Painting by Rogier Van der Weyden (1399-1464),
Painted between between 1435 and 1440,
Oil on panel,
© Maximilian Speck von Sternburg Stiftung, Leipzig
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb
Mary set out and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah. She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She gave a loud cry and said, ‘Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.’
reflection on the painting
Immediately following on from yesterday’s reading, we hear how Mary, after the Annunciation, set out to a town in the hill country of Judah to visit Zechariah and Elizabeth. After the Gospel telling us two days ago about the annunciation to Zechariah and then yesterday about the annunciation to Mary, today’s reading now places Mary, Zechariah and Elizabeth altogether.
In today's painting we see Rogier Van der Weyden’s vivid depiction of this meeting between Our Lady and Elisabeth, both holding hands on each other’s wombs. The landscape behind Mary has lots of little winding roads, showing that she has traveled a long way to visit her cousin. They journey had been long. Behind Elizabeth we see the door to her house still open, showing she must have rushed out in a hurry; her husband Zechariah is seen outside playing with a dog. Dogs symbolise guidance, protection, loyalty, fidelity, faithfulness and alertness. Each of the two main figures acknowledges each others’ miracle of pregnancy, but it is Elizabeth’s outstretched arm and pale hand set against the cobalt blue dress of Mary, which is the focal point. The gestures of their hands, at once tender, composed and gentle, tell as much as their facial expressions.
Luke describes so beautifully that 'as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb’. As Christmas draws near, may we too experience God’s love leaping up in us. And may we be God’s instruments especially during this time of Christmas, where He uses us to help leap up some joy in the people we meet… not just family and friends but also the homeless, poor, lonely and needy people out there…
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Thank you Patrick for your beautiful reflection today. A very beautiful painting to to reflect on the Visitation during my Rosary today. I will include you and this community in my intentions today. May our Blessed Mother and our Lord Jesus guide you on your path to the priesthood.
Muy bonitas palabras en el comentario de hoy. Que Jesús realmente nos llene de alegría y la podamos transmitir a los que tenemos alrededor.
Jesús, alegría de los hombres. Como maravillosamente plasmó Bach en su cantata 147.
El cuadro flamenco de hoy que finura y belleza encierra…
Gracias Patrick…es un lujo tenerte de comentarista de arte…
La pintura y la música sirven para dar gloria a Dios y expresar su belleza…
Thank you for your beautiful reading of this stunning painting . The oh so light touches of the hands of Elizabeth and Mary on each other. The light touch of Gods hand in and on our lives.
The Visitation is one of my favourite Gospel passages. Mary has the courage to travel unattended, and that isn’t remarked upon, which in itself speaks that it wasn’t unusual for women to travel alone? Also, was it her faith that carried her there, or was she feeling reckless that nothing would harm her? It was not a short journey. I love Mary for her decision here, so keen to see a woman who is obviously also her close friend. The relationship between herself and Elizabeth is one many women will identify with. We can ponder so much on this small passage exclusively about two excited women who can’t wait to share their ‘good news’ with each other. It is intimate yet universal. Good news indeed.
You all know how much I love the Northerners!! And Van der Weyden must surely be the Grand Master, or maybe that’s Van Eyck, or maybe… 😉
Yes they are all brilliant and I never tire of looking at them.
I must admit to coveting some of these Netherlandish and Flemish paintings. How did such a lot of artistic genius end up in this small corner of Europe?
Another thing that strikes me is that random people feel that they can touch a pregnant woman’s stomach. I’ve seen people do this on the tube to strangers and it’s not an affront, or it’s not intended to be, but a fascination about the new life being carried and I think happiness in the human race being taken into the future?
Thank you Charles…
… maybe having grown up in Belgium (born in Bruges), I am always very drawn to Flemish paintings… 🙂
You were very fortunate indeed, to be surrounded by this artistic richness Patrick- we managed to spoil all our ours in the Reformation. Many cities in England would have been like Bruges in their time.
So am I, Patrick. The ‘flamish primitives’ are the best! Thank you everyday!!
The Flemish were very rich and there weren’t many of them! They had surplus cash to spend on this sort of thing! Commerce, cloth and wool I believe, and their access to the open seas for trading.
Yes, maybe it’s something about the joy that makes people forget propriety!
Amen to that Patrick! May Jesus love leap for joy in us this Christmas and always. And, may it be contagious.
…may it be contagious indeed…
Thank you Anthony
La visitación es un pasaje tan precioso y de gran profundidad. María presurosa va a visitar a su prima y se queda con ella tres meses. Me gusta la pintura de este día, que refleja ese momento en el que está reunida María con Isabel , Juan el Precursor y Jesús.
Es un cuadro hermoso y lleno de gracia.
Que tengas un buen comienzo de día