The Ecumenical Council,
Painted by Salvador Dalí (1904-1989),
Painted in 1960,
Oil on canvas
© Salvador Dali Museum, St Petersburg, Florida
Father, may they be completely one
Father, may they be completely one
Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said: ‘Holy Father, I pray not only for these, but for those also who through their words will believe in me.
May they all be one.
Father, may they be one in us, as you are in me and I am in you, so that the world may believe it was you who sent me. I have given them the glory you gave to me, that they may be one as we are one. With me in them and you in me, may they be so completely one that the world will realise that it was you who sent me and that I have loved them as much as you loved me.
Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, so that they may always see the glory you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. Father, Righteous One, the world has not known you, but I have known you, and these have known that you have sent me. I have made your name known to them and will continue to make it known, so that the love with which you loved me may be in them, and so that I may be in them.’
Reflection on the painting
Today’s Gospel reading offers a beautiful glimpse into the prayer life of Jesus. This is how Jesus prays before his Passion and dying on the cross. And what does he pray for? ‘May they all be one.’ He prays for unity.
Pope John II wrote a whole encyclical on this topic: Ut Unum Sint (access document here). It deals with the commitment to ecumenism. The document promotes and desires the unity of all Christians, and all Christian churches throughout the world. Ecumenism is therefore not just ‘a nice thing to do’ but goes to the very heart of the Gospel and is an essential part of the life of the Church. We are invited to walk together with all Christians.
Our painting by Salvador Dali is titled The Ecumenical Council. Painted in 1960, it took over 2 years to complete and is one of Dalí’s masterpieces. It is packed with Christian and Catholic symbolism. Dalí was inspired to paint The Ecumenical Council after the 1958 election of Pope John XXIII, as the pope had extended communication to Geoffrey Fisher, the Archbishop of Canterbury (the first such invitation in more than four centuries). The painting expresses Dalí's renewed hope in religious leadership following the devastation of World war II.
At the top we see the holy Trinity with God in the centre depicted as a youthful man extending his arm reaching out to us, but the other arm covers his face. Below and to the left of God is Jesus, holding a cross. The Holy Spirit floats to the right with his face obscured while a dove flies overhead. Between Jesus and the Holy Spirit is a scene from the papal coronation. Dalí's wife Gala is seen genuflecting underneath the Trinity, holding a book and a cross. Beside her are the Cap-de-Creus cliffs in Catalonia. Dalí did not sign the canvas. Instead he included a self-portrait in the lower left corner, looking out at the viewer as he stands in front of a blank canvas.
Share this Gospel Reading
Did you like this Gospel reading and art reflection?
Join in the discussion about this artwork & Gospel reading
Readings related to John 17:20-26
Join our community
In addition to receiving our Daily Gospel Reading and Art Reflection, signing up for a free membership allows you to: