’
He called the people and his disciples to him and said, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.’
The Gospel of the Lord.
Picture: Saint Peter painted by Dirck van Baburen, in 1617. The painting is oil on canvas, 165x137cm, and is in a private collection in Switzerland.
This work was a pendant with another canvas (destroyed), depicting Saint Paul, the pair being patron saints of Rome. The two works are noted in the 8 March 1624 inventory of Gianfrancesco Cussida (Archivio Capitolino, Rome), son of Pietro Cussida, a member of the Aragon family from Zaragoza, and Roman diplomat in the service of Phillip III of Spain. The pair of paintings were said to have been in the Rospigliosi collection (Sotheby’s, 2007). Erich Schleier dated the picture to circa 1617, comparing the figure with that of the same saint in the Christ Washing the Feet of the Apostles in the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin.
Dirck van Baburen (c. 1595 – 21 February 1624) was a Dutch painter associated with the Utrecht Caravaggisti. He was born in Wijk bij Duurstede, but his family moved to Utrecht when he was still young.
Dirck van Baburen’s career was short, and only a few of his paintings are known today. He mostly painted religious subjects in Rome, including the San Pietro in Montorio Entombment that is indebted to Caravaggio’s version of the same subject in the Vatican Museums. Baburen also painted a Capture of Christ (Borghese Gallery) for Scipione Borghese and Christ Washing the Feet of the Apostles (Gemäldegalerie, Berlin) for Vincenzo Giustiniani.
The Utrecht works made between 1621 as 1624, the final years of Baburen’s career, merged the visual characteristics learnt from Caravaggio and Manfredi into genre, mythological and history painting. Prometheus Being Chained by Vulcan (Rijksmuseum,Amsterdam), for example, adapts Caravaggio’s upside-down figure of St. Paul from the Conversion of St. Paul (Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome) for the position of the fallen Prometheus, who was punished for stealing fire from the gods and giving it to mortals.
He was among the first artists to popularise genre subjects such as musicians and cardplayers. One of his best-known works is The Procuress (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston). It depicts a man offering a coin for the services of a lute-player while an old woman, the lady’s procuress, inspects his money. This painting (or a copy) was owned by Johannes Vermeer’s mother-in-law and appears in two of that artist’s works, The Concert (stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston) and Woman Seated at a Virginal (National Gallery, London).
Twenty Third Sunday of Year (B)
Mark 7: 31-37
Returning from the district of Tyre, Jesus went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, right through the Decapolis region. And they brought him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they asked him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, put his fingers into the man’s ears and touched his tongue with spittle.
Then looking up to heaven he sighed; and he said to him, ‘Ephphatha’, that is, ‘Be opened.’ And his ears were opened, and the ligament of his tongue was loosened and he spoke clearly. And Jesus ordered them to tell no one about it, but the more he insisted, the more widely they published it. Their admiration was unbounded. ‘He has done all things well,’ they said, ‘he makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.’
The Gospel of the Lord.
Picture: Jesus healing a deaf mute, painted by Bartholomeus Breenbergh, 1635. Medium is oil on panel, 90 x 122cm and resides in the Louvre Museum, Paris.
Bartholomeus Breenbergh (1598 – after 1657) was a Dutch Golden Age painter of Italian and Italianate landscapes, in Rome (1619-1630) and Amsterdam (1630-1657).
Breenbergh is first registered as a painter on an archival record in 1619 in Amsterdam, though he possibly was established there earlier. In the same year he left for Rome. There he lived and worked with the Flemish painter Frans van de Kasteele and was heavily influenced by another Fleming resident, the landscape painter Paul Bril. From 1623, however, he came under the spell of Italian landscapes by the somewhat older Cornelis van Poelenburgh — indeed, the works of Breenbergh and van Poelenburgh are sometimes difficult to tell apart. He was also influenced by Nicolaes Moeyaert. Breenbergh in his turn influenced the French landscape-painter Claude Lorrain (who arrived in the city about 1620). In 1620, Breenbergh became one of the founders of the Roman society of Dutch and Flemish painters, the Bentvueghels, among whom he was nicknamed “het fret” (the ferret). In 1630 Breenbergh returned to Amsterdam. In 1633 he married, and received a yearly wage of 60 pounds from the court of King Charles I of Britain. He remained in Amsterdam until his death, where he made popular paintings and etchings of Italian buildings. There he was influenced by the pre-Rembrandtists such as Pieter Lastman and Nicolaes Moeyaert, but he placed their Biblical and mythological scenes in Italian landscapes.
Twenty Second Sunday of Year (B)
Mark 7: 1-8, 14-15, 21-23
The Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered round Jesus, and they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with unclean hands, that is, without washing them. For the Pharisees, and the Jews in general, follow the tradition of the elders and never eat without washing their arms as far as the elbow; and on returning from the market place they never eat without first sprinkling themselves. There are also many other observances which have been handed down to them concerning the washing of cups and pots and bronze dishes. So these Pharisees and scribes asked him, ‘Why do your disciples not respect the tradition of the elders but eat their food with unclean hands?’ He answered, ‘It was of you hypocrites that Isaiah so rightly prophesied in this passage of scripture:
This people honours me only with lip-service, while their hearts are far from me. The worship they offer me is worthless, the doctrines they teach are only human regulations.
You put aside the commandment of God to cling to human traditions.’
He called the people to him again and said, ‘Listen to me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that goes into a man from outside can make him unclean; it is the things that come out of a man that make him unclean. For it is from within, from men’s hearts, that evil intentions emerge: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within and make a man unclean.’
The Gospel of the Lord.
Picture: Jesus with the Scribes and Pharisees, painted by James Tissot, between 1886 & 1894, opaque watercolour over graphite on gray wove paper, dimensions 17 x 27cm.
The Discourse on Defilement is an episode in the life of Jesus in the New Testament. It appears in the Gospel of Matthew 15:1–20 and the Gospel of Mark 7:1–23. In the Gospel of Matthew, the Pharisees complain to Jesus that his disciples break the tradition of the elders because they do not wash their hands before eating. And Jesus responds: “Listen and understand. What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean,’ but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean.'”. The Gospel of Mark above has a similar episode in which Jesus explains how a man is defiled by evil that comes out of him: “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’”
James Tissot, 15 October 1836 – 8 August 1902 was a French painter and illustrator. In 1885, Tissot had a revival of his Catholic faith, which led him to spend the rest of his life making paintings about Biblical events. At a time when French artists were working in impressionism and heavy oil washes, Tissot was moving toward realism in his watercolours. His series of 365 gouache illustrations showing the life of Christ were shown to critical acclaim and enthusiastic audiences in Paris (1894–5), London (1896) and New York (1898–9), before being bought by the Brooklyn Museum in 1900, where they reside today.
Twenty First Sunday of Year (B)
John 6: 60-69
After hearing his doctrine many of the followers of Jesus said, ‘This is intolerable language. How could anyone accept it?’ Jesus was aware that his followers were complaining about it and said, ‘Does this upset you? What if you should see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh has nothing to offer. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. But there are some of you who do not believe.’
For Jesus knew from the outset those who did not believe, and who it was that would betray him. He went on, ‘This is why I told you that no one could come to me unless the Father allows him.’ After this, many of his disciples left him and stopped going with him.
Then Jesus said to the Twelve, ‘What about you, do you want to go away too?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘Lord, who shall we go to? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we know that you are the Holy One of God.’
The Gospel of the Lord.
Picture: Saint Peter – as Pope shown with pallium and the keys to heaven. Painted by Peter Paul Rubens in 1612, oil on panel, 107 x 82cm, resides in the Museum del Prado, Madrid.
Rubens made a series of portraits of the apostles, in commission of the Duke of Lerma, all of which are in the Museum del Prado, Madrid. The disciples of Christ are represented in the style the painter used around 1612-1613. These are large figures of forceful appearance and considerable plasticity, contrasting with the dark backgrounds. The use of these human types and the intensely directed light are the result of the painter’s trip to Italy, where he was influenced by the art of Michelangelo.
The saints are depicted with their most representative attributes in order to facilitate their identification. Those attributes are drawn from a variety of iconographic and literary traditions, which has sometimes led to confusion about their identities. Saint Peter, with the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, begins the series. He is followed by Saint John, with the goblet with which he was intended to be poisoned, and Saint James, with a pilgrim’s hat and staff, in keeping with Medieval tradition. Saint Andrew and Saint Philip carry their respective martyr’s crosses, the first of which is x-shaped. Saint James the Minor, who was a fuller, holds the tool with which he was killed, and Saint Bartholomew carries the knife with which he was flayed. In that same sense, Saints Mathias, Thomas and Matthew carry diverse weapons alluding to their respective suffering. The series is completed with the representations of Saint Simon and Saint Paul, who carries the sword and Holy Scriptures, symbolising his battle for the Faith and his work spreading the Gospel.
This series was lost during the early seventeenth century, but reappeared in 1746 as part of the collection of Queen Isabel Farnesio at the La Granja Palace.
Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary – Twentieth Sunday of Year (B)
Luke 1: 39-56
Mary set out and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah. She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She gave a loud cry and said, ‘Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.’
And Mary said: ‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit exults in God my saviour; because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid. Yes, from this day forward all generations will call me blessed, for the Almighty has done great things for me. Holy is his name, and his mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear him. He has shown the power of his arm, he has routed the proud of heart. He has pulled down princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things, the rich sent empty away. He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his mercy – according to the promise he made to our ancestors – of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’
Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back home.
The Gospel of the Lord.
Picture: Assumption of the Virgin Mary was created by Peter Paul Rubens, 490 x 320cm, oil on wood. It was completed in 1626 as an altarpiece for the high altar of the Cathedral of Our Lady, Antwerp, where it remains today.
In the foreground of the picture, we see the apostles, some of whom are opening Mary’s tomb and lifting off the heavy stone that covers it; others are following Our Lady with their eyes with reverential admiration and profound astonishment. Mary is mounting to heaven, surrounded by a troop of angels. At the bottom is the marble tomb, academic in form; next to it kneel two apostles, one bowed over the tomb and putting his head into it to examine it to the bottom, the other with eyes and arms raised to heaven; a third standing up leans forward to convince himself of the reality of the prodigy. Behind the tomb are two apostles, one of whom is lifting off the stone while the other bends his eyes to heaven. Beside them is a woman, also helping to lift off the stone and looking into the aperture. On the left two women on their knees are inspecting with astonishment the flowers and the shroud they have discovered in the tomb. At the top of the picture we see the Virgin ascending into the clouds, with arms extended and eyes turned to heaven; she seems to rise of her own accord rather than by any external force. Around her sport little angels, triumphant and joyful; some bear the train of their queen, others the clouds on which she rests.
It is a very remarkable work, both for its happy composition and its clear interpretation of the subject. On the earth, all is life and movement; the emotions and attitudes of the apostles differ in every case. One and all, they are robust men, who stand out strongly against the pale blue background; their full-toned draperies, arranged in large masses, fall in straight and solid folds. The women are pleasanter in form and painted in more luminous tones. The further we mount into the upper regions, the more delicate become the forms, the fainter the colours, and the more immaterial the figures and draperies. The angels forming the lowest rank of the troop which surrounds Mary are still firm in flesh and outline, and the clouds in which they hover are heavy; higher up, the clouds become less dense and the flesh but shadow, and the winged children are transformed into celestial spirits. By her attitude and expression, Mary is detached from the earth and already belongs to a higher world. Celestial glory radiates around her and she ascends in a supernatural light that falls from the summit of the empyrean.
Nineteenth Sunday of Year (B)
John 6: 41-51
The Jews were complaining to each other about Jesus, because he had said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’ ‘Surely this is Jesus son of Joseph’ they said. ‘We know his father and mother. How can he now say, “I have come down from heaven”?’ Jesus said in reply, ‘Stop complaining to each other.
‘No one can come to me unless he is drawn by the Father who sent me, and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets: They will all be taught by God, and to hear the teaching of the Father, and learn from it, is to come to me. Not that anybody has seen the Father, except the one who comes from God: he has seen the Father.
I tell you most solemnly, everybody who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the desert and they are dead; but this is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that a man may eat it and not die. I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.’
The Gospel of the Lord.
