Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Judgment of Solomon

Giacomo Pacchiarotto 1474 - 1540
The Judgment of Solomon
Oil on wood panel
97 x 126 cm
Musée du Petit Palais, Avignon

The Wisdom of King Solomon was and is proverbial

The Wisdom of Pacchiarotto was not.

When he was young he worked in Pintoricchio's studio in Rome

But he was rather restless, aggressive and ideological. He went back to Siena and became a member of a group of ideological reformers in Siena called the "Bardotti" He and his fellow members loved to theorise. They criticised and loved to put the world to rights. They were politicians and Pacchiarotto was one of the leaders

He seemed to have been carried away with his eloquence and emotion.

Unfortunately the society was bloodily suppressed and Pacchiarotto had to seek the assistance of the Observant Fathers who saved his life. They hid him with a corpse in a tomb until the hunt was called off. He spent the rest of his life hiding in exile

"My life found its May grow October.
I talked and I wrote, but, one morning,
Life's Autumn bore fruit in this warning:

'Let tongue rest, and quiet thy quill be!
Earth is earth and not heaven, and ne'er will be.'

Man's work is to labour and leaven—
As best he may—earth here with heaven;
'Tis work for work's sake that he's needing:
Let him work on and on as if speeding
Work's end, but not dream of succeeding!
Because if success were intended,
Why, heaven would begin ere earth ended."

The Pope recently referred to the wisdom of Solomon. It was one of the themes in his talk to the Bundestag, the German Federal Parliament in Berlin:

"Allow me to begin my reflections on the foundations of law [Recht] with a brief story from sacred Scripture.

In the First Book of the Kings, it is recounted that God invited the young King Solomon, on his accession to the throne, to make a request. What will the young ruler ask for at this important moment? Success – wealth – long life – destruction of his enemies? He chooses none of these things. Instead, he asks for a listening heart so that he may govern God’s people, and discern between good and evil (cf. 1 Kg 3:9).

Through this story, the Bible wants to tell us what should ultimately matter for a politician. His fundamental criterion and the motivation for his work as a politician must not be success, and certainly not material gain. Politics must be a striving for justice, and hence it has to establish the fundamental preconditions for peace. ...

As he assumed the mantle of office, the young King Solomon was invited to make a request. How would it be if we, the law-makers of today, were invited to make a request? What would we ask for?

I think that, even today, there is ultimately nothing else we could wish for but a listening heart – the capacity to discern between good and evil, and thus to establish true law, to serve justice and peace."