Painted by William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905),
Painted in 1897,
Oil on canvas
© Musée d'Orsay, Paris
Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge, and you will not be judged yourselves; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned yourselves; grant pardon, and you will be pardoned. Give, and there will be gifts for you: a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap; because the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given back.’
Reflection on the painting
This is a painting I find really powerful. Painted by William-Adolphe Bouguereau in 1897, the canvas is titled 'Compassion'. At 260cm high, this over-life-size painting leaves a big impression on those who stand in front of it. We see a man who is carrying his own cross, one that is much smaller than that of Jesus. With eyes closed, he is embracing Christ on the cross, praying and thankful that he has found Jesus. There is so much to read in the man's expression.
We see some life left in Christ's face. He has turned his head towards the man. Yet the sombre undefined tones of Christ's beard, his hair, the thorns, his eyes… are all dark and near black. He is about to die. The blood-stained loincloth is vibrant white, already hinting of the Resurrection to come. The man's belt, similar in shape to Christ's loin cloth, is black; the end of his own life is near. The cross of his own sufferings has brought him to Jesus. The sky is cloudy and we see a thunderstorm in the distance. The man and Christ are united, not just in their suffering and embrace, but also in their compassion.
As outlined in today's Gospel reading, compassion is one of the most import virtues Jesus is calling us to nurture. The word compassion stems from 'con-passion', meaning 'to suffer with' someone. It also conveys the sense that by suffering with someone, one comes to their aid. So it is an act of love, where we take on the pain of the sufferer and hope that by doing so some positive good will emerge from this shared suffering. It is, therefore, far more than just having pity on someone. So when Jesus tells us in today's reading 'Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate', he is asking us to develop this virtue of shared suffering, rooted in love… so beautifully illustrated in our painting today.
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Readings related to Luke 6:36-38
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What a powerful and emotional painting. Perfect for a Lenten Visio Divina. Thank you Patrick for your beautiful and powerful reflection. You are going to make a wonderful priest.
I am so impressed by this painting. The first moment I saw it I cried! I agree with you, Spaceforgrace; see the little picture that I love. I am grateful for the daily Gospel reading and especially the Art Reflection from Patrick. Each day and with great interest I read your comments and pray for you all! God bless!
Thankyou for sharing this charming image Rya! This is indeed a wonderfully supportive and inspiring site. God bless you today!
Deacon! The blood from Jesus’ side shows that He is already dead, does it not? He’s not “about to die,” as you say. Or is the story different from Luke to John, where it says, “coming to Jesus, when they saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.”
I have just recalled this. Not sure where it is from..
“My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep.
The more I give to thee, the more I have,
for both are infinite.”
A very moving painting. Where can it be seen? I would love to go and stand before it as you suggest Patrick. It makes me feel very humble but also very loved- such tenderness is conveyed. Thank you for your explaining the detail too, some of which I may have missed. Hope everyone is doing ok with their Lenten observances- mine is beginning to be challenging, but so it should be!
Musee d’Orsay Spacey. Housed is an old railway station and well worth a visit.
Yes, it is there in one of the rooms at the back (at least time I was there). Well worth seeing, a very powerful piece.
Maybe I have an excuse for not getting to the back rooms? It certainly makes me want to go again (as if I need to an excuse to go to Paris!) I’m sure if I’d seen it I would have remembered- I hate to think I walked by without noticing!
Oh no! I’ve been in the Musee d’Orsay- a wonderful gallery but don’t remember seeing this. Maybe I was too busy looking at so many Manets!
Beautifully painted and very emotional.
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle”
So true, I also like the phrase, ‘We are all just walking each other home.’ Have a wonderful day Adriana, God bless.
Yes, if we don’t give then we can’t receive. When we give we receive far more than we have given. Jesus delights so much in our giving that he happily gives us more.
Thank you Grace, the same for you! Still have your situation in my prayers, that’s a way to walk each other home.
That means so much to me- things are moving after a great hiatus. It is a difficult journey but we will get there together, with God’s grace.
I read somewhere that most people in this world are living lives of ‘quiet desperation.’ This really shocked me but I wonder if it’s true. I would imagine lots of people are but one would hope that faith could pull one out of ‘deperation’.
I’m pretty happy – is anyone else?!
I think it is true for those without faith – though the secular world will never ever admit it.
Trying to create utopia by human means will never work – not for individuals nor nations.
Yes- maybe there is more desperation to come but just now I feel the grace is there!