Picture: Christ with the Eucharist, Vicente Juan Masip, painted in 1575, 101 × 63 cm. The painting now resides in the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest. Vicente Juan Masip (also known as Joan de Joanes was a Spanish painter of the Renaissance period. He was one of the main members, and was considered the premier painter of the Valencian school of painters.
His father was Vicente Masip (1475 – 1545), and his son was Vicente Masip Comes (1555-1623), known as Vicent de Joanes, who imitated his style. His two daughters, Dorotea and Margarita, were also painters. His most prominent pupil was Nicolas Borras.
Born in La Font de la Figuera, he is said to have studied his art for some time in Italy due to Sebastiano del Piombo’s influence, with which school his affinities are closest, and he received this influence by the Italian peintures arriving to Valencia. The greater part of his professional life was spent in the city of Valencia, where most of the extant examples of his work are now found. All relate to religious subjects, and are characterised by dignity of conception, accuracy of drawing, beauty of colour, and minuteness of finish. Since his name Macip made him sound like a labourer (macero), he adopted the name of Joan de Joanes, and the heraldry of that family of nobility. He painted a Raphaelesque Holy Family for the sacristy in the Cathedral of Valencia.
He never painted a profane subject, and emulated Luis de Vargas and Fra Angelico, in never painting unless he had received Holy Communion. Painting for him was a solemn exercise, an oratory process, full of prayers and fasts. He never lacked church patronage; the archbishop of Valencia, St. Thomas of Villanova, ordered a set of cartoon panels about the Life of the Virgin to model for some tapestries.
He also painted for the churches of the Jesuits, Dominicans, Minims, Augustinians, Franciscans, and for the churches of San Nicolás, Santa Cruz, Carmen Calzado, St Esteban, Corona, Temple, San Andrés, San Bartolomé and San Miguel de los Reyes.
Eighteenth Sunday of Year (B)
John 6: 24-35
When the people saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into boats and crossed to Capernaum to look for Jesus. When they found him on the other side, they said to him, ‘Rabbi, when did you come here?’ Jesus answered:
‘I tell you most solemnly, you are not looking for me because you have seen the signs but because you had all the bread you wanted to eat. Do not work for food that cannot last, but work for food that endures to eternal life, the kind of food the Son of Man is offering you, for on him the Father, God himself, has set his seal.’
Then they said to him, ‘What must we do if we are to do the works that God wants?’ Jesus gave them this answer, ‘This is working for God: you must believe in the one he has sent.’ So they said, ‘What sign will you give to show us that we should believe in you? What work will you do? Our fathers had manna to eat in the desert; as scripture says: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’
‘I tell you most solemnly, it was not Moses who gave you bread from heaven, it is my Father who gives you the bread from heaven, the true bread; for the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’
‘Sir,’ they said ‘give us that bread always.’ Jesus answered:
‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never be hungry; he who believes in me will never thirst.’
The Gospel of the Lord.
Picture: Early third century fresco depiction of Eucharistic bread and fish, in the Catacombs of St Callixtus, Rome. The catacombs of St. Callixtus are among the greatest and most important of Rome. They originated approx the middle of the second century and are part of a cemeterial complex which occupies an area of 90 acres, with a network of galleries about 12 miles long, in four levels, more than twenty meters deep. In it were buried tens of Martyrs, 16 Popes and very many Christians. They are named after the deacon Callixtus who, at the beginning of the third century, was appointed by Pope Zephyrinus as the administrator of the cemetery and so the catacombs of St. Callixtus became the official cemetery of the Church of Rome.
The underground cemetery includes several areas. The area of the Popes is the most important and venerated crypt of the cemetery, called “the little Vatican” as it was the official burial place of nine popes and, probably, of eight dignitaries of Rome’s 3rd century Church. In the walls you can still see the original inscriptions, in Greek, of five Popes. On four tombstones, near the name of the pope, there is the title of “bishop”, since the Pope was regarded as the head of the Church of Rome, and on two of them there is the Greek abbreviation of MPT for “Martyr”.
The Catacombs has the Crypt of St. Cecilia: the popular patron Saint of Music. Of a noble Roman family, she was martyred in the 3rd c. and entombed where the statue now lies. She was venerated in this crypt for at least five centuries. In 821 her relics were transferred to Trastevere, in the basilica dedicated to her. The statue of St. Cecilia is a copy of the celebrated work sculptured by Stefano Maderno in 1599. The crypt was all covered with mosaics and paintings (beginning of the 9th Century). On the wall, near the statue, we see an ancient painting of St. Cecilia in an attitude of prayer; lower down, in a small niche, is a fresco representing Christ holding a Gospel. On the right side is the figure of St.Urban. On the wall of the shaft is the painting of three martyrs: Polycamus, Sebastian and Quirinus.
Passing through imposing galleries full of loculi, there are five small chambers, truly family tombs, commonly known as the cubicles of the Sacraments, and particularly important for their frescoes. The frescoes can be dated to the beginning of the 3rd century and represent symbolically the sacraments of Baptism and of the Eucharist, including the bread of life as in the picture above.
Seventeenth Sunday of Year (B)
John 6: 1-15
Jesus went off to the other side of the Sea of Galilee – or of Tiberias – and a large crowd followed him, impressed by the signs he gave by curing the sick. Jesus climbed the hillside, and sat down there with his disciples. It was shortly before the Jewish feast of Passover.
Looking up, Jesus saw the crowds approaching and said to Philip, ‘Where can we buy some bread for these people to eat?’ He only said this to test Philip; he himself knew exactly what he was going to do. Philip answered, ‘Two hundred denarii would only buy enough to give them a small piece each.’ One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said, ‘There is a small boy here with five barley loaves and two fish; but what is that between so many?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Make the people sit down.’ There was plenty of grass there, and as many as five thousand men sat down.
Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and gave them out to all who were sitting ready; he then did the same with the fish, giving out as much as was wanted. When they had eaten enough he said to the disciples, ‘Pick up the pieces left over, so that nothing gets wasted.’ So they picked them up, and filled twelve hampers with scraps left over from the meal of five barley loaves. The people, seeing this sign that he had given, said, ‘This really is the prophet who is to come into the world.’ Jesus, who could see they were about to come and take him by force and make him king, escaped back to the hills by himself.
The Gospel of the Lord.
Picture: The Miracle of the loaves and fishes, painted in 1624 by Giovanni Lanfranco. The painting is oil on canvas, size 144 x 221cm and resides in the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin.
Giovanni Lanfranco was born in Terenzo, close to Parma in Italy, in 1582. This was a period when Italian art was less famous than their counterparts in the Netherlands, France and Spain. Yet from all over the European world painters came to Rome to study antique examples and the Baroque style. The Italian painters of that century worked in various towns and more than before travelled in their country, going to where their fame called them. Lanfranco worked with the Carraccis of Bologna in Rome. Lanfranco painted many religious decorations for churches and palaces in Rome. The ‘Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes’ was commissioned for the Blessed Sacrament chapel in the Basilica of Saint Paul Fuori le Mura, outside Rome. Lanfranco made eight canvases for this chapel on the theme of the Eucharist. The scene of the miracle is seen in perspective from below, so the painting was intended to hang high.
Lanfranco continued the Roman style in which volume was all-important as created by the play of light and shadows. But line and form inherited from the Florentines were still important for him and suited the story that had to be told to the churchgoers. Thus, his figures are clearly delineated as can be seen in the figure of Jesus. The wonderfully bright Jesus stands out against the darker tones of the people who have come to hear the Messiah. Jesus shows the loaves to the people, reassuring them. He towers above all and the view of the devoted faithful in the chapel must have fallen immediately on him. Look at all the detail in which the figures are drawn. All are in a different pose with sometimes theatrical movements of hands and heads. The gestures remain believable however. It is always a tour-de-force in such anecdotal pictures to have the figures move, point, show surprise and agitation, yet keep the gestures natural without too much sentimentality, and to keep them still credible. Lanfranco succeeded in this feat.
Giovanni Lanfranco respected his commissioners. Lanfranco did probably not need to deliver such a lively scene with so many precise details, but he did. There is even a scene within a scene. For an apostle is handing out the fish and the bread to the poor on the right. The miracle happened after the Sermon on the Mount, and Lanfranco referred somewhat to this preaching for he set the right scene on the flank of a hill. This then gave the painter an occasion to add a beautiful landscape of trees.
Lanfranco was a master in creating space. The figures on the left are near the viewer. The scene on the right is more far off. So, the figures on the right are smaller. In this seemingly easy picture, made by a painter who is not that well known, we find a masterpiece of narration, of colour and of space, which fits perfectly the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes.
Sixteenth Sunday of Year (B)
Mark 6: 30-34
The apostles rejoined Jesus and told him all they had done and taught. Then he said to them, ‘You must come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while’; for there were so many coming and going that the apostles had no time even to eat. So they went off in a boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves. But people saw them going, and many could guess where; and from every town they all hurried to the place on foot and reached it before them. So as he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he set himself to teach them at some length.
The Gospel of the Lord.
Picture: Jesus teaches the people by the sea, painted by James Tissot, 1890, resides in the Brooklyn Musuem, New York. Opaque watercolours over graphite on gray wove paper, 17 x 24cm.
Jacques Joseph Tissot (15 October 1836 – 8 August 1902), anglicised as James Tissot, was a French painter and illustrator. He was a successful painter of Paris society before moving to London in 1871. Paintings by Tissot appealed greatly to wealthy British industrialists during the second half of the 19th-century. During 1872 he earned 94,515 francs, an income normally only enjoyed by those in the echeleons of the upper classes.
In 1885, Tissot had a revival of his Catholic faith, which led him to spend the rest of his life making paintings about Biblical events. Many of his artist friends were skeptical about his conversion, as it conveniently coincided with the French Catholic revival, a reaction against the secular attitude of the French Third Republic. At a time when French artists were working in impressionism, pointilism, and heavy oil washes, Tissot was moving toward realism in his watercolors. To assist in his completion of biblical illustrations, Tissot traveled to the Middle East in 1886, 1889, and 1896 to make studies of the landscape and people. His series of 365 gouache (opaque watercolor) illustrations showing the life of Christ were shown to critical acclaim and enthusiastic audiences in Paris (1894–5), London (1896) and New York (1898–9), before being bought by the Brooklyn Museum in 1900. During July 1894, Tissot was awarded the Légion d’honneur, France’s most prestigious medal. Tissot spent the last years of his life working on paintings of subjects from the Old Testament. Although he never completed the series, he exhibited 80 of these paintings in Paris in 1901 and engravings after them were published in 1904.
Fifteenth Sunday of Year (B)
Mark 6: 7-13
Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out in pairs giving them authority over the unclean spirits. And he instructed them to take nothing for the journey except a staff – no bread, no haversack, no coppers for their purses. They were to wear sandals but, he added, ‘Do not take a spare tunic.’ And he said to them, ‘If you enter a house anywhere, stay there until you leave the district. And if any place does not welcome you and people refuse to listen to you, as you walk away shake off the dust from under your feet as a sign to them.’ So they set off to preach repentance; and they cast out many devils, and anointed many sick people with oil and cured them.
The Gospel of the Lord.
Picture: Jesus and his twelve apostles, fresco, Catacombs of Domitilla, Rome. The Catacombs of Rome are ancient catacombs, underground burial places under Rome, Italy, of which there are at least forty, some discovered only in recent decades. Though most famous for Christian burials, either in separate catacombs or mixed together, people of all the Roman religions are buried in them, beginning in the 2nd century AD, mainly as a response to overcrowding and shortage of land.
The Christian catacombs are extremely important for the art history of early Christian art, as they contain the great majority of examples from before about 400 AD, in fresco and sculpture, as well as gold glass medallions.
Close to the Catacombs of San Callisto are the large and impressive Catacombs of Domitilla (named after St Domitilla), spread over 15 kilometres of underground caves. The Domitilla Catacombs are unique in that they are the oldest of Rome’s underground burial networks, and the only ones to still contain bones. They are also the best preserved and one of the most extensive of all the catacombs. Included in their passages is the above 2nd-century fresco of Jesus and his twelve apostles, one of the Last Supper and other valuable artifacts.
