Procession of the Law,
Painted by Solomon Alexander Hart R.A. (1806-1881),
Painted in 1850,
Oil on canvas
© The Jewish Museum London

Procession of the Law,
Painted by Solomon Alexander Hart R.A. (1806-1881),
Painted in 1850,
Oil on canvas
© The Jewish Museum London

Gospel of 12 June 2024

I have not come to abolish the laws but to complete them

Matthew 5:17-19

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete them. I tell you solemnly, till heaven and earth disappear, not one dot, not one little stroke, shall disappear from the Law until its purpose is achieved. Therefore, the man who infringes even one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be considered the least in the kingdom of heaven; but the man who keeps them and teaches them will be considered great in the kingdom of heaven.’

Reflection on the painting

The statement Jesus makes in today’s Gospel reading is essentially two statements in one. ‘I have come not to abolish but to complete the Law’. One is a positive statement where he says he is completing the law. The other one is a negative statement saying that he has not come to abolish the Law. Jesus’ purpose was not to get rid of the Jewish laws of the Old Testament. He did not say they were not valid, but He wanted to build on them, by making clear that loving God is much more than just adhering to mere laws.

Our painting is by Solomon Alexander Hart, the first Jewish member of the Royal Academy in London. He was probably the most important Jewish artist working in England in the 19th century. It depicts a  Jewish celebration called Simchat Torah which takes place in synagogues once a year. The Torah is the compilation of the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, namely the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy; Christians call these five books the Pentateuch. Simchat Torah (Rejoicing of the Torah) is a day of great celebration when the yearly cycle of Torah readings ends and a new cycle begins. All the Torah scrolls are removed from the Ark and paraded around the Synagogue in a series of seven circuits with singing and dancing. We see a total of six scrolls depicting in our painting, each lavishly decorated with embroidered silk covers. As the Torah is the most sacred text in Judaism, it is kept covered to protect it. The very best silk and embroidered textiles are used as a mark of reverence for the text.

Apart from the figures in our painting, the two main other features are the two lights: the chandelier with its many arms, hanging above ether many guests; a single large candelabrum, next to one of the books of the Torah which lies open on the lectern. The single, one candelabrum reflects the single, one divine writer of the Torah, God. We also see some people are wearing a tallit (prayer shawl), used when reading from the Torah or when praying.

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Kit Dollard
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Kit Dollard
1 month ago

Amen to that George K. Clear thinking

George K
Member
George K
1 month ago

It is my belief I am a spiritual being having a human experience.

It has been my experience that when I focused on my humanity and tried to literally obey the Law in my not-so-distant past, I was a total failure and I had a fear-based relationship with God.

It has been my experience that now, when I try to focus on my spirituality and obey Jesus’ declaration in John, 13-34: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” I do try to take this Law literally. I succeed many times because my relationship with God now is love-based; it is no longer fear-based. I am not perfect, but I am making spiritual progress.

Jeanne M
Member
Jeanne M
1 month ago
Reply to  George K

Very encouraging, George. Keep on keeping on.

Will Howard
Member
Will Howard
1 month ago
Reply to  George K

Indeed George
… And isn’t it all about: ‘progress’, ‘the glass half full’, the purpose and intention to Love as God is Love; this is how we ‘Be’ of the perfection of God and follow His Perfect Law.

As highlights in Hart’s painting I really like his ‘highlighting’ and ‘lifting-up’ of the separated female section of the synagogue – upper right, next to the ‘paschal Candle’ (??).

Or, is it an inclusion of ‘the gentile’s’ who equally acclaim “The Books of the Law” as foundational to faith?

Is it too far a stretch to say that the BVM, who arguably is he vessel of the inception of the Law made Flesh’, is the manifest fulfillment of the law: ‘Blessed rather is she who hears the word of God and lives it’, bears it out into her everyday life through Love?’

Elvira
Member
Elvira
1 month ago

Jesus always presents himself as a faithful fulfiller of the Jewish law and his criticisms are towards the way of understanding it (small and petty) of the Pharisees. These were good and pious, but they were wrong to place the weight on unimportant rules and not (as Noelle says) on the basis and foundation of that Law. ¿What does it mean to us?… We have to be faithful to the Church, although we have put the weight on cold obligations and our pastors have not been an example of virtue …, from the Church we have received the following to Jesus, his words and his acts… and the witness of so many people who believe in Him, have had an extraordinary human quality from which we have benefited… All this makes us stand here today declaring ourselves Christians…. Let us thank the Church 🙏🏻🙏🏻

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
1 month ago
Reply to  Elvira

Thankyou Elivia- I agree with what you are saying here.

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien
1 month ago

Yesterday, being his feast day, I was reading a 1st century epistle attributed to Barnabas. In it he was basically reiterating each of the Commandments and expanding on each one explaining how it relates to Jesus teaching.
“I have come, not to abolish the Law, but to complete it”

Jeanne M
Member
Jeanne M
1 month ago

The hymn “The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord”, is, according to Jesus’ words here, not quite right, or, rather, not the whole story. The base, the foundation is the law given to Moses by God Himself, and absolutely nothing of that law has been abolished by Jesus, rather He has built on it, amplified it, with His words and teachings, and finally by His sacrifice of Himself brought us to a new level of completeness, set free by forgiveness.
Lovers of the English language may appreciate the beauty of the King James version, the modern “one dot….one little stroke” is expressed in the 17C translation by “one jot.. one tittle”. Both these words have their origin in Hebrew calligraphy as tiny marks, the tittle being the smallest, an extra stroke added to a larger one to modify the meaning. The words were, until recently, in fairly common usage to convey tiny quantities.
Village coffee morning today, so up and out, armed with goodies. I’m asking myself how “salty and lighty” I am for Christ….

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeanne M

Go girl… don’t put that light under the nearest tub 😁

Jeanne M
Member
Jeanne M
1 month ago

👍 l tried, Patricia! Thank you for the encouragement…

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
1 month ago

I have voted. I took my time as the prize is such a large amount of money, but in the end I voted for three. I hope at least one of them succeeds. It says the winner will be announced in mid-June but I sense it may now be later. I can’t wait although my track record on backing winners isn’t good!

Jeanne M
Member
Jeanne M
1 month ago
Reply to  spaceforgrace

As a child I was ace at predicting the outcome of horse races! Impossible choices in this competition. In the end I voted for the sculpture, the icon, and St. Martin, the latter because it was such a beautiful painting. St. Francis nearly made it….

Monica Doyle
Member
Monica Doyle
1 month ago

I suppose Our Lord would have attended many of these ceremonies, that was the basis of His faith. Of course he challenged and built on those beliefs.. No one was spared. Jesus mission continues today. As they say in the best of AA meetings… “Just for today….” May we listen and take on board His mission…. Now to vote!

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
1 month ago
Reply to  Monica Doyle

I am doing the very same Monica- although I fear the one I like most won’t win.

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien
1 month ago
Reply to  spaceforgrace

Everyone is studiously avoiding expressing which they voted for, I notice 🤔
I voted for St Francis as I felt it was dynamic and expressive. I loved the colours – plus of course, it was really well executed. One thing though, without seeing the finalists work in the flesh (size, brushwork, medium etc) it’s quite hard to make a real choice and maybe we are voting on how the image speaks to us (emotional response)

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
1 month ago

Studiously avoiding? Maybe. From my own point of view I wouldn’t want to influence someone else one way or another. I agree with what you say about not seeing the works in front of us, and I have tried to take this into consideration, and I agree there is something difficult about this.

I also tried to take emotion out of it too, to focus on the spiritual merits of each one, and how I felt if I had these works in my home (as if!) it would help me grow in my faith. In the end I couldn’t just choose one for this reason.

I also took the time to research the artists and this helped me too, more to eliminate than choose though!

Exciting isn’t it? Hope I don’t feel disappointed in the winner.

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