Man is ordered to the good, the true, and the beautiful because in such things we encounter God.
As my good friend, Patrick van der Vorst at Christian Art suggests, the Gospel story of Jesus cleansing the temple is a reminder that we are called to examine our spiritual lives. In his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul tells us, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” (1 Cor 6:19-20). Let us invite Jesus into that space and ask him to cleanse the temple of our body; let us invite the Holy Spirit to cleanse our heart. Here, Jesus can root out our disordered attachments. As we cooperate with God’s grace, especially through prayer, frequent use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and reception of the Eucharist, we can conform our heart to His. When we do we can rejoice like St. Paul that, “It is no longer I who live but Christ within me” (cf. Gal 2:20).
For a Gospel reflection about this painting please enjoy below.
Peace be with you!
The fine arts, but above all sacred art, “of their nature are directed toward expressing in some way the infinite beauty of God in works made by human hands….”
Catechism of the Catholic Church (2513)
Jesus cleansing the temple
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke 19:45-48
Jesus entered the temple area and proceeded to drive out
those who were selling things, saying to them,
“It is written, My house shall be a house of prayer,
but you have made it a den of thieves.”
And every day he was teaching in the temple area.
The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people, meanwhile,
were seeking to put him to death,
but they could find no way to accomplish their purpose
because all the people were hanging on his words.
The Gospel of the Lord
Reflection on the Painting
by Patrick van der Vorst
In today’s Gospel reading we hear how Jesus lashes out against corruption of the sacred. His harshest criticism was reserved for the temple leaders. The holy house of God had become a commercial entity and Jesus wanted to restore it to a place of prayer. The same thing goes on in our spiritual lives. We desire Jesus to dwell in the temple of our bodies, but the appetite for success, the blind ambitions at work, the need for money, etc… all clutter our temple. Today we ask Jesus to turn our souls into temples of prayer.
Our superb painting by Carl Heinrich Bloch is a very moving rendition of today’s reading. We see Jesus wearing a red garment, referring to the human sufferings He will endure. Yet a blue cloak, colour of divinity, also embraces Him. The human and divine are simply conveyed by the artist through the use of colour for the cloak. A man on the right is seen packing up his stuff and running away in a hurry. A money changer on the left is crawling to collect gold coins from the floor. A young man is about to release a dove, whilst a pigeon drops feathers over him. The background shows people in the shadows, ready to start plotting against Jesus.
Credit: Patrick van der Vorst, Gospel Reading for Today, Christian Art, "You have turned God's house into a robbers' den" November 19, 2021; https://www.christian.art/todays-reading.php Information herein posted under the "rules of fair use" to foster education and discussion in accordance with Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976.
For the Mass readings of this Friday of the 33rd Week in Ordinary Time, visit https://bible.usccb.org/daily-bible-reading.
Truth, Beauty, and Sacred Art
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church
Created “in the image of God,” man also expresses the truth of his relationship with God the Creator by the beauty of his artistic works. Indeed, art is a distinctively human form of expression; beyond the search for the necessities of life which is common to all living creatures, art is a freely given superabundance of the human being’s inner riches. Arising from talent given by the Creator and from man’s own effort, art is a form of practical wisdom, uniting knowledge and skill, to give form to the truth of reality in a language accessible to sight or hearing. To the extent that it is inspired by truth and love of beings, art bears a certain likeness to God’s activity in what he has created. Like any other human activity, art is not an absolute end in itself, but is ordered to and ennobled by the ultimate end of man (CCC 2501).
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
Saint Paul, Letter to the Philippians 4:8
St. Paul, Apostle, Martyr, pray for us.
Be not afraid! And may the peace of Christ be with you and your loved ones today and always. Holy Family, pray for us. Amen.