Saturday, December 25, 2010

Holy Family and Trinity

Title: Holy Family and Trinity
Artist: Jacob de Wit
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 140 x 105 cm
Date: 1726
Location: Amstelkring Museum, Amsterdam.

Matthew 2:19-23: After Herod died, Joseph had a dream while he was still in Egypt. In the dream an angel of the Lord appeared to him. The angel said, "Get up! Take the child and his mother. Go to the land of Israel. Those who were trying to kill the child are dead." So Joseph got up. He took the child and his mother Mary back to the land of Israel. But then he heard that Archelaus was king of Judea. Archelaus was ruling in place of his father Herod. This made Joseph afraid to go there. Warned in a dream, Joseph went back to the land of Galilee instead. There he lived in a town called Nazareth. So what the prophets had said about Jesus came true. They had said, "He will be called a Nazarene."

Every unjust empire in history has ultimately fallen, but God's church continues to endure. To oppressed Christians, whether persecuted for their faith or repressed for other unjust reasons, this reminder of the oppressors' mortality is a reminder that all trials are temporary and our loving Father remains in control. The angelic orders to return to the land of Israel because those seeking the child's life were dead explicitly recall Exodus 4:19-20. Jewish readers would have immediately recognized the allusion: like Moses, Jesus had outlived his persecutor and would lead his people to salvation.

This painting, made by a private church just outside Amsterdam, shows the Holy Family (horizontal) and the Trinity: God the Father, the Holy Spirit and Christ (vertical). Christ is the pivot at the centre of the two groups of three. This expresses the theological concept of Christ's dual nature; the human and the divine.

Jacob de Wit (December 1695 –November 1754) was a Dutch artist who painted many religious scenes. De Wit was born in Amsterdam, and as a Catholic, was the first Dutch artist since the 16th century to carry out a good deal of decorative work for Catholic churches. He was also famous for his door and ceiling paintings. He lived on the Keizersgracht in Amsterdam, and many of the buildings on the Keizersgracht still have door or ceiling paintings done by him. Since many of the families who lived in Amsterdam in those days had country villas, de Wit also painted in houses in the fashionable areas of Haarlem and the Vecht river.

... And, as it states in Luke 2:40 “the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.” Amen.

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