Today's Gospel in Art - Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said

  • Patrick van der Vorst

The Virgin in Prayer, by Giovanni Battista Salvi (called Sassoferrato) 1640 © National Gallery, London

The Virgin in Prayer, by Giovanni Battista Salvi (called Sassoferrato) 1640 © National Gallery, London

Gospel of 17th May 2020 - John 17:1-11

After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, 'Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.

'I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.

'I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.'

Reflection on the Painting

Today's Gospel reading is a privilege to read, as we enter right into the intimacy between Christ and His Father. 'Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said'... what follows is a personal prayer of Christ to His Father. Whilst it is hard to understand every sentence that is being prayed by Christ, it does however talk straight to the heart and invites us into their intimacy.

What struck me especially is hearing Jesus talk about eternal life. He tells us that eternal life is not just for the future. No, eternal life already starts now!… To be part of the intimacy between Christ and His Father, we don't need to wait until we die and then may receive eternal life; no, we can already participate now… through prayer…

So today's painting illustrates prayer… As we are in May, a month where we offer special Marian devotions and pray to Our Lady, I chose a picture of Mary praying. Yes, she prayed too. The beautiful intimacy of the painting reflects the intimacy of our reading. Our Lady is in quiet, deep devotion. There is nothing else painted around Our Lady, so nothing is distracting her from prayer. The blue is ultramarine (made from lapis lazuli, a semi-precious stone mined in north-eastern Afghanistan), which was an extremely expensive pigment at the time and highly sought after for its intense colour. Our Lady's skin tone is flawless, almost porcelain-like… The Catholic Church in the 17th century (when our picture was painted) gave a big push in the direction of individual contemplation and personal prayer. This picture would have really conveyed that message... to pray like Mary… in quietness, with gentle focus, with little distraction…


Today's story -

Christian Art Today -

and Holy Week through 100 paintings -

Tags: Christian Art Today, Patrick van der Vorst, Giovanni Battista Salvi, Sassoferrato

We Need Your Support

ICN aims to provide speedy and accurate news coverage of all subjects of interest to Catholics and the wider Christian community. As our audience increases - so do our costs. We need your help to continue this work.

Please support our journalism by donating today.