Today's Gospel in Art - She brought an alabaster jar of ointment

Maria Magdalene and the Vessel of Ointment,  by Jan van Scorel 1530 © Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Maria Magdalene and the Vessel of Ointment, by Jan van Scorel 1530 © Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Gospel of 19th September 2019 - Luke 7: 36-50

One of the Pharisees invited Jesus to a meal. When he arrived at the Pharisee's house and took his place at table, a woman came in, who had a bad name in the town. She had heard he was dining with the Pharisee and had brought with her an alabaster jar of ointment. She waited behind him at his feet, weeping, and her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them away with her hair; then she covered his feet with kisses and anointed them with the ointment.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, 'If this man were a prophet, he would know who this woman is that is touching him and what a bad name she has.' Then Jesus took him up and said, 'Simon, I have something to say to you.' 'Speak, Master' was the reply. 'There was once a creditor who had two men in his debt; one owed him five hundred denarii, the other fifty. They were unable to pay, so he pardoned them both. Which of them will love him more?' 'The one who was pardoned more, I suppose' answered Simon. Jesus said, 'You are right.'

Then he turned to the woman. 'Simon,' he said 'you see this woman? I came into your house, and you poured no water over my feet, but she has poured out her tears over my feet and wiped them away with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but she has been covering my feet with kisses ever since I came in. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. For this reason I tell you that her sins, her many sins, must have been forgiven her, or she would not have shown such great love. It is the man who is forgiven little who shows little love.' Then he said to her, 'Your sins are forgiven.' Those who were with him at table began to say to themselves, 'Who is this man, that he even forgives sins?' But he said to the woman, 'Your faith has saved you; go in peace.'

Reflection on the Painting

Van Scorel was one of the first Dutch painters to visit Italy. He ended up in Rome, where in 1522, he entered the service of Pope Adrian VI (also a Dutchman), as curator of antiquities at the Vatican. When he returned to the Netherlands, he entered the clergy in Utrecht. He would have been very familiar with the work of Michelangelo and Rafael, which enabled him to play a key role in introducing Renaissance ideas to the Low Countries. Although he gave priority to his apostolic work as a cleric, Van Scorel was also a prodigious artist, producing very fine works such as our portrait here of Mary Magdalen holding the ointment jar. A jar of ointment would have been very expensive at the time Jesus lived, and therefore it highlights the generosity of the unnamed woman in Luke's Gospel…...

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Tags: Christian Art Today, Patrick van der Vorst, Jan van Scorel

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