The 7 Deadly Sins and 4 last Things,
Painting by Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516),
Oil on panel,
Painted circa 1480
© Prado Museum, Madrid

The 7 Deadly Sins and 4 last Things,
Painting by Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516),
Oil on panel,
Painted circa 1480
© Prado Museum, Madrid

Gospel of 25 February 2023

I have not come to call the virtuous, but sinners

Luke 5:27-32

Jesus noticed a tax collector, Levi by name, sitting by the customs house, and said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And leaving everything he got up and followed him.

In his honour Levi held a great reception in his house, and with them at table was a large gathering of tax collectors and others. The Pharisees and their scribes complained to his disciples and said, ‘Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?’ Jesus said to them in reply, ‘It is not those who are well who need the doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the virtuous, but sinners to repentance.’

Reflection on the painting

In our Gospel reading of today, Jesus makes clear that he has come for everyone, for all sinners. Our painting by Flemish artist Hieronymus Bosch, painted circa 1480, illustrates seven deadly sins. The larger circle in the middle of the painting depicts these seven deadly sins:

  • wrath at the bottom of our illustration, then (proceeding clockwise)
  • envy
  • greed
  • gluttony
  • sloth
  • lust
  • pride

Bosch uses scenes from daily life to illustrate these sins in a very tangible and direct way with which people could easily identify. Unlike other artists active at the time, he didn't use allegorical illustrations of the sins but went for very visual, straightforward depictions.

The centre of that roundel is composed as the Eye of God, of which the pupil of the eye is Jesus Christ himself emerging from the tomb. The composition of this roundel works almost as a wheel of fortune or a darts board. It enhances the feeling of randomness of our sins and how exposed all of us are to sin.

The four roundels in each corner represent the four last things in with which we are all confronted: death (top left); judgement (bottom right); heaven (top right) and hell (bottom left).

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Andy Bocanegra
Member
Andy Bocanegra
1 year ago

The painting is very captivating. I can see myself in each section. A priest once said at a men’s retreat that I attended that the reason that Christ did not come for the virtuous is because there are no virtuous. We are all sinners and we all need the Great Physician.

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien
1 year ago

Levi followed, like others, without hesitation. Would that we can do that….
It does make you wonder though, what it was about Christ that made folk take one look and follow him, seemingly without a second thought. We have glimpses but then ‘happy are those who have not seen, and yet believe’
I have been privileged to see this Bosch painting (‘in the flesh’ so to speak ) at an exhibition of all his works some years back, in his home town Den Bosch. You’d stand and look at it (it’s very detailed) and marvel at Bosch’s skill – but you’d also feel exceedingly uncomfortable at what he depicts – all too recognisable! Not much is known about him, but from his works, I’d guess he was a man of great faith , and on a mission – a warning one at that!
Perhaps you could check out his images of Christ – they are wonderful – so tender.
I have been in Amsterdam this week on a flying visit to see the Vermeers at the Rijksmuseum. Superb.
You have to praise God for skill and beauty.

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
1 year ago

I thought I had seen all the Bosch paintings in the Prado and the Escorial but I don’t remember this one. And it’s really good! Maybe is was in a workshop being restored when I visited. Why are the Flems (don’t think that is the word!) Flemish people such great artists? I think Patrick said because of all the foreign rulers they had (Spain, Austria, France) which led to a very fertile mix. A bit like Italy in a way.
We have a Lenten talk in the church about the Englishmen who went to fight for the Papal States in the nineteenth century to try and prevent Garibaldi’s unification war. Interesting……

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien
1 year ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

Patrick may have an opinion ; my view is it’s because they’d discovered oil paint quite early on (Van Eyck I think) whereas the Italians were working with fresco (on walls) or egg tempera. Personally, I think it’s because they’re NORTHERN 🙂

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
1 year ago

This presents a real challenge for the viewer! An unusual Bosc,h I don’t think I’ve seen before. A sobering reminder of the message of Ash Wednesday- to ‘repent, and believe in the Gospel’. Hope everyone is doing ok.

marleen de vlieghere
Member
marleen de vlieghere
1 year ago
Reply to  spaceforgrace

yes SPG. Thank you. Despite of the lent or rather, thanks to the lent?!

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