They are the only catacombs that have a subterranean basilica; entrance to the catacombs is achieved through this sunken 4th-century church, at via delle Sette Chiese 280. In the past, the basilica had become unsafe, and was abandoned in the 9th century. It was rediscovered in 1593, and much of it was reconstructed in 1870. At the beginning of 2009, at the request of the Vatican, the Divine Word Missionaries, a Roman Catholic Society of priests and Brothers, assumed responsibility as administrator of St. Domitilla Catacombs.
Fourteenth Sunday of Year (B)
Mark 6: 1-6
Jesus went to his home town and his disciples accompanied him. With the coming of the Sabbath he began teaching in the synagogue and most of them were astonished when they heard him. They said, ‘Where did the man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been granted him, and these miracles that are worked through him? This is the carpenter, surely, the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joset and Jude and Simon? His sisters, too, are they not here with us?’ And they would not accept him. And Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is only despised in his own country, among his own relations and in his own house’; and he could work no miracle there, though he cured a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.
The Gospel of the Lord.
Sculpture: Donatello’s Saint Mark (1411–1413) is a marble statue that stands approximately seven feet nine inches in an exterior niche of the Orsanmichele church, Florence. Donatello was commissioned by the linen weavers’ guild to complete three pieces for the project. St. Mark was the first of his contributions. The niche itself was not of Donatello’s hand, but created by two stone carvers named Perfetto di Giovanni and Albizzo di Pietro.
Donatello’s sculpture is notable for its detailed realism, evidence of the artist’s skills. Even the veins of St. Mark’s left hand are visible as he holds a text upon his hip. The natural pose, is used with Donatello’s St. Mark. The saint has more weight on his left leg, his left knee is bent, and his torso is slightly twisted. The style is much more naturalistic than the symmetry and unrealistic nature of art from the Dark Ages. Also Donatello’s sculpture differs from medieval works in the way that drapery is used, specifically in that St. Mark’s figure is revealed by a realistic draping of linen.
According to Vasari‘s text ‘The Lives of the Artists’, written 140 years after the completion of St. Mark, the linen workers’ guild rejected the sculpture because it appeared unnatural when set at street level. This was due to proportion adjustments made for its final resting place in the niche, well above street level. The head and torso were made larger as they would be further away from the viewer. Donatello promised to make adjustments, so he covered the statue with a cloth, set the statue in the niche above the street, and without touching the statue for fifteen days, once again revealed it to the guild. With its location above the viewer, the proportions looked perfect and the linen weaver’s guild accepted the statue.
Thirteenth Sunday of Year (B) – Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul
Matthew 16: 13-19
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ Then Simon Peter spoke up, ‘You are the Christ,’ he said ‘the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.’
The Gospel of the Lord.
Picture: Christ Handing the Keys to St. Peter by Pietro Perugino (1481-82), fresco, 335 x 550 cm, Cappella Sistina, Vatican. Pietro Perugino (1446–1523), born Pietro Vannucci, was an Italian Renaissance painter of the Umbrian school, who developed some of the qualities that found classic expression in the High enaissance. Raphael was his most famous pupil.
In about 1480, he was called to Rome by Sixtus IV to paint fresco panels for the Sistine Chapel walls. The frescoes he executed there included Moses and Zipporah (often attributed to Luca Signorelli), the Baptism of Christ, and Delivery of the Keys. The Sistine frescoes were the major high Renaissance commission in Rome. The altar wall was also painted with the Assumption, the Nativity, and Moses in the Bulrushes. These works were later destroyed to make a space for Michelangelo‘s Last Judgement,
After the completion of the Sistine Chapel work in 1486 Perugino, then aged forty, left Rome and by autumn was in Florence. Towards 1506 Pope Julius II had summoned Perugino to paint the Stanza of the Incendio del Borgo in the Vatican City; but he soon preferred a younger competitor, Raphael, who had been trained by Perugino; and Vannucci, after painting the ceiling with figures of God the Father in different glories, in five medallion-subjects, retired from Rome to Perugia from 1512.
Perugino’s last frescoes were painted for the church of the Madonna delle Lacrime in Trevi (1521, signed and dated), the monastery of Sant’Agnese in Perugia, and in 1522 for the church of Castello di Fortignano.
Twelfth Sunday of Year (B)
Mark 4: 35-41
With the coming of evening, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Let us cross over to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd behind they took him, just as he was, in the boat; and there were other boats with him. Then it began to blow a gale and the waves were breaking into the boat so that it was almost swamped. But he was in the stern, his head on the cushion, asleep. They woke him and said to him, ‘Master, do you not care? We are going down!’ And he woke up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Quiet now! Be calm!’ And the wind dropped, and all was calm again. Then he said to them, ‘Why are you so frightened? How is it that you have no faith?’ They were filled with awe and said to one another, ‘Who can this be? Even the wind and the sea obey him.’
The Gospel of the Lord.
Picture: The Storm on the Sea of Galilee is a painting from 1633 by the Dutch Golden Age painter Rembrandt van Rijn, oil on canvas, 160 x 127cm. It was in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum of Boston, Massachusetts, United States, prior to being stolen on March 18, 1990. The painting depicts the miracle of Jesus calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee and is Rembrandt’s only seascape painting. In telling a story of a miracle from the Bible, it shows Rembrandt’s depiction of high drama on the sea, something most Dutch of his time could well understand and appreciate.
During the 1630s, just when Rembrandt came to Amsterdam to begin his career in earnest, he painted what many consider his most dramatic works. The Storm on the Sea of Galilee exemplifies this type of work. Rembrandt chose a story from the Bible perhaps to show the seriousness of his artistic intentions. He came to Amsterdam fully intending to become known as an artist of only history paintings and portraits. However, he created this painting using a maritime theme. He demonstrated that he could combine a history painting with a seascape using a story from the New Testament.
This episode from New Testament would be one familiar to people of Rembrandt’s time and one also, in all likelihood, appreciated by them. However, the dramatic tension instilled in the painting would provide the story with an entirely new and startling interpretation. This example of experimentation and risk-taking by the then twenty-seven-year old Rembrandt distinguished him from his peers and became the hallmark of his artistic progression.
It is during an intense and violent storm that the disciples of Christ became terrified. The small boat upon which they are sailing is about to become engulfed in a wave on the Sea of Galilee. Christ, who is seated at the stern, is awoken and appears to admonish the disciples just as he is about to command the storm to stop. It is this miracle that Rembrandt depicts. The mast of the ship points toward two corners of the painting. This serves to divide the painting into two triangles. In looking at the left triangle, it can be seen that Rembrandt invests in that space certain elements of the event about to occur–the crashing waves, the boat high in the air and several paintings characters in various states of distress. However, he also places a dramatic yellow light that opens hopefully in the distance, drenching the edge of the clouds and the ships mainsail. The right side of the diagonal is darker and more obscured, yet to be bathed in the light, a striking example of Rembrandt’s chiaroscuro style.
In an allegorical sense, the work also illustrates the power of nature and man’s helplessness in its force. Numbered among the twelve disciples were fisherman and sailors; however, in this scene they are powerless and exposed to elements. They can only hang on. One holds his hand over the side while others futilely attempt to steady the boat, the man on the left putting one hand to his hat and the other to the rigging is said to have the face of Rembrandt. It has been theorised that Rembrandt’s point in this is to put himself in the event through his imagination to inspire faith in the Biblical text, affirming its occurrence.
Eleventh Sunday of the Year (B)
Mark 4: 26-34
Jesus said to the crowds, ‘This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man throws seed on the land. Night and day, while he sleeps, when he is awake, the seed is sprouting and growing; how, he does not know. Of its own accord the land produces first the shoot, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the crop is ready, he loses no time; he starts to reap because the harvest has come.’
He also said, ‘What can we say the kingdom of God is like? What parable can we find for it? It is like a mustard seed which at the time of its sowing in the soil is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet once it is sown it grows into the biggest shrub of them all and puts out big branches so that the birds of the air can shelter in its shade.’
Using many parables like these, he spoke the word to them, so far as they were capable of understanding it. He would not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything to his disciples when they were alone.
The Gospel of the Lord.
Picture: engraved by Jan Luyken (April 16, 1649 – April 5, 1712). Luyken was a Dutch poet, illustrator and engraver. He was born and died in Amsterdam, where he learned engraving from his father Kaspar Luyken. This picture is taken from Robert Bowyer’s illustrated Bible, which he begun in 1791 and finished in 1795, which includes 32 engravings by James Fittler in the manner of Old Master paintings. Bowyer also bought prints in France that he incorporated into a later edition known as “Bowyer’s Bible”.
The plant referred to here is generally considered to be black mustard, a large annual plant up to 9 feet (2.7 m) tall, but growing from a proverbially small seed (this smallness is also used to refer to faith in Matthew 17:20 and Luke 17:6). According to rabbinical sources, Jews did not grow the plant in gardens, and this is consistent with Matthew’s description of it growing in a field. Luke tells the parable with the plant in a garden instead; this is presumably recasting the story for an audience outside Judea/Palestine.
The parable suggests the growth of the kingdom of God from tiny beginnings to worldwide size. The Parable of the Leaven shares this theme of large growth from small beginnings. As with the Parable of the Sower, which in Matthew and Mark occurs earlier in the same chapter, the man sowing the seed represents Jesus, and the plant is the Kingdom of God. Jesus could have chosen a genuine tree for the parable, but the mustard plant demonstrates that though the dominion appeared small like a seed during Jesus’ ministry, it would inexorably grow into something large and firmly rooted, which many would find shelter in.
Solemnity of the Most Body and Blood of Christ – Corpus Christi (Year B)
Mark 14: 12-16.22-26
On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb was sacrificed, his disciples said to Jesus, ‘Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?’ So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the city and you will meet a man carrying a pitcher of water. Follow him, and say to the owner of the house which he enters, “The Master says: Where is my dining room in which I can eat the Passover with my disciples?” He will show you a large upper room furnished with couches, all prepared. Make the preparations for us there.’ The disciples set out and went to the city and found everything as he had told them, and prepared the Passover.
And as they were eating he took some bread, and when he had said the blessing he broke it and gave it to them. ‘Take it,’ he said ‘this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and when he had returned thanks he gave it to them, and all drank from it, and he said to them, ‘This is my blood, the blood of the covenant, which is to be poured out for many. I tell you solemnly, I shall not drink any more wine until the day I drink the new wine in the kingdom of God.’
After psalms had been sung they left for the Mount of Olives.
The Gospel of the Lord.
Picture: The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci. Painted between 1495-1498, tempera on gesso, pitch and mastic, 460 x 880cm. It is covers an end wall of the dining hall at the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan.
The work is presumed to have been commissioned as part of a scheme of renovations to the church and its convent buildings by Leonardo’s patron Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan. The painting represents the scene of The Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples, as it is told in the Gospel. Due to the methods used, and a variety of environmental factors, very little of the original painting remains today, despite numerous restoration attempts, the last being completed in 1999.
In common with other depictions of The Last Supper from this period, Leonardo seats the diners on one side of the table, so that none of them has his back to the viewer. Most previous depictions excluded Judas by placing him alone on the opposite side of the table from the other eleven disciples and Jesus or placing halos around all the disciples except Judas. Leonardo instead has Judas lean back into shadow. The angles and lighting draw attention to Jesus, whose head is located at the vanishing point for all perspective lines.
The painting contains several references to the number 3, which represents the Christian belief in the Holy Trinity. The Apostles are seated in groupings of three; there are three windows behind Jesus; and the shape of Jesus’ figure resembles a triangle. There may have been other references that have since been lost as the painting deteriorated.
For this work, Leonardo sought a greater detail and luminosity than could be achieved with traditional fresco. He painted The Last Supper on a dry wall rather than on wet plaster, so it is not a true fresco. Because a fresco cannot be modified as the artist works, Leonardo instead chose to seal the stone wall with a double layer of dried plaster. Then, borrowing from panel painting, he added an undercoat of white lead to enhance the brightness of the oil and tempera that was applied on top. This was a method that had been described previously, by Cennino Cennini in the 14th century. However, Cennini had recommended the use of secco for the final touches alone. These techniques were important for Leonardo’s desire to work slowly on the painting, giving him sufficient time to develop the gradual shading or chiaroscuro that was essential in his style.
Nineth Sunday of Year (B) – Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity
Matthew 28: 16-20
The eleven disciples set out for Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had arranged to meet them. When they saw him they fell down before him, though some hesitated. Jesus came up and spoke to them. He said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.’
