Today's Gospel in Art - They will persecute you too

  • Patrick van de Vorst

Nero's Torches, by Hendryk Siemiradzki 1876 © National Museum, Krakow, Poland

Nero's Torches, by Hendryk Siemiradzki 1876 © National Museum, Krakow, Poland

Gospel of 16th May 2020 - John 15:18-21

Jesus said to his disciples:

'If the world hates you, remember that it hated me before you.

If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you do not belong to the world, because my choice withdrew you from the world, therefore the world hates you.

Remember the words I said to you: A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you too; if they kept my word, they will keep yours as well. But it will be on my account that they will do all this, because they do not know the one who sent me.'

Reflection on the Painting

A while ago a friend of mine explained to me about the five stages of religious persecution and its practical political workings:

- Stage 1 is to stereotype the group you want to target for persecution.

- Stage 2 is to start vilifying the targeted group and accuse them of crimes or strange conduct. It would have been easy to vilify the early Christians as they gathered in secret to consume the blood and body of Christ…

- Stage 3 is to start marginalising the targeted group in society and make sure they don't get certain jobs, are left out of events, etc…

- Stage 4 is to actually criminalise the group, such as making Christian gatherings illegal during the persecutions.

- Stage 5 then moves to full-on persecutions and killings.

Whilst the above unfolding pattern can be applied to the early Christian Church, persecutions still sadly happen to this day.

Nero' Torches is a painting from 1876, by Polish artist Hendryk Siemiradzki. The painting has two titles. Its other title is: Candlesticks of Christianity, which makes what is depicted even more poignant. Our painting shows a group of early Christian martyrs who are about to be burned alive as the alleged perpetrators of the Great Fire of Rome in 64 AD, during the reign of Emperor Nero. We see the Emperor himself looking on, whilst bacchanalian scenes are taking place around him… all ready to watch the Christian martyrs being set alight, right in front of the Domus Aurea, Nero's palace....which is well worth a visit when you are next in Rome, in remembrance of the early Christian martyrs...


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Tags: Christian Art Today, Patrick van de Vorst, Siemiradzki

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