Ship in Stormy Seas,
Painted by Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky (1817-1900),
Painted in 1858,
Oil on canvas
© Alamy / Christian Art

Ship in Stormy Seas,
Painted by Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky (1817-1900),
Painted in 1858,
Oil on canvas
© Alamy / Christian Art

Gospel of 30 April 2022

The disciples got into a boat to make for Capernaum on the other side of the lake.

John 6:16-21

In the evening the disciples went down to the shore of the lake and got into a boat to make for Capernaum on the other side of the lake. It was getting dark by now and Jesus had still not rejoined them. The wind was strong, and the sea was getting rough. They had rowed three or four miles when they saw Jesus walking on the lake and coming towards the boat. This frightened them, but he said, ‘It is I. Do not be afraid.’ They were for taking him into the boat, but in no time it reached the shore at the place they were making for.

Reflection on the painting

Our gospel reading today tells us that if we want to reach our destination in life and be who God wants us to be, we cannot do it on our own. We need Christ’s help. We read how the disciples set out for ‘Capernaum on the other side of the lake’, but they got into trouble because of  bad weather. Then they saw Jesus walking on the lake and invited him into their boat. They soon reached their destination. On our own life journeys, we depend on God to reach our full potential. We depend on him in good weather or bad, through calm times and when the waters of life get rough.

We can often feel like the ship in our painting, having to ride wave after wave, storm after storm. Our canvas by Russian artist Ivan Aivazovsky depicts a battered ship which has weathered many storms. Look how realistically and well painted the turquoise sea is, with a luminous, almost transparent effect. Aivazovsky completed all of his paintings in his workshop, from memory. He didn’t have any photographs available for depicting the sea but used his  phenomenal capacity for remembering details of a scene and the texture of the waves.

It is a painting of sorrow (see the dark storms in the distant right) and hope (the sun-lit turquoise blue wave closest to the viewer). Two small sea gulls offer us some further solace. This what life is: trying to get to our destination while at times being tossed around in our clutter-filled boats as the waves hit us. Our lives are like stormy seas… and we should perhaps give some thought to what we might want to throw overboard to get to our destination…

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  • Michael Trudeau says:

    Based on the reading, one could also ask if one is willing to take Jesus onboard. The disciples were getting nowhere fast until they took Jesus onboard.

  • Patricia O'Brien says:

    Wonderful painting and a challenging thought there Patrick – what to throw overboard…?

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