The Gospel of the Lord.
Picture: Holy Trinity by Andrei Rublev. Tempera on wood, 142 x 114 cm. Currently located at the Tretyakoy Gallery, Moscow. Rublev was born in the 1360 and is considered to be the greatest medieval Russian painter of Orthodox icons and frescos. Little information survives about the life of Andrei Rublev. The first mention of Rublev is in 1405 when he decorated icons and frescos for the Cathedral of the Annunciation of the Moscow Kremlin in company with Theophanes the Greek and Prokhor of Gorodets. His name was the last of the list of masters as the junior both by rank and by age. Theophanes was an important Byzantine master who moved to Russia, and is considered to have trained Rublev.
Together with Daniil Cherni he painted the Assumption Cathedral in Vladimir in 1408 as well as the Cathedral of St. Trinity in the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius between 1425 and 1427. After Daniil’s death, Andrei came to Moscow’s Andronikov Monastery where he painted his last work, the frescoes of the Saviour Cathedral. He is also believed to have painted at least one of the miniatures in the Khitrovo Gospels.
The only work authenticated as entirely his is the icon of the Trinity (c. 1410). It is based on an earlier icon known as the “Hospitality of Abraham” (illustrating Genesis 18). Rublev removed the figures of Abraham and Sarah from the scene, and through a subtle use of composition and symbolism changed the subject to focus on the Mystery of the Trinity. In Rublev’s art two traditions are combined: the highest asceticism and the classic harmony of Byzantine mannerism. The characters of his paintings are always peaceful and calm. After some time his art came to be perceived as the ideal of Eastern Church painting and of Orthodox iconography.
Rublev’s work influenced many artists. The Russian Orthodox Church canonised Rublev as a saint in 1988, celebrating his feast day on 29 January. The liturgical of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America remembers Rublev also on 29 January.
Eighth Sunday of Year (B) – Solemnity of Pentecost
John 20: 19-23
In the evening of the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you’, and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.’
‘As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.’
After saying this he breathed on them and said:
‘Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven: for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.’
The Gospel of the Lord.
Picture: Pentecost painted by Titian. Oil on canvas, painted approx. 1545, currently in a private collection. Titian was a leading artist of the Italian Renaissance who painted works for Pope Paul III, King Philip II of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Born Tiziano Vecellio, sometime between 1488 and 1490, Titian became an artist’s apprentice in Venice as a teenager. He worked with Sebastiano Zuccato, Giovanni Bellini and Giorgione before branching out on his own. He was soon creating for works for leading members of royalty. Pope Paul III hired Titian to paint portraits of himself and his grandsons.
In 1516, Titian began work on his first major commission for a church called Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari in Venice. He painted “Assumption of the Virgin” (1516-1518) for the church’s high altar, a masterwork that helped establish Titian as one of the leading painters in the area. He was known for his deft use of colour and for his appealing renderings of the human form.
A short time after completing the legendary altarpiece, Titian created “The Worship of Venus” (1518-1519). This mythology-inspired work was just one of several commissioned by Alfonso I d’Este, duke of Ferrara. Over the years, Titian created portraits of leading figures of the day. He painted two works featuring Pope Paul III between 1545 and ’46, and spent six months living at the Vatican while making these paintings. In 1548, he travelled to the court of Charles V, where he painted his portrait as well. In his later career, Titian focused more on religious and mythology works. His skilful work with colour and pleasing depiction of figures can be seen in the painting ‘Pentecost’.
Seventh Sunday of Easter (B) – Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord
Mark 16: 15-20
Jesus showed himself to the Eleven, and said to them, ‘Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation. He who believes and is baptised will be saved; he who does not believe will be condemned. These are the signs that will be associated with believers: in my name they will cast out devils; they will have the gift of tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and be unharmed should they drink deadly poison; they will lay their hands on the sick, who will recover.’
And so the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven: there at the right hand of God he took his place, while they, going out, preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word by the signs that accompanied it.
The Gospel of the Lord.
Picture: The Ascension of Christ, by Dosso Dossi, 16th century. Oil on panel, 128cm x 96cm. Dosso Dossi (c. 1490 – 1542) real name Giovanni di Niccolò de Luteri, was an Italian Renaissance painter who belonged to the Ferrara School of Painting.
Dossi was born in San Giovanni del Dosso, a village in the province of Mantua. His early training and life is not well documented; his father, originally of Trento, was a bursar for the Dukes of Ferrara. He may have had training locally with Lorenzo Costa or in Mantua, where he is known to have been in 1512. By 1514, he would begin three decades of service for dukes Alfonso I and Ercole II d’Este, becoming principal court artist. Dosso worked frequently with his brother Battista Dossi, who had trained in the Roman workshop of Raphael.
Dosso Dossi is known less for his naturalism or attention to design, and more for cryptic allegorical conceits in paintings around mythological themes, a favoured subject for the humanist Ferrarese court. Dossi is also known for the atypical choices of bright pigment for his cabinet pieces. Some of his works have lambent qualities that suggest some of Correggio‘s works. Most of his works feature Christian and Ancient Greek themes and use oil painting as a medium. This painting is typical of many Ascension works at the time, with upper (Heavenly) and lower (earthly) parts.
Recently, “Portrait of a Youth” at the National Gallery of Victoria, the mysterious portrait of an unknown subject by an unknown painter, has been identified as a portrait of the infamous Lucrezia Borgia by Dosso Dossi.
Sixth Sunday of Easter (B)
John 15: 9-17
Jesus said to his disciples:
‘As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my own joy may be in you and your joy be complete.
This is my commandment: love one another, as I have loved you. A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends, if you do what I command you. I shall not call you servants any more, because a servant does not know his master’s business; I call you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have learnt from my Father.
You did not choose me, no, I chose you; and I commissioned you to go out and to bear fruit, fruit that will last; and then the Father will give you anything you ask him in my name. What I command you is to love one another.’
The Gospel of the Lord.
Picture: St John, oil painting on canvas, 85 x 240 cm, by Paolo Veronese (1555). Veronese was an Italian Renaissance painter based in Venice, most famous for large history paintings of religious subjects. With Titian, who was at least a generation older, and Tintoretto, ten years older, he was one of the “great trio that dominated Venetian painting of the cinquecento” or 16th-century late Renaissance. Veronese is known as a supreme colourist, and after an early period with Mannerist influence turned to a more naturalist style influenced by Titian. His most famous works are elaborate narrative cycles, executed in a dramatic and colourful style, full of majestic architectural settings and glittering pageantry. His large paintings of biblical feasts, crowded with figures, painted for the refectories of monasteries in Venice and Verona are especially famous, and he was also the leading Venetian painter of ceilings.
Veronese moved to Venice in 1553 after obtaining his first state commission, ceilings in fresco decorating the Sala dei Cosiglio dei Dieci (the Hall of the Council of Ten) and the adjoining Sala dei Tre Capi del Consiglio in the Doge’s Palace, in the new rooms replacing those lost in the fire of 1547. His panel of Jupiter Expelling the Vices for the former is now in the Louvre. He then painted a History of Esther in the ceiling for the church of San Sebastiano (1556–57). It was these ceiling paintings and those of 1557 in the Marciana Library (for which he was awarded a prize judged by Titian and Sansovino) that established him as a master among his Venetian contemporaries. Already these works indicate Veronese’s mastery in reflecting both the subtle foreshortening of the figures of Correggio and the heroism of those by Michelangelo.
The ceiling painting in the sacristy of San Sebastiano, the Coronation of the Virgin, is framed by pictures of the four evangelists sitting, kneeling or reclining, accompanied by their symbols (eagle, ox, lion and angel), and, in their over life-size dimensions, they seem to burst out of the pictorial fields. In the four pictures, the open book is a reference to the subject as writer of the gospel of the same name. This work was executed in a dramatic and colourful Mannerist (Late Renaissance) style, full of majestic architectural settings and glittering pageantry as seen in this painting of St John.
Fifth Sunday of Easter (B)
John 15: 1-8
Jesus said to his disciples:
‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that bears no fruit he cuts away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes to make it bear even more. You are pruned already, by means of the word that I have spoken to you. Make your home in me, as I make mine in you. As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself, but must remain part of the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty; for cut off from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is like a branch that has been thrown away – he withers; these branches are collected and thrown on the fire, and they are burnt.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask what you will and you shall get it. It is to the glory of my Father that you should bear much fruit, and then you will be my disciples.’
The Gospel of the Lord.
Picture: 16th Century Greek Icon. There are numerous Old Testament passages which refer to Israel as a vine: Ps 80:8–16, Isa 5:1–7, Jer 2:21, Ezek 15:1–8, 17:5–10, 19:10–14, and Hos 10:1. The Old Testament passages which use this symbol appear to regard Israel as faithless to Yahweh and the object of severe punishment. Ezek 15:1–8 in particular talks about the worthlessness of wood from a vine (in relation to disobedient Judah). A branch cut from a vine is worthless except to be burned as fuel. This appears to fit more with the statements about the disciples than with Jesus’ description of himself as the vine.
Ezek 17:5–10 contains vine imagery which refers to a king of the house of David, Zedekiah, who was set up as king in Judah by Nebuchadnezzar. Zedekiah allied himself to Egypt and broke his covenant with Nebuchadnezzar (and therefore also with God), which would ultimately result in his downfall (17:20–21). Ezek 17:22–24 then describes the planting of a cedar sprig which grows into a lofty tree, a figurative description of Messiah. But it is significant that Messiah himself is not described in Ezekiel 17 as a vine, but as a cedar tree. The vine imagery here applies to Zedekiah’s disobedience.
Several authors comment that “parables are noticeably absent from the Gospel of John”. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia article on Parables: “There are no parables in St. John’s Gospel” and according to the Encyclopaedia Britannica article on Gospel of St. John: “Here Jesus’ teaching contains no parables and but three allegories, the Synoptists present it as parabolic through and through.” These sources all suggest that the passage is better described as a metaphor than a parable. However, some writers, referred to the passage by a Latin term that is typically translated into English as a “parable”.
Fourth Sunday of Easter (B)
John 10: 11-18
‘I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd is one who lays down his life for his sheep. The hired man, since he is not the shepherd and the sheep do not belong to him, abandons the sheep and runs away as soon as he sees a wolf coming, and then the wolf attacks and scatters the sheep; this is because he is only a hired man and has no concern for the sheep.
I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for my sheep. And there are other sheep I have that are not of this fold, and these I have to lead as well. They too will listen to my voice, and there will be only one flock, and one shepherd.
The Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me; I lay it down of my own free will, and as it is in my power to lay it down, so it is in my power to take it up again; and this is the command I have been given by my Father.’
The Gospel of the Lord.
The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia is a Roman building in Ravenna, Italy. It was listed with seven other structures in Ravenna in the World Heritage List in 1996. UNESCO experts describe it as “the earliest and best preserved of all mosaic monuments, and at the same time one of the most artistically perfect”.
The Lunette of Christ as Good Shepherd over the north entrance is representative of Christian art at this time period in late antiquity. Christ is being depicted as more regal than prior depictions of him as the good shepherd. Rather than carrying a lamb over his shoulder, Jesus sits amongst his flock, haloed and robed in gold and purple. The mosaic represents a transition period between the naturalistic depictions of the classical period in art history and the stylised representations of the medieval period. The forms still have three-dimensional bulk, but the shading such as in the folds of the robes is less refined than in the past, and figures are not very grounded. Elements of realism have been sacrificed for a focus on the spiritual elements. Indifference to accurate representation of the world is perhaps epitomised by the anatomically incorrect tails of the sheep.
Third Sunday of Easter (B)
Luke 24: 35-48
The disciples told their story of what had happened on the road and how they had recognised Jesus at the breaking of bread.
They were still talking about all this when Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you!’ In a state of alarm and fright, they thought they were seeing a ghost. But he said, ‘Why are you so agitated, and why are these doubts rising in your hearts? Look at my hands and feet; yes, it is I indeed. Touch me and see for yourselves; a ghost has no flesh and bones as you can see I have.’ And as he said this he showed them his hands and feet. Their joy was so great that they could not believe it, and they stood dumbfounded; so he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ And they offered him a piece of grilled fish, which he took and ate before their eyes.
