Zechariah’s Vision

 

In the days of Herod, King of Judea,
there was a priest named Zechariah
of the priestly division of Abijah;
his wife was from the daughters of Aaron,
and her name was Elizabeth.
Both were righteous in the eyes of God,
observing all the commandments
and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly.
But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren
and both were advanced in years.

Once when he was serving as priest
in his division’s turn before God,
according to the practice of the priestly service,
he was chosen by lot
to enter the sanctuary of the Lord to burn incense.
Then, when the whole assembly of the people was praying outside
at the hour of the incense offering,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him,
standing at the right of the altar of incense.
Zechariah was troubled by what he saw, and fear came upon him.

But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah,
because your prayer has been heard.
Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son,
and you shall name him John.
And you will have joy and gladness,
and many will rejoice at his birth,
for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.
He will drink neither wine nor strong drink.
He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb,
and he will turn many of the children of Israel
to the Lord their God.
He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah
to turn the hearts of fathers toward children
and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous,
to prepare a people fit for the Lord.”

Then Zechariah said to the angel,
“How shall I know this?
For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.”
And the angel said to him in reply,
“I am Gabriel, who stand before God.
I was sent to speak to you and to announce to you this good news.
But now you will be speechless and unable to talk
until the day these things take place,
because you did not believe my words,
which will be fulfilled at their proper time.”
Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah
and were amazed that he stayed so long in the sanctuary.
But when he came out, he was unable to speak to them,
and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary.
He was gesturing to them but remained mute.

Then, when his days of ministry were completed, he went home.

After this time his wife Elizabeth conceived,
and she went into seclusion for five months, saying,
“So has the Lord done for me at a time when he has seen fit
to take away my disgrace before others.”

Luke 1:5-25

 

hb_51.30.1.jpg

The Angel Gabriel Appearing to Zacharias, ca. 1799–1800
William Blake (British, 1757–1827)
Pen and black ink, tempera and glue

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Blake illustrates these verses from Luke (1:5–13) that describe Gabriel’s announcement.

The priest’s fear and astonishment in the face of the heavenly apparition are vividly described, as are the details of his colorful costume and the furniture of the Temple. Clouds of bubbles from the burner Zacharias holds join the smoke and flames from the fire on the altar of incense.

The picture belonged to an important commission. It is one of fifty Old and New Testament subjects ordered from the artist in 1799 by his principal patron, Thomas Butts, a clerk in the war office.

For more on William Blake, read this.

Advertisements

The Widow’s Mite

 

Jesus sat down opposite the treasury
and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury.
Many rich people put in large sums.
A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents.
Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them,
“Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more
than all the other contributors to the treasury.
For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth,
but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had,
her whole livelihood.

Mark 12:41-44

The Widow's Mite, James Tissot, watercolor, Brooklyn Museum of Art

The Widow’s Mite, James Tissot, 1886-1894. Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper, 7 3/16 x 11 1/16 in. (18.3 x 28.1 cm), Brooklyn Museum

From the Brooklyn Museum website:

The exhibition James Tissot: “The Life of Christ” includes 124 watercolors selected from a set of 350 that depict detailed scenes from the New Testament, from before the birth of Jesus through the Resurrection, in a chronological narrative. It marks the first time in more than twenty years that any of the Tissot watercolors, a pivotal acquisition that entered the collection in 1900, have been on view at the Brooklyn Museum.

Born in France, James Tissot (1836−1902) enjoyed great success as a society painter in Paris and London in the 1870s and 1880s. While visiting the Church of St. Sulpice, he experienced a religious vision, after which he abandoned his former subjects and embarked on an ambitious project to illustrate the New Testament. In preparation for the work, he made expeditions to the Middle East to record the landscape, architecture, costumes, and customs of the Holy Land and its people, which he recorded in photographs, notes, and sketches. Unlike earlier artists, who had often depicted biblical figures anachronistically, Tissot painted his many figures in costumes he believed to be historically authentic, carrying out his series with considerable archaeological exactitude.

