Today's Gospel in Art - This is your mother

  • Patrick van der Vorst

The Crucifixion by Rogier Van der Weyden 1443 © Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

The Crucifixion by Rogier Van der Weyden 1443 © Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Gospel of 15th September 2020 - John 19:25-27

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. Seeing his mother and the disciple he loved standing near her, Jesus said to his mother, 'Woman, this is your son.' Then to the disciple he said, 'This is your mother.' And from that moment the disciple made a place for her in his home.

Reflection on the Painting

Alongside Jan Van Eyck, Rogier Van der Weyden dominated Flemish painting during the first half of the 15th century. We see an idealised Jerusalem depicted in the background. Christ has just spoken the words to John 'This is your mother' and we see John tenderly attending to Mary who is embracing the cross of Her Son. The two people on the right are the donors who commissioned the painting. The crack in the ground separates them from the main crucifixion scene. They are depicted in deep prayer and very devout. They don't share the strong emotions visible in Mary, John, the angels and Christ. Christ's loincloth seems to be blowing in the breeze, and follows the angels' robes.

As I mentioned, Mary is embracing the cross. She, as Mother of the Church, is the direct link between the crucifix which she is holding and John who is coming to help. Therefore the figure of Saint John supporting the Virgin is also significant in that it delivers the message to us as a viewer, that it is our task to support and love the Church. We can reach Christ only through the support and love of the Church.

Today's Gospel reading is beautiful, as it focuses entirely on the gift that Jesus gave from the Cross: He gave His mother to John and He gave John to His mother. Even in His hour of death and immense suffering, Jesus looked down to Mary and John and saw their suffering. Even at that moment, Jesus' heart was open to those who suffer… and gave them to each other…


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Tags: Christian Art, Patrick van der Vorst, Rogier Van der Weyden

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