Then he told them, ‘This is what I meant when I said, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets and in the Psalms, has to be fulfilled.’ He then opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘So you see how it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that, in his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses to this.’
The Gospel of the Lord.
Picture: Supper with candlelight by Matthias Stom, painted around 1635, depicting the “breaking of bread” as the precise moment of the disciples’ recognition. Stom was a Dutch golden age painter considered one of the masters of Utrecht Caravaggism. He spent most of his artistic life in Italy, and 200 of his works have been preserved. Born in Amersfoort but many details of his life are vague. He was a pupil of Gerard van Honthorst in Rome after 1615.
He remained in Rome until 1632, after which he traveled to Naples, where he stayed until 1640. He then moved to Palermo, and delivered paintings for churches in Caccamo and Monreale. It is speculated that he died in Northern Italy, where in 1652 he painted an altar piece for the church in Chiuduno. His son, Mattia Stom (1649–1702), also was a painter.
Stom was influenced by the Baroque painter Caravaggio and his followers, utilizing their mastery of chiaroscuro. His work typically features religious scenes. He is appreciated for his psychology and noted for his “distinctive claylike treatment of flesh”.
Second Sunday of Easter (B)
John 20: 19-31
In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you,’ and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.
‘As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.’
After saying this he breathed on them and said:
‘Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.’
Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. When the disciples said, ‘We have seen the Lord’, he answered, ‘Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.’ Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. ‘Peace be with you’ he said. Then he spoke to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.’ Thomas replied, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him:
‘You believe because you can see me. Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’
There were many other signs that Jesus worked and the disciples saw, but they are not recorded in this book. These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing this you may have life through his name.
The Gospel of the Lord.
It shows the episode that gave rise to the term “Doubting Thomas” which, formally known as the Incredulity of Thomas, had been frequently represented in Christian art since at least the 5th century, and used to make a variety of theological points.
In the painting, Thomas’s face shows surprise as Jesus holds his hand and guides it into the wound. The absence of a halo emphasises the corporeality of the risen Christ. The work is in chiaroscuro (strong contrasts between light and dark). This picture is related to Saint Matthew and the Angel (1602) and the Sacrifice of Isaac (1603), all having a model in common. It belonged to Vincenzo Giustiniani before entering the Prussian royal collection, surviving the Second World War intact. A second version of “The Incredulity of Saint Thomas” has been re-discovered in Trieste, Italy in a private collection.
Sunday of the Resurrection
John 20: 1-9
It was very early on the first day of the week and still dark, when Mary of Magdala came to the tomb. She saw that the stone had been moved away from the tomb and came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved. ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb’ she said ‘and we don’t know where they have put him.’
So Peter set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb. They ran together, but the other disciple, running faster than Peter, reached the tomb first; he bent down and saw the linen cloths lying on the ground, but did not go in. Simon Peter who was following now came up, went right into the tomb, saw the linen cloths on the ground, and also the cloth that had been over his head; this was not with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and he believed. Till this moment they had failed to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead.
The Gospel of the Lord.
Picture: The Resurrection of Christ, also called The Kinnaird Resurrection (after a former owner of the painting, Lord Kinnaird), is an oil painting on wood by Raphael. The work is one of the earliest known paintings by the artist, executed between 1499 and 1502. It is probably a piece of an unknown predella, though it has been suggested that the painting could be one of the remaining works of the Baronci altarpiece, Raphael’s first recorded commission (seriously damaged by an earthquake in 1789, fragments of which are today found in museums across Europe). This painting is housed in the São Paulo Museum of Art.
The Kinnaird Resurrection is one of the first preserved works of Raphael in which his natural dramatic style of composition was already obvious, as opposed to the gentle poetic style of his master, Pietro Perugino. The extremely rational composition is ruled by a complex ideal geometry which interlinks all the elements of the scene and gives it a strange animated rhythm, transforming the characters in the painting into co-protagonists in a unique choreography. The painting possesses anesthetic influence from Pinturicchio and Melozzo da Forlì, though the spatial orchestration of the work, with its tendency to movement, shows Raphael’s knowledge of the Florentine artistic milieu of the 16th century.
Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord
Mark 14:1 – 15:47
It was two days before the Passover and the feast of Unleavened Bread, and the chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus by some trick and have him put to death. For they said ‘It must not be during the festivities, or there will be a disturbance among the people.’
Jesus was a Bethany in the house of Simon the leper; he was at dinner when a woman came in with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the ointment on his head. Some who were there said one another indignantly, ‘Why this waste of ointment? Ointment like this could have been sold for over three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor’: and they were angry with her. But Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. Why are you upsetting her? What she has done for me is one of the good works. You have the poor with you always, and you can be kind to them whenever you wish, but you will not always have me. She has done what was in power to do so: she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. I tell you solemnly, wherever throughout all the world the Good News is proclaimed, what she has done will be told also, in remembrance of her.’
Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, approached the chief priests with an offer to hand Jesus over to them. They were delighted to hear it, and promised to give him money; and he looked for a way of betraying him when the opportunity should occur.
On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb was sacrificed, his disciples said to him, ‘Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the passover?’ So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the city and you will meet a man carrying a pitcher of water. Follow him, and say to the owner of the house which enters, “The Master says: Where is my dining room in which I can eat the passover with my disciples?” He will show you a large upper room furnished with couches, all prepared. Make the preparations for us there.’ The disciples set out and went to the city and found everything as he had told them, and prepared the Passover.
When evening came he arrived with the Twelve. And while they were at table eating, Jesus said, ‘I tell you solemnly, one of you is about to betray me, one of you eating with me.’ They were distressed and asked him, one after another, ‘Not I, surely?’ He said to them, ‘It is one of the Twelve, one who is dipping into the same dish with me. Yes , the Son of Man is going to his fate, as the scriptures say he will, but alas for that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! Better for that man if he had never been born!’
And as they were eating he took some bread, and when he had said the blessing he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘Take it; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and when he had returned thanks he gave it to them and drank all from it, and he said to them, ‘This is my blood, the blood of the covenant, which is to poured out for many. I tell you solemnly, I shall not drink any more wine until the day I drink the new wine in the kingdom of God.’
After the psalms had been sung they left for the Mount of Olives. And Jesus said to them ‘You will all lose faith, for the scripture says: “I shall strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered”. However after my resurrection I shall go before you to Galilee.’ Peter said ‘Even if all lose faith, I will not.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘I will tell you solemnly, this day, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will have disowned me three times.’ Bit he repeated still more earnestly ‘If I have to die with you, I will never disown you.’ And they all said the same.
They came to a small estate called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Stay here while I pray.’ Then he took Peter and James and John with him. And a sudden fear came over him, and great distress. And he said to them, ‘My soul is sorrowful to the point of death. Wait here, and keep awake.’ And going on a little further he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, this hour might pass him by. He said ‘Abba (Father)! Everything is possible for you. Take this cup away from me. But let is be as you, not I, would have it.’ He came back and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, ‘Simon are you asleep? Had you not the strength to keep awake one hour? You should awake, and praying not to be put to the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ Again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And once more he came back and found them sleeping, their eyes were so heavy; and they could find no answer for him. He came back a third time and said to them, ‘You can sleep on now and take your rest. It is all over. The hour has come. Now the Son on Man is to be betrayed in to the hands of sinners. Get up! Let us go! My betrayer is close at hand already.’
Even while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, came up with a number of men armed with swords and clubs, sent by the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. Now the traitor had arranged a signal with them. He said ‘The one I kiss, he is the man. Take him in charge and see he is well guarded when you lead him away.’ So when the traitor cam, he went straight up to Jesus and said, ‘Rabbi!’ and kissed him. The others seized him and took him in charge. Then one of the bystanders drew his sword and struck out at the high priest’s servant, and cut off his ear.
Then Jesus spoke, ‘Am I a brigand that you had to set out to capture me with swords and clubs? I was among you teaching in the Temple day after day and you never laid hands on me. But this is to fulfil the scriptures.’ And they all deserted him and ran away. A young an who followed him had nothing on but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the cloth in their hands and ran away naked.
They led Jesus off to the high priest; and all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes assembled there. Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the high priest’s palace, and was sitting with the attendants warming himself at the fire.
The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus on which they might pass the death-sentence. But they could not find any. Several, indeed, brought false evidence against him, but their evidence was conflicting. Some stood up and submitted this false evidence against him, ‘We heard him, “I am going to destroy this Temple made by human hands, and in three days build another, not made by human hands”.’ But even on this point their evidence was conflicting. The high priest then stood up before the whole assembly and put this question to Jesus, ‘Have you no answer to that? What is this evidence these men are bringing against you’ But he was silent and made no answer at all. The high priest put a second question to him, ‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?’ Jesus said ‘I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming with clouds of heaven.’ The high priest tore his robes, and said, ‘What witnesses have we now? You heard the blasphemy. What is your finding?’ And they all gave their verdict: he deserved to dir.
Some of them started spitting at him and, blindfolding him, began hitting him with their fists and shouting ‘Play the prophet!’ And the attendants rained blows on him.
While Peter was down below in the courtyard, one of the high priest’s servant-girls came up. She saw Peter warming himself there, stared at him and said ‘You too were with Jesus, the man from Nazareth.’ But he denied it saying, ‘I do not know, I do not understand, what you are talking about.’ And he went out into the forecourt. The servant-girl saw him and again started telling the bystanders, ‘This fellow is one of them.’ But again he denied it. A little later the bystanders themselves said to Peter, ‘You are one of them for sure! Why, you are a Galilean.’ But he started calling curses on himself and swearing, ‘I do not know the man you speak of.’ At that moment the cock crew for the second time, and Peter recalled how Jesus had said to him, ‘Before the cock crows twice, you will have disowned me three times.’ And he burst into tears.
First thin in the morning , the chief priests together with the elders and scribes, in short the whole Sanhedrin, had their plan ready. They had Jesus bound and took him away and handed him over to Pilate.
Pilate questioned him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ He answered , ‘It is you who say it.’ And the chief priests brought many accusations against him. Pilate questioned him again, ‘Have you no reply at all? See how many accusations they are bringing against you! But, to Pilate’s amazement, Jesus made no further reply.
At festival time Pilate used to release a prisoner for them, anyone they asked for. Now a man called Barabbas was then in prison with the rioters who had committed murder during the uprising. When the crowd went up and began to ask Pilate the customary favour, Pilate answered them, ‘Do you want me release for you the king of the Jews?’ For he realised it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over. The chief priests, however, had incited the crowd to demand that he should release Barabbas for them instead. Then Pilate spoke again. ‘But in that case, what am I to do with the man you call king of the Jews?’ They shouted back, ‘Crucify him!’ Pilate asked them, ‘Why? What harm has he done?’ But they shouted all the louder, ‘Crucify him!’ So Pilate, anxious to placate the crowd, released Barabbas for them and, having ordered Jesus to be scourged, handed him over to be crucified.
The soldiers led him away to the inner part of the palace, that is, the Praetorium, and called the cohort together. They dressed him up in purple, twisted some thorns into a crown and put it on him. And they began saluting him, ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ They struck his head with a reed and spat on him; and they went down on their knees to do him homage. And when they had finished making fun of him, they took off the purple and dressed him in his own clothes.
They led him out to crucify him. They enlisted a passer-by, Simon of Cyrene, father of Alexander and Rufus, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross. They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha, which means the place of the skull.
They offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he refused it. Then they crucified him, and shared out his clothing, casting lots to decide what each should get. It was the third hour when they crucified him. The inscription giving the charges against read: ‘The King of the Jews’. And they crucified two robbers with him, one on his right and one on his left.
The passers-by jeered at him; they shook their heads and said, ‘Aha! So you would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days! Then save yourself: come down from the cross!’ The chief priests and the scribes mocked him among themselves in the same way. They said ‘He saved others, he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the king of Israel, come down from the cross now, for us to see it and believe.’ Even those who were crucified with him taunted him.
When the sixth hour came there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ This means ‘My God, my God, why have you deserted me?’ When some of those who stood by heard this, they said, ‘Listen , he is calling on Elijah .’ Someone ran and soaked a sponge in vinegar and, putting it on a reed, gave it him to drink saying, ‘Wait and see if Elijah will come to take him down.’ But Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.