First presented in Paris in 1894, the watercolors were received with great enthusiasm, and a highly publicized exhibition later traveled to London and the United States, visiting Manhattan, Brooklyn, Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago. In 1900, at the suggestion of John Singer Sargent, the Museum decided to acquire the series; the purchase funds were raised primarily by public subscription, spurred on, in part, by exhortations in theBrooklyn Daily Eagle newspaper urging readers to contribute to the campaign.

For more on this collection, click here.

Are you a Faithful Servant?

Beaune Altarpiece with the Last Judgment, Rogier Van der Weyden, 1445-50, Hospices de Beaune

Beaune Altarpiece with the Last Judgment, Rogier Van der Weyden, 1445-50, Hospices de Beaune

Jesus said to his disciples: 
“Be sure of this:
if the master of the house had known the hour
when the thief was coming,
he would not have let his house be broken into.
You also must be prepared,
for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

Then Peter said,
“Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone?”
And the Lord replied,
“Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward
whom the master will put in charge of his servants
to distribute the food allowance at the proper time?
Blessed is that servant whom his master on arrival finds doing so.
Truly, I say to you, he will put him
in charge of all his property.
But if that servant says to himself,
‘My master is delayed in coming,’
and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants,
to eat and drink and get drunk,
then that servant’s master will come
on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour
and will punish the servant severely
and assign him a place with the unfaithful.
That servant who knew his master’s will
but did not make preparations nor act in accord with his will
shall be beaten severely;
and the servant who was ignorant of his master’s will
but acted in a way deserving of a severe beating
shall be beaten only lightly. 
Much will be required of the person entrusted with much,
and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”

Luke 12:39-48

The Last Judgment, Hans Memling, 1467-71, National Museum, Gdańsk, Poland

The Last Judgment, Hans Memling, 1467-71, National Museum, Gdańsk, Poland

 

Rogier Van Der Weyden is one of my favorite Northern Renaissance artists and his Beaune Altarpiece with the last judgment is a tour-de-force. It’s actually fifteen separate paintings on oak panels, some painted on both sides, assembled into a complex folding altarpiece, or polyptych. Here it is closed.

Beaune Altarpiece folded, Rogier Van der Weyden

Beaune Altarpiece folded, Rogier Van der Weyden

Here we see the donors who commissioned the work on the sides with angels. In the center are figures painted to look like like statues, a technique known as grisaille, with Sts. Sebastian and Anthony, and the Archangel Gabriel with the Virgin Mary above.

 

The opened Altarpiece measures an enormous 220cm x 548 cm, roughly 7 ft tall by 18 ft.wide! The scene of the last judgment shows Christ appearing in Glory, with the archangel Michael weighing souls. There’s a decent Wikipedia article about this masterpiece if you would like more information.

 

The other work is by Rogier’s student, Hans Memling, and may have been inspired by his master’s work. It is a triptych, with three panels.

 

Be sure to click on the paintings to see details.

What’s Your Demon?

 

When Jesus had driven out a demon, some of the crowd said:
“By the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons,
he drives out demons.”
Others, to test him, asked him for a sign from heaven.
But he knew their thoughts and said to them,
“Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste
and house will fall against house.
And if Satan is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?
For you say that it is by Beelzebul that I drive out demons.
If I, then, drive out demons by Beelzebul,
by whom do your own people drive them out?
Therefore they will be your judges.
But if it is by the finger of God that I drive out demons,
then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.
When a strong man fully armed guards his palace,
his possessions are safe.
But when one stronger than he attacks and overcomes him,
he takes away the armor on which he relied
and distributes the spoils.
Whoever is not with me is against me,
and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

“When an unclean spirit goes out of someone,
it roams through arid regions searching for rest
but, finding none, it says,
‘I shall return to my home from which I came.’
But upon returning, it finds it swept clean and put in order.
Then it goes and brings back seven other spirits
more wicked than itself who move in and dwell there,
and the last condition of that man is worse than the first.
Exorcism, engraving from the Picture Bible of Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, 1860

