The Corsini Triptych (Ascension, Last Judgment, Pentecost) ,
Painting by Fra Angelico (circa 1395-1455),
Painted circa 1447-1448,
Tempera and gold on wood panel,
© Palazzo Corsini, Rome
Unless I go, the Advocate will not come to you
Jesus said to his disciples:
'Now I am going to the one who sent me. Not one of you has asked, "Where are you going?" Yet you are sad at heart because I have told you this. Still, I must tell you the truth: it is for your own good that I am going
because unless I go,
the Advocate will not come to you;
but if I do go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will show the world how wrong it was, about sin, and about who was in the right, and about judgement: about sin: proved by their refusal to believe in me; about who was in the right: proved by my going to the Father and your seeing me no more; about judgement: proved by the prince of this world being already condemned.'
Reflection on the Triptych
As the time for the Ascension of Jesus is imminent, Jesus prepares his disciples for life after He leaves them. In our reading today, He says that indeed He will no longer be with them but promises that they will never be alone. The time for the Holy Spirit to descend on them draws near.
Jesus mentions the word 'Advocate' here for the Holy Spirit. An advocate is someone who stands beside you and helps you in court. He speaks on your behalf. An advocate defends and helps to set you free. An advocate intercedes on behalf of another. Advocates offer support, strength and comfort. Our reading thus directly links the imminent Ascension of Christ with Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit comes upon the disciples.
Our small triptych depicts these two events, with Christ ascending into heaven over the heads of the Virgin Mary and the Apostles on the left panel. The right panel depicts the Holy Spirit as a foreshortened dove, descending on the apostles. They are seen in the upper room of a house, exactly where Jesus is delivering today's Gospel words to the disciples. Chapters 13-17 of John record what we have come to know as the Upper Room Discourse.
The central panel depicts Christ passing judgment (also mentioned in today's Gospel reading) on the living and the dead; offering salvation to the worthy (on the left) and condemning the wicked (on the right). The Ascension, Pentecost and the Last Judgement are all masterfully juxtaposed in the one artwork…
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