Today’s gospel in art – All Saints’ Day

The Forerunners of Christ with Saints and Martyrs, From Angelico © National Gallery, London

The Forerunners of Christ with Saints and Martyrs, From Angelico © National Gallery, London

Source: Christian Art

The Gospel of October 31, 2021 – Matthew 5: 1-12

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the hill. There he sat down and was joined by his disciples. Then he started talking. 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 land for their inheritance.

Happy those who mourn:

they must be comforted.

Happy those who hunger and thirst for the right thing:

they must be satisfied.

Happy the Merciful:

they must show them mercy.

Happy the pure of heart:

they must see God.

Happy Peacemakers:

they are to be called sons of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted in the cause of justice:

theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.

‘You are happy when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of slander against you for my sake. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. ‘

Reflection on the painted panel

Wish you all a happy Halloween party! Many of us will celebrate the feast today in our parishes instead of tomorrow. This is a day of special joy as we reflect on the way God’s grace works in every human life. It is a day that can ignite in each of us the desire to believe in and strive for personal holiness, inspired by the Saints who lived before us. In fact, we believe that the Saints in Heaven are even more alive than when they lived on earth. That is why their lives still inspire us today. Pope Benedict described this beautifully: ‘The life of the saints is like throwing oneself into the sea of ​​infinite love … life in the full sense, a dive again and again into the vastness of life, where we are simply overwhelmed with joy. ‘

Ok, so how can this apply to our own lives? Do we believe in personal holiness? I think it would be fair to say that the secular culture around us no longer believes in holiness, let alone personal holiness. It’s just un-cool, or even weird to think that way, right? But as Christians, we believe that we can strive to become the very best versions of ourselves, in preparation for heaven. The more we can love here on earth, the more we can forgive and be forgiven, the more we can help others, the more we can grow in love for God, the more we can prepare to hopefully be received in the glory of God, when we die. And that tension, between the joy of life and the awareness of death, is what can make us grow spiritually every day.

I have often stood in front of this painted panel of (probably) From Angelico at the National Gallery in London. Its beauty seduces me every time. Entitled ‘The Forerunners of Christ with Saints and Martyrs’, it comes from the predella (the lower part of an altarpiece) commissioned for the church of San Domenico, Fiesole, near Florence, and executed around 1424. The saints and martyrs all appear to by the middle panel representing Christ risen from the dead. Notice in the top row the figure of John the Baptist holding a cross and wearing a camel skin cloak. He looks directly at us and points to Christ. That was what his life was about: proclaiming and paving the way for Christ. In this painting he does the same, pointing the viewer to Christ. At the front in the middle row we see Sankt Stefan. He is dressed in a green cloak and has a stone on his shoulder, a reference to his martyrdom by stoning. Below him, in red, is Saint Thecla, the first female martyr.


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Tags: Christian Art, Patrick van der Vorst, Fra Angelico

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