Exorcism, engraving from the Picture Bible of Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, 1860

From Dailyscripture.net

God and his Word is the source of our protection and security
What is the point of Jesus’ grim story about a vacant house being occupied by an evil force? It is not enough to banish evil thoughts and habits from our lives. We must also fill the void with God who is the source of all that is good, wholesome, true, and life-giving for us. Augustine of Hippo said that our lives have a God-shaped void which only God can fill satisfactorily. If we attempt to leave it vacant or to fill it with something else, we will end up being in a worse state in the end.

What do you fill the void in your life with? The Lord Jesus wants to fill our hearts and minds with the power of his life-giving word and healing love. Jesus makes it very clear that there are no neutral parties in this world. We are either for Jesus or against him, for the kingdom of God or against it. There are ultimately only two kingdoms which stand in opposition to one another – the kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness which is under the rule of Satan. If we disobey God’s word, we open to door to the power of sin and Satan.

Is Jesus the Lord of your mind, heart, and home?
If we want to live in true freedom, then our “house” (the inner core of our true being) must be occupied by Jesus where he is enthroned as Lord and Savior. The Lord assures us of his protection from spiritual harm and he gives us the help and strength we need to resist the devil and his lies (James 4:7). “Because you have made the Lord your refuge, the Most High your habitation, no evil shall befall you, no scourge come near your tent. For he will give his angels charge of you to guard you in all your ways”(Psalm 91:9-11). Do you know the peace and security of a life submitted to God and his word?

“Lord Jesus, be the ruler of my heart and the master of my home. May there be nothing in my life that is not under your lordship.”

The Little Children

An argument arose among the disciples
about which of them was the greatest. 
Jesus realized the intention of their hearts and took a child
and placed it by his side and said to them,
“Whoever receives this child in my name receives me,
and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.
For the one who is least among all of you
is the one who is the greatest.”

Then John said in reply, 
“Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name 
and we tried to prevent him
because he does not follow in our company.”
Jesus said to him, 
“Do not prevent him, for whoever is not against you is for you.”

Luke 9:46-50

 

If you Google “Jesus with children”, the image results are mostly sappy, poor quality illustrations that cannot be called art.

wpid-screenshot_2015-09-28-06-51-41.png

Mostly bad art

 

But googling Pope Francis with children provides an array of joyful photographs! So, no art today, just these:

 

The living Gospel!

The living Gospel!

 

Jesus Healing on the Sabbath

Jesus Heals the Man with Withered Hand, Coptic Egyptian Manuscript, 1684

Jesus Heals the Man with Withered Hand, Coptic Egyptian Manuscript, 1684

On a certain sabbath Jesus went into the synagogue and taught,
and there was a man there whose right hand was withered.
The scribes and the Pharisees watched him closely
to see if he would cure on the sabbath
so that they might discover a reason to accuse him.
But he realized their intentions
and said to the man with the withered hand,
“Come up and stand before us.”
And he rose and stood there.
Then Jesus said to them,
“I ask you, is it lawful to do good on the sabbath
rather than to do evil,
to save life rather than to destroy it?”
Looking around at them all, he then said to him,
“Stretch out your hand.”
He did so and his hand was restored.
But they became enraged
and discussed together what they might do to Jesus.
Luke 6:6-11

“On this folio from Walters manuscript W.592, Jesus heals the man with a withered hand. Walters manuscript W.592 is an illuminated and illustrated Arabic manuscript of the Gospels by Matthew (Mattá), Mark (Marqus), Luke (Luqa), and John (Yuhanna) and was copied in Egypt by Ilyas Basim Khuri Bazzi Rahib, who was most likely a Coptic monk, in Anno Mundi 7192/AD 1684. The text is written in Naskh in black ink with rubrics in red. The decoration is comprised of illuminated headpieces, numerous floral paintings, and approximately fifty illustrations.  The original binding of the manuscript is brown goatskin with blind-tooled central oval medallion, pendants, and cornerpieces.”