And the veil of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The centurion, who was standing in front of him, had seen how he had died, and he said, ‘In truth this man was a son of God.'<
There were some women watching from a distance. Among them were Mary of Magdala, Mary who was the mother of James the younger and Joset, and Salome. These used to follow him and look after him when he was in Galilee. And there were many other women there who had come up to Jerusalem with him.
It was now evening, and since it was Preparation Day (that is, the vigil of the sabbath), there cam Joseph of Arimathaea, a prominent member of the Council, who himself lived in the hope of seeing the kingdom of God, and he boldly went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate, astonished that he should have died so soon, summoned the centurion and enquired if he was already dead. Having been assured of this by the centurion, he granted to corpse to Joseph who bought a shroud, took Jesus down from the cross, wrapped him in the shroud and laid him in a tom which had hewn out of the rock. He then rolled stone against the entrance to the tomb. Mary of Magdala and Mary the mother of Joset were watching and took note of where he was laid.
The Gospel of the Lord.
Picture: The Deposition, also known as the Pala Baglione, Borghese Deposition or The Entombment, is an oil painting by the Italian Renaissance painter Raphael. Dated 1507, the painting is in the Galleria Borghese in Rome. It is the central panel of a larger altarpiece. The painting is on wood panel and measures 184 x 176 cm.
Giorgio Vasari, the famous biographer of Italian artists, understood Raphael’s piece as a narrative painting. Having seen the altarpiece in its original setting, Vasari gives a detailed description: In this most divine picture there is a Dead Christ being borne to the Sepulcher, executed with such freshness and such loving care, that it seems to the eye to have been only just painted. In the composition of this work, Raffaello imagined to himself the sorrow that the nearest and most affectionate relatives of the dead one feel in laying to rest the body of him who has been their best beloved, and on whom, in truth, the happiness, honour, and welfare of a whole family have depended. Our Lady is seen in a swoon; and the heads of all the figures are very gracious in their weeping, particularly that of St. John, who, with his hands clasped, bows his head in such a manner as to move the hardest heart in pity. And in truth, whoever considers the diligence, love, art and grace shown by this picture, has great reason to marvel, for it amazes all who behold it, what with the air of the figures, the beauty of the draperies, and in short, the supreme excellence that it reveals in every part.
Looking at the painting formally, the scene depicted is actually neither the Deposition nor the Entombment, but located somewhere in-between. We can determine this through the background: on the right is Mount Calvary, the location of the Crucifixion and Deposition, and on the left is the cave where the Entombment will take place. And so two men, lacking halos, use a piece of linen to carry the dead Christ and it seems as if all the participants in the bearing of the body are in suspended animation. The two men and Christ form very strong diagonals in the shape of a V. Besides the two men carrying the body, we have St. John and Nicodemus behind and to the left and Mary Magdalene holding the hand of Christ. The legs of St. John and Nicodemus do present a distracting problem, especially in the case of Nicodemus because due to the obstruction of the view, it is not clear what he is exactly doing, or what he is exactly looking at.
On the far right, in the other figural group slightly behind the action, are the three Marys supporting the Virgin Mary, who has fainted (a controversial depiction known as the Swoon of the Virgin) most likely due to her overwhelming grief. The way in which the Virgin is kneeling is excessively awkward, with extreme torsion and sharply cut drapery, also known as a figura serpentinata. Though seen in other famous works, her positioning seems to have been directly inspired by the example of Michelangelo’s Doni Tondo, completed only a few years earlier. In terms of colour, Raphael balances his use of strong reds, blues, yellows and greens and he creates subtle contrast in his flesh tones, best seen with the living Mary Magdalene’s holding of the dead Christ’s hand.
Fifth Sunday of Lent
John 12: 20-33
Among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. These approached Philip, who came from Bethsaida in Galilee, and put this request to him, ‘Sir, we should like to see Jesus.’ Philip went to tell Andrew, and Andrew and Philip together went to tell Jesus.
Jesus replied to them:
‘Now the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you most solemnly, unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies, it yields a rich harvest. Anyone who loves his life loses it; anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for the eternal life. If a man serves me, he must follow me, wherever I am, my servant will be there too. If anyone serves me, my Father will honour him.
Now my soul is troubled. What shall I say: Father, save me from this hour? But it was for this very reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name!’ A voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’
People standing by, who heard this, said it was a clap of thunder; others said, ‘It was an angel speaking to him.’ Jesus answered, ‘It was not for my sake that this voice came, but for yours. ‘Now sentence is being passed on this world; now the prince of this world is to be overthrown. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all men to myself.’ By these words he indicated the kind of death he would die.
The Gospel of the Lord.
Tiziano Vecelli (1488 – 1576), known in English as Titian, was an Italian painter, the most important member of the 16th-century Venetian school. He was born in Pieve di Cadore, near Belluno (in Veneto, Republic of Venice). Recognised by his contemporaries as “The Sun Amidst Small Stars” (recalling the famous final line of Dante’s Paradiso), Titian was one of the most versatile of Italian painters, equally adept with portraits, landscape backgrounds, and mythological and religious subjects.
His painting methods, particularly in the application and use of colour, would exercise a profound influence not only on painters of the Italian Renaissance, but on future generations of Western art. During the course of his long life, Titian’s artistic manner changed drastically but he retained a lifelong interest in colour. Although his mature works may not contain the vivid, luminous tints of his early pieces, their loose brushwork and subtlety of tone are without precedent in the history of Western painting. He was noted for his mastery of colour.
Fourth Sunday of Lent (B)
John 3: 14-21
Jesus said to Nicodemus:
‘The Son of Man must be lifted up as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.
Yes, God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life.
For God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world,
but so that through him the world might be saved.
No one who believes in him will be condemned; but whoever refuses to believe is condemned already,
because he has refused to believe in the name of God’s only Son.
On these grounds is sentence pronounced:
that though the light has come into the world men have shown they prefer
darkness to the light because their deeds were evil.
And indeed, everybody who does wrong hates the light and avoids it,
for fear his actions should be exposed; but the man who lives by the truth comes out into the light,
so that it may be plainly seen that what he does is done in God.’
The Gospel of the Lord.
Picture: Nicodemus by Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1899, oil on canvas. The painting is situated at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia. Henry Ossawa Tanner (June 21, 1859 – May 25, 1937) was an African-American artist. He was the first African-American painter to gain international acclaim. He moved to Paris in 1891 to study, and decided to stay there, being readily accepted in French artistic circles.
John 3:16 – God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life – is one of the most widely quoted verses from the Bible and has been called the most famous Bible verse. It has also been called the “Gospel in a nutshell”, because it is considered a summary of the central theme of traditional Christianity. The verse is part of the New Testament narrative in the third chapter of John in the discussion at Jerusalem between Jesus and Nicodemus, who is called a “ruler of the Jews”. (v.1) After speaking of the necessity of a man being born again before he could “see the kingdom of God”, (v.3) Jesus spoke also of “heavenly things” (v.11-13) and of salvation (v.14-17) and the condemnation (v.18,19) of those that do not believe in Jesus. “(v.14) And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: (v.15) That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15) Note that verse 15 is nearly identical to the latter part of John 3:16.
Third Sunday of Lent
John 4: 5-42
Jesus came to the Samaritan town called Sychar, near the land that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well is there and Jesus, tired by the journey, sat straight down by the well. It was about the sixth hour. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink.’ His disciples had gone into the town to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘What? You are a Jew and you ask me, a Samaritan, for a drink?’ – Jews, in fact, do not associate with Samaritans. Jesus replied:
‘If you only knew what God is offering and who it is that is saying to you: Give me a drink, you would have been the one to ask, and he would have given you living water.’
‘You have no bucket, sir,’ she answered ‘and the well is deep: how could you get this living water? Are you a greater man than our father Jacob who gave us this well and drank from it himself with his sons and his cattle?’ Jesus replied:
‘Whoever drinks this water will get thirsty again: but anyone who drinks the water that I shall give will never be thirsty again: the water that I shall give will turn into a spring inside him, welling up to eternal life.’
‘Sir,’ said the woman, ‘give me some of that water, so that I may never get thirsty and never have to come here again to draw water.’ ‘Go and call your husband’ said Jesus to her ‘and come back here.’ The woman answered, ‘I have no husband.’ He said to her, ‘You are right to say, “I have no husband”; for although you have had five, the one you have now is not your husband. You spoke the truth there.’ ‘I see you are a prophet, sir’ said the woman. ‘Our fathers worshipped on this mountain, while you say that Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.’ Jesus said:
‘Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know; for salvation comes from the Jews.
But the hour will come – in fact it is here already – when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth: that is the kind of worshipper the Father wants. God is spirit, and those who worship must worship in spirit and truth.’
The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah – that is, Christ – is coming; and when he comes he will tell us everything.’ ‘I who am speaking to you,’ said Jesus ‘I am he.’
At this point his disciples returned, and were surprised to find him speaking to a woman, though none of them asked, ‘What do you want from her?’ or, ‘Why are you talking to her?’ The woman put down her water jar and hurried back to the town to tell the people, ‘Come and see a man who has told me everything I ever did; I wonder if he is the Christ?’ This brought people out of the town and they started walking towards him.
Meanwhile, the disciples were urging him, ‘Rabbi, do have something to eat’; but he said, ‘I have food to eat that you do not know about.’ So the disciples asked one another, ‘Has someone been bringing him food?’ But Jesus said:
‘My food is to do the will of the one who sent me, and to complete his work. Have you not got a saying: Four months and then the harvest? Well, I tell you: Look around you, look at the fields; already they are white, ready for harvest!
Already the reaper is being paid his wages, already he is bringing in the grain for eternal life, and thus sower and reaper rejoice together. For here the proverb holds good: one sows, another reaps; I sent you to reap a harvest you had not worked for. Others worked for it; and you have come into the rewards of their trouble.’
Many Samaritans of that town had believed in him on the strength of the woman’s testimony when she said, ‘He told me all I have ever done’, so, when the Samaritans came up to him, they begged him to stay with them. He stayed for two days, and when he spoke to them many more came to believe; and they said to the woman, ‘Now we no longer believe because of what you told us; we have heard him ourselves and we know that he really is the saviour of the world.’
The Gospel of the Lord.
Picture: Jesus with the Samaritan woman at the well, Oil on canvas, by Paolo Veronese, 1585. Veronese was an Italian Renaissance painter based in Venice, most famous for large history paintings of religious subjects. With Titian, who was at least a generation older, and Tintoretto, ten years older, he was one of the “great trio that dominated 16th century late Renaissance. Veronese is known as a supreme colourist, and a naturalist style, which was influenced by Titian.
This episode takes place before the return of Jesus to Galilee. The Jews regarded the Samaritans as foreigners and their attitude was often hostile, although they shared many beliefs. The two communities seem to have drifted apart in the post-exilic period. The Gospel of John is favourable to the Samaritans, unlike Matthew’s Gospel which quotes Jesus as telling his followers not to enter any of the cities of the Samaritans. .
In the Gospel of John references to water, as in John 4:15, are traditionally identified as the Water of Life being the Holy Spirit. The passages that comprise John 4:10–26, and relate the episode of the Samaritan woman are sometimes referred to as the “Water of Life Discourse”. The Water of Life Discourse is the second among the seven discourses in the Gospel of John that pair with the seven signs in that Gospel.
In Eastern Orthodox Church tradition, her name at the time of the meeting with Jesus is unknown, though she later received the name Photini in baptism. She is celebrated as a saint. As further recounted in John 4:28-30 and John 4:39-42, she was quick to spread the news of her meeting with Jesus, and through this many came to believe in him. Her continuing witness is said to have brought so many to the Christian faith that she is described as “equal to the Apostles”.
Second Sunday of Lent (B)
Mark 9: 2-10
Jesus took with him Peter and James and John and led them up a high mountain where they could be alone by themselves. There in their presence he was transfigured: his clothes became dazzlingly white, whiter than any earthly bleacher could make them. Elijah appeared to them with Moses; and they were talking with Jesus. Then Peter spoke to Jesus. ‘Rabbi,’ he said ‘it is wonderful for us to be here; so let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ He did not know what to say; they were so frightened. And a cloud came, covering them in shadow; and there came a voice from the cloud, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him.’ Then suddenly, when they looked round, they saw no one with them any more but only Jesus.
