This Poor Woman has put in more than all,
Mosaic at the Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo,
Ravenna 6th century
© Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna
This poor widow has put in more than all
In his teaching Jesus said, ‘Beware of the scribes who like to walk about in long robes, to be greeted obsequiously in the market squares, to take the front seats in the synagogues and the places of honour at banquets; these are the men who swallow the property of widows, while making a show of lengthy prayers. The more severe will be the sentence they receive.’
He sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the treasury, and many of the rich put in a great deal. A poor widow came and put in two small coins, the equivalent of a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, ‘I tell you solemnly, this poor widow has put more in than all who have contributed to the treasury; for they have all put in money they had over, but she from the little she had has put in everything she possessed, all she had to live on.’
Reflection on the 6th century Mosaics
The mosaic we are looking at today was made in the 6th century at the Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna. Spread across eight buildings from the early Christian period, the magnificent mosaics are now part of Unesco World Heritage. Ravenna played a crucial part in western civilisation during the 5th and 6th centuries and was the capital of the Western Roman Empire from 402 until the fall of the empire in 476. These mosaics are thus historically significant. They are a unique blend of western and eastern traditions, and the intricately laid out glass tesserae create glittering, magnificent chromatic juxtapositions illustrating many biblical passages.
In our mosaic scene, we see the widow putting in some coins into an offertory box. But to me, Christ's right hand is of particular interest. The first three fingers which are stretched out express our faith in the Trinity, while the remaining two fingers which are pressed against the palm, represent the two natures of Jesus, divine and human. This is a typical hand gesture often depicted in Byzantine art. An open right hand, showing all five fingers outstretched, is used more in Western Christianity when Christ is seen in a blessing hand pose. The five open fingers represent the Five Wounds of Christ and are also more of an all-inviting gesture.
Jesus says that the woman who put in two small coins had given more than the rich people who came before her. In a way, this is a summary of the whole Gospel… for God looks at the heart and at the generosity within each of us... and he knows our hearts.
Share this Gospel Reading
Did you like this Gospel reading and art reflection?
Join in the discussion about this artwork & Gospel reading
Readings related to Mark 12:38-44
Join our community
In addition to receiving our Daily Gospel Reading and Art Reflection, signing up for a free membership allows you to: