Painting by Edouard Manet (1832-1883),
Painted circa 1865-1870,
Pencil and graphite and white crayon on paper
© Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, California / Wikimedia Commons
No one puts a piece of unshrunken cloth on to an old cloak, because the patch pulls away
John’s disciples came to him and said, ‘Why is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not?’ Jesus replied, ‘Surely the bridegroom’s attendants would never think of mourning as long as the bridegroom is still with them? But the time will come for the bridegroom to be taken away from them, and then they will fast. No one puts a piece of unshrunken cloth on to an old cloak, because the patch pulls away from the cloak and the tear gets worse. Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins; if they do, the skins burst, the wine runs out, and the skins are lost. No; they put new wine into fresh skins and both are preserved.’
Reflection on the painting
Decades ago we used to patch clothes. I think it would be fair to say that nowadays when a jacket has a hole or a jumper is damaged, we tend to get rid of it altogether in our throw-away culture. But before, we used to iron on a patch, or sew a small bit of other cloth onto the main garment. These patches were noticeable. We see such an obvious patch on the trousers of Edouard Manet’s The Ragpicker.
Today’s Gospel reading talks about not ‘putting a piece of unshrunken cloth on to an old cloak’. Jesus is basically asking us if our faith is just a ‘patch’ on a normal way of life we got used to. We may well go to Sunday mass, but does anything really change deeply when we are there? Do we let ourselves be open to being changed? Jesus does not want to be merely a ‘patch’ on an routine way of life that we have got used to. He wants to wrap a whole new cloak around us!
During the 1860s, Manet undertook a series of pictures portraying street characters from the neighbourhood which surrounded his studio. Perhaps the masterpiece of the series is our painting today, the Ragpicker (‘Chiffonnier’ is its original name). It represents the nineteenth-century equivalent of today’s homeless man. With a stick in hand and a sack slung over his shoulder, the chiffonnier salvaged rags from the garbage for sale to paper manufacturers.
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 Matthew 9:14-17
Join our community
In addition to receiving our Daily Gospel Reading and Art Reflection, signing up for a free membership allows you to:
The context of Jesus’s statement is that he is answering a question about the religious traditions of the Pharisee’s. That is the context in which His answer ought to be interpreted. He is the bridegroom. Something new has come, the true Messiah, and the man-made religious traditions of the past are not compatible with it. The Jewish ideas of salvation by nationality and by pious works (e.g. fasting) rather than by faith in Christ must be jettisoned.
Thank you Patrick for your interpretation of the patch and old wine skins – I have always been a bit mystified by this comment Jesus made, but you have managed to make more sense of it for me, thank you!
I agree with you. This interpretation is different to the one I have in mind which is that Jesus has come to do something new, the old order is passing away….