As they came down from the mountain he warned them to tell no one what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They observed the warning faithfully, though among themselves they discussed what ‘rising from the dead’ could mean.
The Gospel of the Lord.
Picture: Transfiguration of Christ, painted by Giovanni Bellini in 1487. The painting is oil on wood, 115 x 152 cm, and is currently in the Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples. This is the second and final version of the subject by Bellini. The first version was executed in 1455. This version differs from the earlier rendering. The event is no longer supernatural, and Mount Tabor is reduced to a slight rise. The afternoon is well advanced: at the left a farmer leads an ox and goat past a monastery on a crag that is already darkening in the evening shadows. Christ stands in the centre of this chilly landscape, his hands and head silhouetted against the shining white clouds. The flanking figures of Moses and Elijah have all the majesty of the Old Testament. Before this group the three apostles have fallen to the ground. A sapling fence moves diagonally across the foreground, and immediately behind it opens a rocky chasm, creating an explicit separation between the observer and the holy event.
First Sunday of Lent (B)
Mark 1: 12-15
The Spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness and he remained there for forty days, and was tempted by Satan. He was with the wild beasts, and the angels looked after him.
After John had been arrested, Jesus went into Galilee. There he proclaimed the Good News from God. ‘The time has come’ he said ‘and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the Good News.’
The Gospel of the Lord.
Picture: Temptation of Christ (mosaic in Basilica di San Marco). The Patriarchal Cathedral Basilica of Saint Mark (officially known in Italian as the Basilica Cattedrale Patriarcale di San Marco and commonly known as Saint Mark’s Basilica) is the cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice, northern Italy. It is the most famous of the city’s churches and one of the best known examples of Italo-Byzantine architecture. It lies at the eastern end of the Piazza San Marco, adjacent and connected to the Doge’s Palace. Originally it was the chapel of the Doge, and has only been the city’s cathedral since 1807, when it became the seat of the Patriarch of Venice, Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice, formerly at San Pietro di Castello. For its opulent design, gold ground mosaics, and its status as a symbol of Venetian wealth and power, from the 11th century the building has been known by the nickname Chiesa d’Oro (Church of gold).
Sixth Sunday of Year (B)
Mark 1: 40-45
A leper came to Jesus and pleaded on his knees: ‘If you want to’ he said ‘you can cure me.’ Feeling sorry for him, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him. ‘Of course I want to!’ he said. ‘Be cured!’ And the leprosy left him at once and he was cured. Jesus immediately sent him away and sternly ordered him, ‘Mind you say nothing to anyone, but go and show yourself to the priest, and make the offering for your healing prescribed by Moses as evidence of your recovery.’ The man went away, but then started talking about it freely and telling the story everywhere, so that Jesus could no longer go openly into any town, but had to stay outside in places where nobody lived. Even so, people from all around would come to him.
The Gospel of the Lord.
Picture: Christ cleansing a leper, painted by Jean-Marie Melchior Doze (1827-1913), in 1864. The painting is oil on canvas, 105cm x 135cm and is located at the Musee des Beaux-Arts, Nimes, France. Jean-Marie Melchior Doze was a French visual artist, several works by the artist have been recently sold at auction in 2011, at Artcurial Briest-Poulain-F. Tajan, France. Many other artists in painting this Gospel reading focus more on depicting the man’s skin disease, while Jean-Marie Melchior Doze illustrated his reverence and humility.
Fifth Sunday of Year (B)
Mark 1: 29-39
On leaving the synagogue, Jesus went with James and John straight to the house of Simon and Andrew. Now Simon’s mother-in-law had gone to bed with fever, and they told him about her straightaway. He went to her, took her by the hand and helped her up. And the fever left her and she began to wait on them.
That evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were sick and those who were possessed by devils. The whole town came crowding round the door, and he cured many who were suffering from diseases of one kind or another; he also cast out many devils, but he would not allow them to speak, because they knew who he was.
In the morning, long before dawn, he got up and left the house, and went off to a lonely place and prayed there. Simon and his companions set out in search of him, and when they found him they said, ‘Everybody is looking for you.’ He answered, ‘Let us go elsewhere, to the neighbouring country towns, so that I can preach there too, because that is why I came.’ And he went all through Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out devils.
The Gospel of the Lord.
Picture: Christ Healing the Mother of Simon Peter’s Wife, painted in Rome by English painter John Bridges (1818-1854) in 1839. Oil on canvas.
The painting shows the influence of the Nazarenes, a group of pious German and Austrian painters active near Rome during Bridges’ stay there. The Nazarenes had a fascination with Renaissance art of the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. They painted primarily religious subjects filled with classicising motifs. Bridges’ clear and orderly composition, populated by monumental figures, harkens back to works of the High Renaissance.
Fourth Sunday of Year (B)
Mark 1: 21-28
Jesus and his followers went as far as Capernaum, and as soon as the Sabbath came Jesus went to the synagogue and began to teach. And his teaching made a deep impression on them because, unlike the scribes, he taught them with authority.
In their synagogue just then there was a man possessed by an unclean spirit, and it shouted, ‘What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are: the Holy One of God.’ But Jesus said sharply, ‘Be quiet! Come out of him!’ And the unclean spirit threw the man into convulsions and with a loud cry went out of him. The people were so astonished that they started asking each other what it all meant. ‘Here is a teaching that is new’ they said ‘and with authority behind it: he gives orders even to unclean spirits and they obey him.’ And his reputation rapidly spread everywhere, through all the surrounding Galilean countryside.
The Gospel of the Lord.
Picture: Christ healing a possessed man in the Capernaum synagogue, an 11th century fresco in the Church of the Benedictine monastery of Stift Lambach, Austria.
The monastery was founded in Lambach in 1040 by Count Arnold II of Lambach-Wels. His son, Bishop Adalbero of Würzburg (later canonised), changed the monastery into a Benedictine abbey in 1056, which it has been since. During the 17th and 18th centuries a great deal of work in the Baroque style was carried out, much of it by the Carlone family.
The abbey has preserved much of its cultural interest. It contains the oldest extant Romanesque frescoes in Southern Germany and Austria, and the former abbey tavern, has a Baroque façade. The abbey’s Baroque theatre has also been restored to working.
The abbey church was also refurbished in the Baroque style, with an organ by Christoph Egedacher and contains the tomb of Saint Adelbero. The abbey also possesses the medieval St. Adelbero’s Chalice, although it is rarely on view to the public, besides a large collection of sacred art. Since 1625 the abbey has belonged to the Austrian Congregation, which now forms part of the Benedictine Confederation.
Third Sunday of Year (B)
Mark 1: 14-20
After John had been arrested, Jesus went into Galilee.
There he proclaimed the Good News from God. ‘The time has come’ he said ‘and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the Good News.
As he was walking along by the Sea of Galilee he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net in the lake – for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you into fishers of men.’ And at once they left their nets and followed him.
Going on a little further, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John; they too were in their boat, mending their nets. He called them at once and, leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the men he employed, they went after him.
The Gospel of the Lord.
Picture: The Vocation of the Apostles is a fresco by the Italian Renaissance painter Domenico Ghirlandaio, located in the Sistine Chapel, Rome. In 1481 a group of Florentine painters left for Rome, where they had been called as part of the reconciliation project between Lorenzo de’ Medici, the ‘de facto’ ruler of Florence, and Pope Sixtus IV. The Florentines started to work in the Sistine Chapel as early as the Spring of 1481, along with Pietro Perugino, who was already there.
The theme of the decoration was a parallel between the Stories of Moses and those of Christ, as a sign of continuity between the Old and the New Testament. Continuity also between the divine law of the Tables and the message of Jesus, who, in turn, chose Peter (the first alleged bishop of Rome) as his successor: this would finally result into a legitimation of the latter’s successors, the Popes of Rome.
The scene of the Vocation shows, above a lake in a wide mountainous valley, the fishermen Peter and Andrew (on the left) in the moment in which they are called by Jesus, who stands on the shore. A few moments later, the two are behind Jesus on the opposite shore (on the right), while the latter calls James and John, who are restoring the nets on their father Zebedee’s boat, in the center of the scene.
In the foreground are Peter and Andrew, already dressed in cloaks with their traditional colours (yellow or orange for Peter, green for Andrew). They are kneeling beside Christ who solemnly blesses them. An original element of the fresco is the presence of a multitude of beholders, portrayed in contemporary clothes. Their faces were those of the Florentine community in Rome, who resided near the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva.
At the left is a white bearded man, perhaps a literate from Constantinople who was also used as model for the St. Jerome in His Study in the church of Ognissanti in Florence. At the center, just behind Jesus, is the portrait of Diotisalvi Neroni, who had taken refuge in Rome after plotting against Piero di Cosimo de’ Medici. Another exile from Constantinople is John Argyropoulos, who appears on the right. Other characters on the right are members of the Tornabuoni family.
Second Sunday of Year (B)
John 1: 35-42
As John stood with two of his disciples, Jesus passed, and John stared hard at him and said, ‘Look, there is the lamb of God.’ Hearing this, the two disciples followed Jesus. Jesus turned round, saw them following and said, ‘What do you want?’ They answered, ‘Rabbi,’ – which means Teacher – ‘where do you live?’ ‘Come and see’ he replied; so they went and saw where he lived, and stayed with him the rest of that day. It was about the tenth hour.
One of these two who became followers of Jesus after hearing what John had said was Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter. Early next morning, Andrew met his brother and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ – which means the Christ – and he took Simon to Jesus. Jesus looked hard at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John; you are to be called Cephas’ – meaning Rock.
The Gospel of the Lord.
Picture: Saint John showing Christ to Saint Andrew, oil in canvas, painted by Ottavio Vannini. Vannini (1585 – 1643) was an Italian artist of the Baroque period, active in Florence. The picture is currently in the San Gaetano, Florence, a Baroque church located on the Piazza Antinori. This passage gives us some examples of how Jesus gathers disciples – and notice, Jesus’ disciples do some of that disciple-gathering too. The Synoptic Gospels relate later seaside callings of the fishermen and Levi (Matthew) the tax collector. But John shares an intimate encounter that probably took place at the Jordan where Jesus had just been baptised and proclaimed as the Lamb of God (1:36). Perhaps more than any place in the Bible, this passage illustrates how people come to Christ by personal recommendation of a person they know and respect. This incident seems to take place in Judea. But a number of Galileans have come to John’s “revival meetings.” Perhaps they had all come down from Galilee together to Passover in Jerusalem, and then down to the Jordan to hear John’s message. Many of them probably know each other from Galilee.
First Sunday of Year (B) – Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
Mark 1: 7-11
In the course of his preaching John the Baptist said, ‘Someone is following me, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to kneel down and undo the strap of his sandals. I have baptised you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.’
It was at this that Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptised in the Jordan by John. No sooner had he come up out of the water than he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit, like a dove, descending on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you.’
The Gospel of the Lord.
Picture: The Baptism of Christ, painted by Francesco Albani. The painting is oil on canvas and resides in the State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg. The Baptism of Christ was painted between 1630 and 1635, in Rome, where the painter resided at the time. During the Baroque period there were a lot of influences on the arts, but the one influence that seems to have the most effect on Francesco Albani’s work is the Council of Trent. The Council of Trent had a large influence on art during the Baroque period as the Catholic Church at the time began defining the Churches doctrine. The Baptism of Christ is a great example of how an artist created work that followed the doctrine of the Church. The painting depicts a story in the bible, it does not appear to show anything that would be inaccurate to the bible or something that the Church would be opposed to. In accordance with tradition, Albani shows the moment at which the Holy Spirit descended from the sky in the form of a dove and announced ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you’.
Christmas Week 2 (Year B) – Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord
Matthew 2: 1-12
After Jesus had been born at Bethlehem in Judaea during the reign of King Herod, some wise men came to Jerusalem from the east. ‘Where is the infant king of the Jews?’ they asked. ‘We saw his star as it rose and have come to do him homage.’ When King Herod heard this he was perturbed, and so was the whole of Jerusalem. He called together all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, and enquired of them where the Christ was to be born. ‘At Bethlehem in Judaea,’ they told him, ‘for this is what the prophet wrote:
And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
you are by no means least among the leaders of Judah,
for out of you will come a leader
who will shepherd my people Israel.’
