Ash Wednesday

Today we begin Lenten fasting, each of us entering our own desert to free ourselves from the temptations that lead us astray. Our models are the prophets and Christ himself. Let us begin this season with renewed zeal and commitment to the Lord.


By BRITON RIVIERE, R.A. (1840-1920)

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Take care not to perform righteous deeds
in order that people may see them;
otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.
When you give alms,
do not blow a trumpet before you,
as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets
to win the praise of others.
Amen, I say to you,
they have received their reward.
But when you give alms,
do not let your left hand know what your right is doing,
so that your almsgiving may be secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you pray,
do not be like the hypocrites,
who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners
so that others may see them.
Amen, I say to you,
they have received their reward.
But when you pray, go to your inner room,
close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you fast,
do not look gloomy like the hypocrites.
They neglect their appearance,
so that they may appear to others to be fasting.
Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.
But when you fast,
anoint your head and wash your face,
so that you may not appear to be fasting,
except to your Father who is hidden.
And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18


The son of an artistic father, Briton Riviere gave early promise of distinction in the realm of art. At the age of eighteen he exhibited at the Royal Academy, and his pictures became an annual feature at Burlington House after his twenty-sixth year.

“The Temptation In the Wilderness” is an example of the artist’s technical skill and knowledge, and is also interesting as being the successful outcome of an experiment in colour. The painter decided to express the sentiment of his subject almost entirely by means of colour, i.e. by the white figure of the Christ against the sunset glow of the sky, both sky and figure being focused by the gloom of the landscape. He made many notes of the colour effects derived from the juxtaposition of white and sunset, and found, as he expected and hoped, that the white, in shadow with the cold light of the southeastern sky, appeared almost as a bright blue against the warm northwestern sunset sky. This enabled him to dispense with the conventional nimbus of purely ecclesiastical pictures, and yet achieve an effect of the miraculous by showing, as if by accident, the white evening star, greatly magnified by the composition, just over the head of the Saviour.

From the book “Famous Paintings” Volume 2 printed in 1913.

3 thoughts on “Ash Wednesday

  1. hermitsdoor says:

    I also see a wide-wing span bird just on the horizon above the distant mountains… by the shape of the wings, I would conjecture that it is a vulture. Hmmmm. Symbol of the tempations of Satan to come?

    Regarding Lent, I often find my friends’ selection of what is of importance to give up for the season rather trivial (of course, that is my judgment). One year, I suggested giving up God, as the entity of ultimate importance… Another year, I suggested giving up sarcasm, which of course was a violation of the plan from the start.


    • jane arney says:

      I guess everyone has to decide what their own temptation is. Perhaps it may seem trivial to others, but if removing it helps them grow closer to God, then it’s an effective fast, right?


      • hermitsdoor says:

        Absolutely. I recognize that I contemplate life, philosophy, theology, history, ec. a bit more than most of my contemporaries (who filter experience through TV shows and sports). Let’s just say my temptations are more on the line of Faust and Cyrano… arrogance. Maybe I should give that up this year! Oscar

        Liked by 1 person

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