Looking Down Yosemite Valley,
Painting by Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902)
Painted in 1864,
Oil on canvas
© Birmingham Museum of Art, Alabama

Looking Down Yosemite Valley,
Painting by Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902)
Painted in 1864,
Oil on canvas
© Birmingham Museum of Art, Alabama

Gospel of 21 January 2021

Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lakeside

Mark 3:7-12

Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lakeside, and great crowds from Galilee followed him. From Judaea, Jerusalem, Idumaea, Transjordania and the region of Tyre and Sidon, great numbers who had heard of all he was doing came to him. And he asked his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, to keep him from being crushed. For he had cured so many that all who were afflicted in any way were crowding forward to touch him. And the unclean spirits, whenever they saw him, would fall down before him and shout, 'You are the Son of God!' But he warned them strongly not to make him known.

Reflection on the Landscape Painting

'Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lakeside' we read at the beginning of our Gospel reading. At times, He wanted to move away from the synagogues where he was constantly being met with scepticism and the resistance of the Pharisees. Jesus found comfort in nature. Whether He went up into the hills to pray or walked along the lake talking to His disciples, He connected with His Father in the quietness of the beautiful natural scenes around Him. He withdrew to the natural countryside because He knew He would find silence there, away from the busyness of the villages and cities. 

In art, some landscape paintings can give us a similar sensation of quietness, silence and peace in the scene from nature that is depicted. Most of these landscape paintings would be 'representative'. They would re-present the landscape, make it present again. And therein lies the spiritual quality that some of these landscapes can have. It is more than just an objective rendering of a natural scene. It tells us something about the soul of the artist, about what caught his/her eye, what colours spoke to him/her, what energy was laid down on canvas.… A lot of these landscape paintings are an unconscious and unashamed expression of gratitude to God for the beauties of nature He created for us. 

Our painting, by Albert Bierstadt, breathtakingly depicts one of America's most scenic spots in Yosemite Valley, in a glowing evening light. It is a very large painting, measuring over five feet by eight (150cm. by 250cm.). The way this awe-inspiring landscape was painted is more than just applying paint on a canvas: it offers homage to nature… and therefore glorifies God. 

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