Today's Gospel in Art - Feast of the Assumption of Mary

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The Assumption of the Virgin Mary, by Peter Paul Rubens, 1626 © Cathedral of our Lady, Antwerp, Belgium

The Assumption of the Virgin Mary, by Peter Paul Rubens, 1626 © Cathedral of our Lady, Antwerp, Belgium

Gospel of 15th August 2019 - Luke 1: 39-56

Mary set out and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah. She went into Zechariah's house and greeted Elizabeth. Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She gave a loud cry and said, 'Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.'

And Mary said: 'My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit exults in God my saviour; because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid. Yes, from this day forward all generations will call me blessed, for the Almighty has done great things for me. Holy is his name, and his mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear him. He has shown the power of his arm, he has routed the proud of heart. He has pulled down princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things, the rich sent empty away. He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his mercy - according to the promise he made to our ancestors - of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.'

Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back home.

Reflection on the Altarpiece Painting

Today is the feast of the Assumption of Our Lady, where we celebrate Mary being taken up into Haven at the end of her earthly life. The Assumption (from the Latin word assumptio, a 'taking') was defined as dogma by the Catholic Church in 1950 by Pope Pius XII. Today's painting by Peter Paul Rubens was completed in 1626 as an altarpiece for the high altar of the Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp, Belgium. We see Mary depicted as being 'taken' into heaven. A choir of angels lifts her in a spiralling motion towards a burst of divine light in the top tight corner. Around her earthly tomb are gathered all 12 apostles. The two women depicted are Mary Magdalene and the Virgin Mary's two sisters. The scale of this work is enormous and stands at 490cm.high (16 feet). I deliberately show a photo of the whole altarpiece, with its architectural marble setting. Most of the art we look at on a daily basis has been removed from its original setting or context that it was created for, so here it is good to see the work in its full original church setting...

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Tags: Christian Art Today, Assumption of Our Lady

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