Christ the Saviour with the Eucharist,
Painted by Juan de Juanes (1503-1579),
Painted circa 1545,
Oil on panel
© Prado Museum, Madrid

Christ the Saviour with the Eucharist,
Painted by Juan de Juanes (1503-1579),
Painted circa 1545,
Oil on panel
© Prado Museum, Madrid

Gospel of 3 June 2023

What authority have you for acting like this?

Mark 11:27-33

Jesus and his disciples came to Jerusalem, and as Jesus was walking in the Temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to him, and they said to him, ‘What authority have you for acting like this? Or who gave you authority to do these things?’ Jesus said to them, ‘I will ask you a question, only one; answer me and I will tell you my authority for acting like this. John’s baptism: did it come from heaven, or from man? Answer me that.’ And they argued it out this way among themselves: ‘If we say from heaven, he will say, “Then why did you refuse to believe him?” But dare we say from man?’ – they had the people to fear, for everyone held that John was a real prophet. So their reply to Jesus was, ‘We do not know.’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Nor will I tell you my authority for acting like this.’

Reflection on the painting

During the liturgy of the eucharist you may have noticed that the priest breaks off a small piece of the consecrated host and puts it into the chalice. This practice goes back to a very early tradition in the Church. It is not only symbolic of the unity of the body and blood of Christ, but it also signifies the unity of the Church, the Pope, the Bishops and priests. Nicholas Gihr (in the The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass: Dogmatically, Liturgically and Ascetically Explained, 2015) writes: "Participation in the same Holy Sacrifice was regarded as a sign and pledge of ecclesiastical Communion; mutually to prove and maintain this, Popes and bishops sent to other bishops, or priests too, parts of Consecrated Hosts, which the recipients dropped into the chalice and consumed …This custom existed in Rome until about the ninth century. There the Pope on Sundays and feast-days sent to those priests who had charge of Divine service at the churches within the city, the Eucharist as a symbol of communion with the ecclesiastical Head, and as a sign that they were empowered to celebrate".

Thus each time the priest drops the small piece of the consecrated host into the chalice, we are reminded of the unity of our Church and our communion with the Pope and his Bishops. In fact some historians think that for a few centuries there were actually two small pieces placed in the chalice: one from the bishop (or pope), and one small piece from the previous mass celebration. This second small piece used from the previous mass celebration would show the continuity and unity in time. It would symbolise that with each mass the Church tradition lives on and connects us all the way back to our early Church.

The word 'authority' gets mentioned four times in our short reading. This authority comes from God and is what unites us as a Church, each time we celebrate the Eucharist. Hence today's painting is a depiction of the Eucharist, where we see Jesus holding his body and blood. Juan de Juanes was one of Spain's most prolific religious painters in the 16th century. The gold ground facilitates a distraction-free, clear reading of the painting. Note the grisaille painted detail of the crucifixion scene in the holy host.

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Enrique Rodolfo Ansaldi
Member
Enrique Rodolfo Ansaldi
1 year ago

Padre Patricio: magnífica homilía!

Andy Bocanegra
Member
Andy Bocanegra
1 year ago

As a Catholic, I am so grateful and humbled by the Holy Eucharist. To know that Jesus is present at every Mass; Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. A miracle happens at every consecration.

Mark Crain
Member
Mark Crain
1 year ago

Christ’s ability to stymie and thus quiet his enemies with questions… what a gift! I fail to understand the three, three pronged leaves (?) behind Jesus, which is surely important to the artist. The threes are easy, and positioned as representative of the cross. But beyond that?

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

I really like this painting – very ‘Spanish’ somehow (well, I know what I mean…)
I recall a talk at the National Gallery about halos – there are so many different types with their own names – I believe the ‘rays of light’ ones are called ‘glories’ though I am not sure this one comes into that category…
The museum in Trento is fascinating and contains so much detail about the Council as well as many artefacts and vestments from the time- worth a visit. The Reformation resulted in a split in Christianity which is the saddest thing – Christ founded ONE church, which is why I love the hymn “Oh Lord who at thy Eucharist didst pray, that all thy Church might be forever one”
Authority; that is an important word and I feel it is something the Catholic Church has. I enjoy linking with the Anglican churches in our neighbourhood but I always feel that fragmentation they suffer and lack of real structure the various strands lack.

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
1 year ago

This painting is unequivocal in its message. I am a little thrown by the strange halo, but otherwise I really like its directness and simplicity.
The readings are changing- we are seeing more of Mark’s Gospel. I remember reading these passages as a child and loving Jesus for his clever answers. Mark conveys this so directly, as does the painting. A good match!
Thank you for your comment too, Patrick and the explanation of the ‘little bit’ of the Host. Did this custom then die out and was later revived? As a historian I am fascinated by these little snippets of church history!

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
1 year ago

Juan de Juanes, John of Johns! What is his stock today? I don’t think many people outside Spain know him. With this very Catholic imagery he would not appeal greatly to many Northern Europeans.
It’s interesting that John’s contemporaries viewed him as a prophet but only a small number of followers got behind Jesus at the time. Is this correct?

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
1 year ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

This was painted in 1545 – when the Council of Trent convened- so we are marking here the art of the Counter-Reformation when the Catholic Mass and Eucharist was being threatened all over Europe. I don’t know, but I guess this is why this painting came into being, especially in Spain. So you are right about its lack of appeal in certain places. Your question regarding John the Baptist I can’t answer, except to say I believe you are correct.

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
1 year ago
Reply to  spaceforgrace

Thank you for your comments SFG. It’s interesting to get feedback. The Reformation never got going in Spain although I read that there was a small outbreak that was swiftly extinguished by the Inquisition!

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
1 year ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

Seriously- the Inquisition was brutal, but not seriously, no one expected it! Not everyone will get that, but for me the MP sketch on this subject is one of my favourites!

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
1 year ago
Reply to  spaceforgrace

Yes I remember that sketch. The subject of the Spanish Inquisition is a most interesting and something I looked into when I was doing my history degree. Not nearly as awful as made out and, of course, we had an Inquistion in this country.

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
1 year ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

Indeed. I am told the Spanish Inquisition never surprsied anyone, but gave notice of when they were coming. I’m not sure which would have been worse! The Inquisition was also massively targeted at Jewish converts- those who had become nominally Christian but had to prove they had faith- hence the public acts of auto de fe.

Last edited 1 year ago by spaceforgrace
Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien
1 year ago
Reply to  spaceforgrace

Haha…I got it straight off!

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