Then Herod summoned the wise men to see him privately. He asked them the exact date on which the star had appeared, and sent them on to Bethlehem. ‘Go and find out all about the child,’ he said ‘and when you have found him, let me know, so that I too may go and do him homage.’ Having listened to what the king had to say, they set out. And there in front of them was the star they had seen rising; it went forward and halted over the place where the child was. The sight of the star filled them with delight, and going into the house they saw the child with his mother Mary, and falling to their knees they did him homage. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. But they were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, and returned to their own country by a different way.
The Gospel of the Lord.
Picture: The Adoration of the Magi is a painting by the Italian painter Gentile da Fabriano. The work, housed in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy, is considered his finest work, and has been described as “the culminating work of International Gothic painting”.
The painting was commissioned by the Florentine literate and patron of the arts Palla Strozzi, at the arrival of the artist in the city in 1420. Palla paid 300 florins for the altarpiece or about six times the annual salary of a skilled labourer. Finished in 1423, the painting was placed in the new chapel of the church of Santa Trinita.
The works shows both the international and Sienese schools’ influences on Gentile’s art, combined with the Renaissance novelties he knew in Florence. The panel portrays the path of the three Magi, in several scenes which start from the upper left corner (the voyage and the entrance into Bethlehem) and continue clockwise, to the larger meeting with the Virgin Mary and the newborn Jesus which occupies the lowest part of the picture. All the figures wear splendid Renaissance costumes, brocades richly decorated with real gold and precious stones inserted in the panel. Gentile’s typical attention for detail is also evident in the exotic animals, such as a leopard, a dromedary, some apes and a lion, as well as the magnificent horses and a hound.
The frame is also a work of art, characterised by three cusps with tondoes portraying Christ Blessing (centre) and the Annunciation (with the Archangel Gabriel on the left and the Madonna on the right). The predella has three rectangular paintings with scenes of Jesus’ childhood: the Nativity, the Flight into Egypt and the Presentation at the Temple (the latter a copy, the original being in the Louvre in Paris).
Christmas Week 1 (Year B) – Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary & Joseph
Luke 2: 22-40
When the day came for them to be purified as laid down by the Law of Moses, the parents of Jesus took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord – observing what stands written in the Law of the Lord: Every first-born male must be consecrated to the Lord – and also to offer in sacrifice, in accordance with what is said in the Law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons. Now in Jerusalem there was a man named Simeon. He was an upright and devout man; he looked forward to Israel’s comforting and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death until he had set eyes on the Christ of the Lord. Prompted by the Spirit he came to the Temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the Law required, he took him into his arms and blessed God; and he said:
you can let your servant go in peace,
just as you promised;
because my eyes have seen the salvation
which you have prepared for all the nations to see,
a light to enlighten the pagans
and the glory of your people Israel.’
As the child’s father and mother stood there wondering at the things that were being said about him, Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘You see this child: he is destined for the fall and for the rising of many in Israel, destined to be a sign that is rejected – and a sword will pierce your own soul too – so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare.’
There was a prophetess also, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was well on in years. Her days of girlhood over, she had been married for seven years before becoming a widow. She was now eighty-four years old and never left the Temple, serving God night and day with fasting and prayer. She came by just at that moment and began to praise God; and she spoke of the child to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem.
When they had done everything the Law of the Lord required, they went back to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. Meanwhile the child grew to maturity, and he was filled with wisdom; and God’s favour was with him.
The Gospel of the Lord.
Picture: Simeon’s Song of Praise (1631), oil on panel (61 x 48cm), is located in the Mauritshuis Art Museum in the Hague. Rembrandt was 25 years old and still living in Leiden when he made this painting. Mary and Joseph had taken Jesus to the temple to present him to God. The devout Simeon, helped by the Holy Spirit, saw that the infant might very well be the awaited Messiah. He took the child in his arms and praised God. The old man said he now was ready to die, “For mine eyes have seen thy salvation”. In Luke’s Gospel Simeon also speaks of “a light to lighten the Gentiles”. Rembrandt used that by depicting the child as the source of light. The surprised Mary kneels next to Simeon. Joseph is next to her. He holds two pigeons: the sacrifice required for this occasion. The group is situated before the steps that lead to the high priest’s throne.
A little history on art – the presentation of the Lord: Early images concentrated on the moment of meeting with Simeon, typically shown at the entrance to the Temple, and this is continued in Byzantine art and Eastern Orthodox icons to the present day. In the West, beginning in the 8th or 9th century, a different depiction at an altar emerged, where Simeon eventually by the Late Middle Ages came to be shown wearing the elaborate vestments attributed to a Jewish high priest, and conducting a liturgical ceremony surrounded by the family and Anna. Also in the western world, Simeon is more often already holding the infant, or the moment of handover is shown; in Eastern images the Virgin is more likely still to hold Jesus.
Fourth Sunday of Advent – Year B
The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, ‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?’ ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you’ the angel answered ‘and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God.’ ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary ‘let what you have said be done to me.’ And the angel left her.
The Gospel of the Lord.
Picture: The Annunciation, also known as the Cestello Annunciation, is a tempera painting by the Italian Renaissance master Sandro Botticelli. It is housed in the Uffizi Gallery of Florence. The picture was commissioned in 1489 by the church of the Florentine convent of Cestello which is now known as Santa Maria Maddalena de’Pazzi.
By the time Botticelli painted the Annunciation, he had become a very accomplished and recognised painter of altarpieces. At the time he may have been a more recognised painter of altarpieces than of his mythology works as the altarpieces were displayed in public places where a large number of people could view them.
The painting is telling the story of the angel Gabriel finding Mary and telling her that she will be the Virgin Mother of the Christ Child. Gabriel has clearly interrupted Mary reading from the book on the stand on the edge of the picture. Underneath the painting on the original frame of the picture are inscriptions in Latin from this passage of St Luke’s Gospel, telling the story that Botticelli wanted to portray.
There is a planned lack of architectural detail in Boticelli’s painting. This corresponds to the simplicity of the environment for the Cestello Church where the painting is to be displayed. A noteworthy feature in the Annunciation is the way that Botticelli used the space between Gabriel and Mary. The area between them on the floor and the area between their fingers that does not allow them to touch, is significant. That space is showing Gabriel and Mary not touching just as Mary conceived the Christ Child without any physical touch.
Third Sunday of Advent – Year B
John 1: 6-8, 19-28
A man came, sent by God.
His name was John.
He came as a witness,
as a witness to speak for the light,
so that everyone might believe through him,
He was not the light,
only a witness to speak for the light.
This is how John appeared as a witness. When the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ he not only declared, but he declared quite openly, ‘I am not the Christ.’ ‘Well then,’ they asked, ‘are you Elijah?’ ‘I am not,’ he said. ‘Are you the Prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ So they said to him, ‘Who are you? We must take back an answer to those who sent us. What have you to say about yourself?’ So John said, ‘I am, as Isaiah prophesied: a voice that cries in the wilderness: Make a straight way for the Lord.’
Now these men had been sent by the Pharisees, and they put this further question to him, ‘Why are you baptising if you are not the Christ, and not Elijah, and not the prophet?’ John replied, ‘I baptise with water; but there stands among you – unknown to you – the one who is coming after me; and I am not fit to undo his sandal-strap.’ This happened at Bethany, on the far side of the Jordan, where John was baptising.
The Gospel of the Lord.
Picture: The Preaching of St John, oil on panel (95x 161cm), painted 1566 by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1520 – 1569). The painting is currently in the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest.
Pieter Brueghel the Elder was an innovative Flemish Renaissance painter and printmaker, known for his sweeping landscapes and peasant scenes. His nickname was “Peasant Brueghel,” as he would often don peasant’s clothing and attend social gatherings and weddings, in order to mingle and interact with the locals, and gain insight and inspiration for his paintings. He also fathered two other prominent Flemish painters, Pieter Brueghel the Younger and Jan Brueghel the Elder.
As a pioneer in Netherlandish genre painting, he portrayed social aspects of 16th century life. Many of his works show the influence of Heironymous Bosch, the Dutch master painter. He also created some of the earliest form of social commentary in his paintings, and reportedly asked while lying on his deathbed to have the most subversive of the paintings burned, in order for his family to avoid political persecution.
Bruegel would often use biblical themes to depict village-life as he knew it. This painting is another fine example. The viewer’s attention is first drawn to the figures in the foreground, then to the river in the background and only then to John the Baptist, wearing a garment of camel hair.
The painting was created when the Iconoclast raged in the Low Countries and Protestant clergymen were touring the country, stopping in places to call for Reformation. This painting may have been inspired by one such meeting.
Second Sunday of Advent – Year B
Mark 1: 1-8
The beginning of the Good News about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is written in the book of the prophet Isaiah:
Look, I am going to send my messenger before you;
he will prepare your way.
A voice cries in the wilderness:
Prepare a way for the Lord,
make his paths straight,
and so it was that John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. All Judaea and all the people of Jerusalem made their way to him, and as they were baptised by him in the river Jordan they confessed their sins. John wore a garment of camel-skin, and he lived on locusts and wild honey. In the course of his preaching he said, ‘Someone is following me, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to kneel down and undo the strap of his sandals. I have baptised you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.’
The Gospel of the Lord.
Picture: ‘St. John the Baptist’ is an oil painting on walnut wood by Leonardo da Vinci. Completed between 1513 and 1516, when the High Renaissance was metamorphosing into Mannerism, it is believed to be his final painting. The original size of the work was 69 x 57cm. It is now exhibited at the Musée du Louvre in Paris, France.
The painting depicts St. John the Baptist in isolation. St. John is dressed in pelts, has long curly hair, and is smiling in an enigmatic manner which is reminiscent of Leonardo’s famous Mona Lisa. He holds a reed cross in his left hand while his right hand points up toward heaven (like St Anne in Leonardo’s The Virgin and Child with St Anne and St John the Baptist). It is believed that the cross and wool skins were added at a later date by another painter.
The pointing gesture of St. John toward the heavens suggests the importance of salvation through baptism that John the Baptist represents. The work is often quoted by later painters, especially those in the late Renaissance and Mannerist schools. The inclusion of a gesture similar to St John’s would increase the religious importance of a work.
First Sunday of Advent – Year B
Mark 13: 33-37
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Be on your guard, stay awake, because you never know when the time will come. It is like a man travelling abroad: he has gone from home, and left his servants in charge, each with his own task; and he has told the doorkeeper to stay awake. So stay awake, because you do not know when the master of the house is coming, evening, midnight, cockcrow, dawn; if he comes unexpectedly, he must not find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake!’
The Gospel of the Lord.
Picture: St Mark – oil on wood painting, dated 1535, by Il Pordenone, byname of Giovanni Antonio de’ Sacchis (c. 1484–1539). Il Pordenone was an Italian painter of the Venetian school, active during the Renaissance.
As we begin a new liturgical year, we begin to read the Gospel of St Mark. The lion is Mark’s symbol. The lion derives from Mark’s description of John the Baptist as a “voice of one crying out in the desert” (Mark 1:3), in which artists compared to a roaring lion. Sometimes depicted with wings, this comes from the application of Ezekiel’s vision of four winged creatures (Ezekiel, chapter one) to the evangelists. The lion also symbolises the power of the Evangelist’s word, sometimes winged to symbolise the spiritual elevation, sometimes with a halo, the traditional Christian symbol of holiness. The lion symbol express also the significance of majesty and power, while the book expresses the concepts of wisdom and peace.
The oldest and the shortest of the four Gospels, the Gospel of Mark emphasises Jesus’ rejection by humanity while being God’s triumphant envoy. Probably written for Gentile converts in Rome—after the death of Peter and Paul sometime between A.D. 60 and 70—Mark’s Gospel is the gradual manifestation of a “scandal”: a crucified Messiah. Evidently a friend of Mark (Peter called him “my son”), Peter is only one of the Gospel sources, others being the Church in Jerusalem (Jewish roots) and the Church at Antioch (largely Gentile). Like one other Gospel writer, Luke, Mark was not one of the 12 apostles. We cannot be certain whether he knew Jesus personally. Some hold Mark to be the first bishop of Alexandria, Egypt. Venice, famous for the Piazza San Marco, claims Mark as its patron saint; the large basilica there is believed to contain his remains.