Today's Gospel in Art - Till Heaven and Earth disappear


The Last Day of Pompeii, by Alexander Bryullov 1830,  © State Russian Museum, Saint Petersburg

The Last Day of Pompeii, by Alexander Bryullov 1830, © State Russian Museum, Saint Petersburg

Gospel of 18th March 2020 - Matthew 5:17-19

Jesus said to his disciples: 'Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete them. I tell you solemnly, till heaven and earth disappear, not one dot, not one little stroke, shall disappear from the Law until its purpose is achieved. Therefore, the man who infringes even one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be considered the least in the kingdom of heaven; but the man who keeps them and teaches them will be considered great in the kingdom of heaven.'

Reflection on the Painting

In today's Gospel reading Jesus says: 'I tell you solemnly, till heaven and earth disappear, not one dot, not one little stroke, shall disappear from the Law until its purpose is achieved.' He thus tells us that the Old Testament is divinely inspired Scripture, and should continue to be seen as the Word of God. It is the 'till heaven and earth disappear', though, that we are concentrating on in our artwork. Our painting illustrates the Last Day of Pompeii, probably similar to what the end of time would look like. It is a very large (456 by 651 cm) history painting by Russian artist, Karl Bryullov, produced in 1830, depicting the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79AD.

Pompeii was under active excavation in the early 19th century, and after the artist visited the site, he gave this magnificent rendering of what it must have been like on the last day of Pompeii. He has filled the canvas with authentic detail from Pompeii that he had seen at the site and in the museum at Naples, such as the artefacts carried by the figures and the authentic paving and kerb stones. Statues toppling from their pedestals bring additional drama, demonstrating the sublime power of nature over man. What is interesting is that most figures depicted preserve their dignity in the face of death. In the right corner of the painting, there is a young man helping his mother to get up and continue their escape. This represents Pliny, an actual survivor, who managed to escape Pompeii in time and shared his experience about the tragic night.

Looking at this painting we can feel the ground shaking. The dark skies, lit by fire and lava, are descending on humanity. Nature is in charge. Hard to imagine what the end of days would be like, but I am sure it is probably not too far off this scene. The fact that we don't know when the end of time will be, should bring humility to us as believers. God knows the timing. We don't. In the meantime, Jesus tells us to observe all the teachings in the Old and New Testaments. So each day is a sacred gift of life in the face of the end of time… and eternity.

Today's story - https://christianart.today/reading.php?id=362

Christian Art Today - https://christianart.today/


Tags: Christian Art Today, Patrick van der Vorst, Alexander Bryullov

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