Today’s art work for consideration is The Descent of the Holy Spirit by Titian (Tiziano Vecellio), an altarpiece which is at Santa Maria della Salute, Venice and is typical of his large scale, dramatic style. Titian was painting at the same time as Raphael and Michelangelo, an amazing generation of artistic talent that provided the world with some wonderful depictions of stories from the Bible. We see the Holy Spirit depicted as a dove, descending with its bright light onto the Apostles and holy women. They are all in highly expressive poses, receiving the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. Filled with the Holy Spirit, they would now go out and spread the Good news, to be proclaimed to all.
What interests me is that the women take a prominent place in this very large artwork. If we look at God’s story with his people, we need to look further than the end of the New Testament. We need to look at Church history too, and I find this a very modern take of men and women sharing equally in the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Of course there were many women who were disciples of Jesus, and many very active in the Early Church, named by Paul in his letters.
At some time, it would appear, the prevailing belief that women were not people of authority and leadership made a deep and lasting impression in the Church. The Church needs to be relevant to every age, so it makes one wonder, doesn’t it, why the Church of today, despite much recent progress, still struggles with women in leadership roles.
Last weekend the Archbishops of Canterbury and York ruled that, in order to show unity with those who refuse to accept women in positions of authority, neither of them will any longer ordain bishops. Is it a wonder, then, that the secular world believe the Church is not relevant to this age?
This parish, with your support of Rev Jane and me and Karen, and Anna and Nikki, is a blessing to those of us called by God to the work he has for us. Our prayers must be for those who still struggle with affirming to the call of God to all of his people. We are all part of God’s story.
God bless you today, may your faith flourish and your story be heard.