Monday, October 12, 2009

God's wheat

Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890)
Wheat Field with Cypresses 1889
Oil on canvas 28 3/4 x 36 3/4 in. (73 x 93.4 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890)
Wheatfield with a Reaper, 1889
Oil on canvas 73 X 92 cm
The Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Saint Ignatius of Antioch, martyr (also known as Theophorus ("God Bearer")) (ca. 35 or 50-between 98 and 117) was among the Apostolic Fathers, was the third Bishop and Patriarch of Antioch, and was possibly a student of John the Apostle.

Saint Ignatius's most famous quotation, however, comes from his Letter to the Romans:

“I am writing to all the Churches and I enjoin all that I am dying willingly for God's sake, if only you do not prevent it. I beg you; do not do me an untimely kindness. Allow me to be eaten by the beasts, which are my way of reaching to God. I am God's wheat, and I am to be ground by the teeth of wild beasts, so that I may become the pure bread of Christ.”— Letter to the Romans"

This image stuck in the mind of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face who in her Autobiography wrote:

“Like the Prophets and Doctors, I would be a light unto souls, I would travel to every land to preach Thy name, O my Beloved, and raise on heathen soil the glorious standard of Thy Cross. One mission alone would not satisfy my longings. I would spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth, even to the most distant isles. I would be a Missionary, not for a few years only, but, were it possible, from the beginning of the world till the consummation of time.

Above all, I thirst for the Martyr’s crown. It was the desire of my earliest days, and the desire has deepened with the years passed in the Carmel’s narrow cell. But this too is folly, since I do not sigh for one torment; I need them all to slake my thirst.

Like Thee, O Adorable Spouse, I would be scourged, I would be crucified! I would be flayed like St Bartholomew, plunged into boiling oil like St. John, or, like St. Ignatius of Antioch, ground by the teeth of wild beasts into a bread worthy of God.”

Wheat and wheatfields are a recurrent theme in the works of Van Gogh especially in the later years. In a letter to his sister, Wilhelmina van Gogh, on 2 July 1889 Vincent Van Gogh wrote:

“. . . What else can one do, when we think of all the things we do not know the reason for, than go look at a field of wheat? The history of those plants is like our own; for aren't we, who live on bread, to a considerable extent like wheat, at least aren't we forced to submit to growing like a plant without the power to move, by which I mean in what way our imagination impels us, and to being reaped when we are ripe, like the same wheat?”