Wanderer above the Sea of Fog,
Painting by Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840),
painted in 1818,
oil on canvas
© Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg
Luke 24: 1-12
On the first day of the week, at the first sign of dawn, they went to the tomb with the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the tomb, but on entering discovered that the body of the Lord Jesus was not there. As they stood there not knowing what to think, two men in brilliant clothes suddenly appeared at their side. Terrified, the women lowered their eyes. But the two men said to them, ‘Why look among the dead for someone who is alive? He is not here; he has risen. Remember what he told you when he was still in Galilee: that the Son of Man had to be handed over into the power of sinful men and be crucified, and rise again on the third day?’ And they remembered his words.
When the women returned from the tomb they told all this to the Eleven and to all the others. The women were Mary of Magdala, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James. The other women with them also told the apostles, but this story of theirs seemed pure nonsense, and they did not believe them.
Peter, however, went running to the tomb. He bent down and saw the binding cloths but nothing else; he then went back home, amazed at what had happened.
Reflection on the painting
After the fourteen stations of the cross of these past two weeks, we come to Holy Saturday, a day of quietness, rest, contemplation and self reflection.
That is exactly what the man is doing depicted in our painting: self reflecting. He is looking from an elevated position at a thick sea of fog within a mountainous landscape. Our painter, Caspar David Friedrich, beautifully captures humanity's minuscule’s place in nature, but yet we get a real sense that something is about to happen: the fog will lift, the sun will shine and light will hit the valleys.
Tonight at the Easter vigil, the fog will lift and the light will come into the darkness. Christ will rise!
It is interesting to note that Friedrich chose to paint this landscape vertically instead of ‘normal’ horizontal landscape format. The upright position of the canvas suits the uprightness of the figure in the painting, and gives the viewer a sense that something else is at work here beside a mere landscape painting: the figure is having a spiritual experience standing in contemplation at the beauty of nature and our role in it.
But between now and tonight… in stillness we await the resurrection.
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