Take up your cross and follow

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Once when Jesus was praying by himself,
and the disciples were with him,
he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”
They said in reply, “John the Baptist;
others, Elijah;
still others, ‘One of the ancient prophets has arisen.’”
Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Peter said in reply, “The Christ of God.”
He scolded them
and directed them not to tell this to anyone.

He said, “The Son of Man must suffer greatly
and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed and on the third day be raised.” Then he said to all,
“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself
and take up his cross daily and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”
Luke 9:18-24

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Christ Carrying the Cross, 1505-07, Hieronymous Bosch, Palacio Real, Madrid

This work is one of three versions of the event painted by Bosch, with the others residing in Ghent and Vienna (though the attribution of the Ghent painting has been questioned). In the Madrid version we see a simple composition with Christ at the center struggling under the weight of the Cross, while Simon of Cyrene tries to assist him. The crowd at left are Christ’s accusers and tormentors, painted as ugly caricatures to indicate their sin in executing the Savior. In the distance above Christ’s head we see a contemporary city from Bosch’s time, and the figures of the apostle John comforting Mary, the mother of Jesus. The guard to the right stares out at the viewer, which is often a device by which artists include their self-portrait, though I could find no literature substantiating this here. It may simply reinforce the stare of Christ, meant to challenge the viewer to take up his or her own cross and follow Jesus. As such, it is a powerful devotional image to use in meditation.

“Take, Lord, and receive, all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess. You have given all to me. To You, O Lord, I return it. All is Yours. Dispose of it wholly according to Your will. Give me Your love and Your grace, for this is sufficient for me.” (Prayer of St. Ignatius)

The Good Shepherd

This older post remains one of my most popular. Since today’s readings are about God as the Good Shepherd, I thought I’d share it once more.

Good Shepherd, fresco, artist unknown, Catacomb of Priscilla

Good Shepherd, fresco, artist unknown, Catacomb of Priscilla

(Click on images for larger view)

Does your idea of Jesus include the image of the Good Shepherd? Paintings and sculpture of this figure date to ancient times and the Catacombs of Rome contain about 150 such images, showing that this was certainly a popular portrayal of Jesus for early Christians.

I am the good shepherd.
The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep…
My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord;
I know them, and they follow me.
John 10:14, 27

When Jesus disembarked and saw the vast crowd,
his heart was moved with pity for them,
for they were like sheep without a shepherd;
and he began to teach them many things.
Mark 6:34

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Pentecost Sunday

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Today we celebrate Pentecost Sunday:

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled,
they were all in one place together.
And suddenly there came from the sky
a noise like a strong driving wind,
and it filled the entire house in which they were.
Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire,
which parted and came to rest on each one of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
and began to speak in different tongues,
as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven
staying in Jerusalem.
At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd,
but they were confused
because each one heard them speaking in his own language.
They were astounded, and in amazement they asked,
“Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans?
Then how does each of us hear them in his native language?
We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites,
inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia,
Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia,
Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene,
as well as travelers from Rome,
both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs,
yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues
of the mighty acts of God.”

Acts 2:1-1

Over the past nine days we’ve viewed images of this event as we prayed the Pentecost Novena. Our final image today is from a magnificent carved Altarpiece with paintings attached to its wings that can only be seen when the Altarpiece is opened for display.

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Pentecost Novena

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It’s customary for Catholics to pray a novena to the Holy Spirit for the nine days between the Feast of the Ascension and Pentecost Sunday. There are many novena prayers to choose from so for this post I selected the Novena to the Holy Spirit for the Seven Gifts accompanied by depictions of Pentecost from art history in chronological order.

 

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Feed My Sheep

Feed My Sheep, Raphael, 1515, preparatory cartoon for tapestry design, Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

At that time, Jesus revealed himself again to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias.
He revealed himself in this way.
Together were Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus,
Nathanael from Cana in Galilee,
Zebedee’s sons, and two others of his disciples.
Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.”
They said to him, “We also will come with you.”
So they went out and got into the boat,
but that night they caught nothing.
When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore;
but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.

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Annunciation

The Annunciation, 1898, Henry Ossawa Tanner, Philadelphia Museum of Art

When I’ve given presentations on the art of the Annunciation, the painting that is most universally admired is the version by the African American artist, Henry Ossawa Tanner (b.1859-1937). People appreciate it perhaps because of its realism, the beauty of its warm golden light, and the humanity and humility with which Tanner portrayed the teenaged Mary.

The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.

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