Daily reflection for Monday 20th July

Procession to Calvary

This week I will be looking at various works of art. If you are able to do so, it’s worth looking them up, so that you too can reflect directly on what you see.

I have always been fascinated by the art of Pieter Bruegel. His paintings are absolutely crowded with the most lively characters, and so many of them, and in such detail too. Many of them show crowded places, full of Dutch-Flemish peasants, all busy with their daily lives. Like most Renaissance painters, many of his works are based on Bible stories, such as the Tower of Babel, the Census at Bethlehem, and the Procession to Calvary.

As I look at the Procession to Calvary (see a picture at e.g here) , there is much that puzzles me: why is there a windmill at the top of a tall rock? Are the figures in the foreground Mary, the mother of Jesus, and a few of the disciples? Where are all those people going, just passing by, while others are just standing around? Where is Calvary? And where is Jesus? It’s like a Renaissance version of a religious ‘Where’s Wally?’

As with many artists of that time, it was usual to place people of the place and period of the painter’s life right in the Bible story. Just as I dislike watching Shakespeare plays presented in a modern setting, I used to dislike this contextualising of art. But, while I will still avoid the theatre when the play is not traditional, I find great value in seeing the depiction of stories of God set in ordinary life, whatever the age. Because that makes God more real, that makes me realise that God is for and of every age. And many times, it is hard to fathom what is happening, and why people are doing the things they do. Many times, too, it is hard to find Jesus.

God bless you today.

Reverend Shirley

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