Alexander J. Cassatt and His Son, Robert Kelso Cassatt,
Painted by Mary Stevenson Cassatt (1844–1926),
Painted in 1884,
Oil on canvas
© Philadelphia Museum of Art
Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father
Filled with joy by the Holy Spirit, Jesus said:
‘I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children. Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do. Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’
Then turning to his disciples he spoke to them in private, ‘Happy the eyes that see what you see, for I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see, and never saw it; to hear what you hear, and never heard it.’
Reflection on the painting
The Evangelist Luke in our Gospel reading of today gives us a beautiful insight into the prayer life of Jesus. Jesus prays out of his unique relationship with God the Father, ‘No one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son’. Yet it is clear from what Jesus goes on to say that this unique relationship is not closed in on itself. Jesus wants to draw people into his relationship with God.
Whilst Jesus wants to draw in everyone, only some people allow themselves to be drawn in. Those who have the openness of a child to the mystery of God will be drawn in. Advent is a time to grow in our closeness to Jesus. We pray to God that he may make all of us a bit more like little children, who acknowledge their own needs and know they need the parent to guide them and love them. Advent is indeed a season to enter into that poverty of spirit which keeps us open to what God wishes to show us.
Our painting by Mary Cassatt shows a portrait of a father and son. In December 1884, Alexander Cassatt and his son Robert paid a surprise visit to Paris to see Alexander’s parents and his sister, the painter Mary Cassatt. During the month-long holiday, father and son sat for this tender double portrait that emphasises their bond and physical resemblance. With similarly focused gazes, flushed cheeks, and black clothing that connects them in an embrace, parent and child are caught in a private moment. We can feel that the child is dependent on his father and open to be taught and loved.
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