Quote of the day, 27 March: St. John of the Cross

The Holy Spirit causes many things to be said in which he has a meaning different from that understood by humans. This is seen by what he brought Caiaphas to say of Christ: It is better that one man die than that the whole nation perish [Jn. 11:50]. Caiaphas did not say these words on his own, and he expressed and understood them in one way while the Holy Spirit did so in another.

Saint John of the Cross

The Ascent of Mount Carmel, II, ch. 19, no. 9

John of the Cross, St. 1991, The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, Revised Edition, translated from the Spanish by Kavanaugh, K and Rodriguez, O with revisions and introductions by Kavanaugh, K, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

Featured Image: Christ before Caiaphas, (ca. 1525–1530) is an illumination by Flemish miniaturist Simon Bening (ca. 1483–1561) found in the Prayer Book of Cardinal Albrecht of Brandenburg in the collections of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles (not currently on view). It was executed in tempera colors, gold paint, and gold leaf on parchment.

The gallery label provides us the following information concerning this image, of which we show a detail:

In this miniature the artist Simon Bening emphasized the contrast between the passive and gentle Jesus, in a neutral-colored garment, and the aggressively hostile high priest Caiaphas, clothed in more vivid colors and vigorously confronting him. Following Saint Matthew’s Gospel, Caiaphas tears at his robe as he accuses Jesus of blasphemy for identifying himself as the Messiah. In contrast, Jesus, his physical beauty underscoring his divinity, calmly accepts his destiny. The artist heightened the drama of the confrontation by setting the scene in a darkened, monumental interior, illuminated only by eerie torchlight. By depicting a vulnerable and very human Jesus, Bening encouraged the reader to empathize with Jesus’ suffering, a response that the Church and much religious art of the later Middle Ages promoted.

Bening framed the scene with simulated wood arches, suggesting that the viewer is peering through a window into a real, three-dimensional space. The frame also recalls the frames found on the altarpieces that graced the interiors of contemporary churches and chapels, reinforcing the devotional nature of the image.

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