Today's Gospel in Art - Feast of St Bede

  • Patrick van der Vorst

The Last Chapter, by James Doyle Penrose 1902 ©ChristianArt

The Last Chapter, by James Doyle Penrose 1902 ©ChristianArt

Gospel of 25th May 2020 - John 16:29-33

His disciples said to Jesus, 'Now you are speaking plainly and not using metaphors! Now we see that you know everything, and do not have to wait for questions to be put into words; because of this we believe that you came from God.' Jesus answered them:

'Do you believe at last? Listen; the time will come - in fact it has come already - when you will be scattered, each going his own way and leaving me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. I have told you all this so that you may find peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but be brave: I have conquered the world.'

Reflection on the Painting

Our painting was first seen at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 1902 in London. It depicts Saint Bede, whose feast day we celebrate today, translating the Gospel of John on his deathbed. A young scribe is taking notes. Saint Bede was a monk at the Northumbrian monastery of Saint Peter at Monkwearmouth, Sunderland, England. His most famous work Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum (Ecclesiastical History of the English People) gained him the title of 'The Father of English History.' In 1899 he was made a 'Doctor of the Church' by Leo XIII, a position of theological significance; he is the only native of Great Britain to achieve this designation. Ordained a priest in 702 AD, he was asked to translate the Gospel of Saint John from Greek. Even when facing death, which took place on the eve of Ascension in 735 AD, it is said by one of his scholars that he 'spent that day joyfully'.

A few hours before he died Saint Bede said: 'It is time that I return to the One who gave me being, creating me out of nothing. The moment of my liberty is approaching'. The scribe depicted in our painting knew Saint Bede would soon depart earthly life, and said 'Dear master, there is yet one chapter unwritten; would you be disturbed if we asked you additional questions?" St Bede answered, "No; take your pen, and write quickly," which the scribe did. They worked together until his last breath. This is beautifully captured in our painting. Saint Bede looks intently driven by a willingness to complete his work. The scribe is eager to write the last words, in haste, knowing time is of the essence.

As I study at the Beda College in Rome, it is a day I will pray for my fellow seminarian brothers and formation staff. Saint Bede, pray for us.


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Tags: Christian Art Today, Patrick van der Vorst, James Doyle Penrose, Bede

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