 

Walters Manuscript W.592

Walters Manuscript W.592

Please visit the Walters Museum page for more illustrations from this gospel manuscript.

Jesus healing

 

Jesus Healing a Deaf Mute, Bartholomeus Breenbergh 1635, Louvre Museum, Paris

Jesus Healing a Deaf Mute, Bartholomeus Breenbergh 1635, Louvre Museum, Paris

Again Jesus left the district of Tyre
and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee,
into the district of the Decapolis.
And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment
and begged him to lay his hand on him.
He took him off by himself away from the crowd.
He put his finger into the man’s ears
and, spitting, touched his tongue;
then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him,
Ephphatha!”— that is, “Be opened!” —
And immediately the man’s ears were opened,
his speech impediment was removed,
and he spoke plainly.
He ordered them not to tell anyone.
But the more he ordered them not to,
the more they proclaimed it.
They were exceedingly astonished and they said,
“He has done all things well.
He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
Matthew 7:31-37

Bartholomeus BREENBERGH, Jesus Healing a Deaf Mute, 1635, Louvre, Paris

From the Louvre website:

The healing of the deaf and dumb man (not the blind man as has sometimes been suggested) refers to the story in St. Mark’s Gospel, but here it is situated in a wider context and set against a background of ancient Roman ruins-references that were “de rigueur” for art lovers of the time.

A miraculous healing

Attracted by the supernatural scene, a group of people has gathered before the ancient ruins. Jesus is performing one of his miracles, probably the healing of the deaf and dumb man. Bartholomeus Breenbergh (1599-1657) depicts the scene at the very moment of the miracle, as recounted in St. Mark’s Gospel: “They brought to him a man who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech, with the request that he would lay his hand on him. He took the man aside, away from the crowd, put his fingers into his ears, spat, and touched his tongue. Then, looking up to heaven, he sighed, and said to him, ‘Ephphatha,’ which means ‘Be opened.’ With that his ears were opened, and at the same time the impediment was removed and he spoke plainly” (7:32-35).

Italianate ruins

Like many contemporary artists, Breenbergh went to Italy, and particularly to Rome, the city where classical antiquity was best represented. He brought back numerous drawings, which would form a range of backgrounds for most of his works. In this picture, the distant ruins overrun with vegetation combine various motifs derived from his Italian studies. The collection of buildings is a slightly modified reprise of the ruins of the Villa of Maecenas at Tivoli, which he had drawn in 1627, while the detail of the coffered vault seen under the main archway is thought to have been inspired by the Basilica of Constantine, one of the most important monuments in the Roman Forum. Breenbergh has thus set this scene from Christian antiquity against a picturesque background which accords very well with the taste for things Italian of his own day.

The taste for narrative rediscovered

Although the principal scene is smaller in scale than the family and beggar in the foreground, Breenbergh guides the gaze of the onlooker by the interplay of light. The alternation of light and dark areas hollows out the space and gives prominence to the healing of the deaf and dumb man by literally putting him under the spotlight. The bright gap in the stormy sky, which explains these various effects of light, is rendered with great sensitivity to atmosphere. In his previous compositions, Breenbergh had displayed a marked preference for landscape over figure painting, characterized by a pre-classical style close to that of Paul Bril (1554-1626). But here there is a fullness to the figures, and exotic touches (the little page with a feather in his headdress walking a dog) are combined with great expressiveness (the very Mannerist, contorted attitude of the beggar on crutches). This renewed taste for pictorial narrative was part of a general movement in Dutch art toward painting historical scenes, also evident in the work of Pieter Lastman (1583-1633) and Rembrandt (1606-1669).

Bibliography

Le Siècle de Rembrandt : tableaux hollandais des collections publiques françaises, catalogue d’exposition, Musée du Petit-Palais, Édition de la Réunion des musées nationaux, Paris, 1970, p. 29.