Lazarus and Dives, Folio 78 from the Codex Aureus of Echternach,
Created between 1030 and 1050,
Illuminated miniature Gospel book,
© Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nürnberg, Germany
There was a rich man and a poor man called Lazarus
Jesus said to the Pharisees: ‘There was a rich man who used to dress in purple and fine linen and feast magnificently every day. And at his gate there lay a poor man called Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to fill himself with the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even came and licked his sores. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried.
‘In his torment in Hades he looked up and saw Abraham a long way off with Lazarus in his bosom. So he cried out, “Father Abraham, pity me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in agony in these flames.” “My son,” Abraham replied “remember that during your life good things came your way, just as bad things came the way of Lazarus. Now he is being comforted here while you are in agony. But that is not all: between us and you a great gulf has been fixed, to stop anyone, if he wanted to, crossing from our side to yours, and to stop any crossing from your side to ours.”
‘The rich man replied, “Father, I beg you then to send Lazarus to my father’s house, since I have five brothers, to give them warning so that they do not come to this place of torment too.” “They have Moses and the prophets,” said Abraham “let them listen to them.” “Ah no, father Abraham,” said the rich man “but if someone comes to them from the dead, they will repent.” Then Abraham said to him, “If they will not listen either to Moses or to the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead.”’
Reflection on the Illuminated Folio Page
The illustration we are looking at today is folio 78 from the Codex Aureus of Echternach, made around 1040 AD, showing us a literal depiction of today’s Gospel reading of the parable of Lazarus and the Dives (‘dives’ is the Latin word for ‘rich man’). In the top panel we see Lazarus at the rich man's door; the middle panel shows Lazarus's soul being removed from his body and being carried to Paradise by two angels; the bottom panel illustrates Dives's soul being carried off to Hades by two devils.
Lazarus is the only man mentioned by name in our Gospel reading. The rich man is anonymous. So the entire focus is on Lazarus, his poverty and salvation. That is what today's reading is calling us to, to build a greater awareness of the needs around us that are right under our nose. We can be tempted to make big plans for the future, to have grand ideas of charity, but yet be oblivious to the needs right in front of us: the homeless person in the street, the lonely neighbour we don’t greet, the check-out lady we don’t smile to, etc…. The reading of today calls us to an immediacy of acts of kindness.
As Christians, being kind and compassionate is not an option but an obligation to which we are called. It is our duty. We often tend to think that, as we did not create a certain problem, we shouldn’t really get involved with it. What is certain, however, is that we can and should be part of the solution. Being kind to others is a matter of justice, not just of charity.
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Wow! I just love today’s image – depicting the gospel so brilliantly. Interesting that we see the soul emerging from the mouth…
How true though, some won’t believe even if someone should rise from the dead! The message – respond to the gospel today or your life will catch up with you.
1 Timothy 6: 10 often misquoted as ‘money is the root of all evil’.
I think wealth often results in loss of God and lack of concern for the poor. It results in false security.
This parable makes me realize that I need to be more aware of the needs of others.
I agree Andy. As Deacon Patrick said we may have grand ideas for charity but we miss the needs of our neighbours. This is what I said some years ago when I was asked to give a talk in church on ‘the poor’ as I was involved with a local homeless support group. It went down like a lead balloon, because I said the poor are not just the penniless and starving, they are also the elderly person who has no-one to talk to, those struggling to deal with Social Services, doctor’s appointments, the check-out person who may be working all kinds of hours to support family, volunteering for a local charity, the person next to you in the pews. It may sound critical, but it is easier to give to people in need who are hundreds of miles away, but not see for instance, the single parent and his or her struggles. Often the poor just need to know someone has heard them and understands, even though they cannot relieve their difficulties. May we always be compassionate.
I agree Anthony. Some people just need to be heard or a shoulder to cry on. I personally need to be aware of sharing the Gospel with people. I have often been weak in the area of evangelization. I have been made aware of the fact that I have to take other people with me to heaven. Unfortunately, very often it is easier to just throw money at a problem.
Just great comments here- Andy and Anthony. Indeed poverty isn’t always about money- plenty of rich people are spiritually impoverished too, which I suppose is what the Lord is saying here. I do believe we evangelise through example, prayer and small acts of personal and financial generosity. I need to break my insecurities over money and my constant anxieties related to it.
No one yet has mentioned the idea of a soul being sent to Hell – eternal damnation. It is very difficult to think that there are people so evil that they are sent tp such a place. Purgatory – yes. Everyone has a liitlle spark of goodness in them, some people a lot?
I find it difficult–almost impossible–not to judge Vladimir Putin. God help me, please. More importantly, God please comfort and protect the innocents in Ukraine and Russia and bring this madness to a peaceful end.
Ultimately, the people that end up in Hell choose it for themselves. A good book on the subject is The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis.
An awesome illustration and a very salient message, Patrick. Every day in Lent I ask for God’s help in doing a small act of charity above any usual thing I may do. It isn’t just alms giving. Your mention of supermarket check-outs is a good one. I always go to a person and not a machine when getting my groceries, and the other day I was handed a card which allows you to remark on how that person served you. I had forgotten about it this morning but will now send it in. These small acts add up I think. I used to fear hell, now I hope for heaven. I will also remember the souls in purgatory today, in the hope no one I love is there!
Perfect art matching Father Patrick, amazingly preserved work of art.
A while ago I watched a tv show called Good Omens, in the intro there’s an animation showing souls in line in a cliff, each soul jumps and some fly and go to heaven and others dive down.
It impacted me and scared me the idea of that judging moment (for me and for my loved ones), as each balance will weight what we did good, what we did bad, and what we DIDN’T do.
Souls of our Saints in Heaven, please intercede for US and all the souls in the purgatory. Amen
There are a number of salient points in this parable. The death of each man was not the end of his story, just the beginning. The rich man’s fault was not his wealth, it was his withheld charity. The injustice of poverty was not far away from the rich man. It was right at his gate.
In addressing this story to the Pharisees, Jesus was building on his condemnation of their hypocrisy. They spoke much on justice but acted little in charity. This story is addressed to the Pharisee in me and I squirm.
Lord, open my eyes to the poverty at my door. Help me be generous in my charity.
Perhaps I could recommend Mary’s Meals for Lenten giving. It is an excellent good cause and very effective.
Mary’s meals is an excellent charity.
I have heard of mary’s meals but don’t know which aread it serves- not in the area I live in, but I will look them up!
Hi Charles. I haven’t heard of Mary’s Meals here in New Zealand. However, you raise a good point that the Church provides plenty of opportunities for being generous in response to the injustice of poverty. However, I must admit my focus focus has been drawn closer to my “gate”, so to speak.
My wife is very good at stuffing $20 notes into needy family’s letterboxes. I find that incredibly hard, which she knows so she gets me to do the stuffing sometimes. A $20 note always looks very large on the collection plate but very small at McDonalds.
That’s a wonderful thing – twofold – first it’s anonymous (a greater blessing for all) and it can’t be refused either. Plus of course there’s no admin which even the best charities are subject to.
You and your good lady are spreading a lot of love.
Thank you Mike, I will remember that.
cette parabole indique aussi que ici sur terre Dieu travaille par le biais des hommes et non comme un magicien. Et aussi que ici sur terre un croyant n’a pas la certitude d’une belle vie mais le réconfort de sa croyance en Dieu qui lui donne une grande liberté de l’âme.