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Wednesday, April 04, 2012

From the Womb to the Tomb

Marc Chagall (1887-1985) 
Job désespéré 1960 
Lithograph 52.5 x 38 cm 
Musée national Marc Chagall, Nice

Léon Joseph Florentin Bonnat (1833-1922) 
Job 1880 
Oil on canvas 1.610 m. x 1.290 m 
Musée Bonnat, Bayonne

Marc Chagall (1887-1985) 
The prophet Jeremiah 1968
 Oil on canvas 1.150 m. x 1.463 m. 
 Musée national Marc Chagall, Nice 

 Some of the most chilling images in the Old Testament are in the Book of Job
"Why did I not die at birth, Come forth from the womb and expire? Job 3:1 
'I should have been as though I had not been, Carried from womb to tomb.' Job 10:19
Assailed by afflictions and deep despair, Job curses the day and the night in which he was conceived and born; because, had he never been brought into existence, he would never have suffered such pain 

 He longs for the blackness and coldness of the void, sweet Oblivion 

 The image of the womb which bears life being transformed into a death bearing tomb is to say the least startling and disturbing

 A similar sentiment is expressed in the curse of Jeremiah in his time of trial:
"Cursed be the man who brought the news to my father, “A son is born to you,” making him very glad ... because he did not kill me in the womb; so my mother would have been my grave, and her womb forever great." Jeremiah 20:15, 17
Jeremiah gives the reason for the curse: his birth had brought him only a life of hardship and sorrow. Both again eventually rise to new joyful faith, but only after a long period Both recognise the intimate connection between the initial moment of life and the action of the all-loving God the Creator.
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you" (Jeremiah 1:5)
"You have fashioned and made me; will you then turn and destroy me? Remember that you have made me of clay; and will you turn me to dust again? Did you not pour me out like milk and curdle me like cheese? You clothed me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews. You have granted me life and steadfast love; and your care has preserved my spirit" (Job 10:8-12).
From their passing attractions to the idea of Death, Job and Jeremiah recover and become precursors of the Gospel of Life 

 They celebrate Eternal Life, the Divine Life "the Principle of life, the Cause and sole Wellspring of life [which] [e]very living thing must contemplate ...and give it praise: it is Life which overflows with life". (Pseudo- Dionysius the Areopagite, On the Divine Names, 6, 1-3: PG 3, 856-857)