Nicolaes Pietersz Berchem 1620–1683
The Annunciation to the Shepherds
Oil on canvas, 107 x 144 cm
Bristol Museum and Art Gallery
Berchem was one of the artists of the Dutch Golden Age
A prolific artist, he and his circle are known to have painted at least 700 works
He was much influenced by the Italian style of the seventeenth century ("the Italianate painters")
He was always fascinated with the effects of light
Many of his pictures are of landscapes, peasant and animals and an earthly Arcady
All of these aspects of his work can be seen in the above picture
The Theme of the painting is of course from Luke`s account of the Nativity:
13 And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:14 “Glory to God in the highestand on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.”
Recently the international press had some sport over Pope Benedict`s new book. They feigned shock and surprise at a number of comments by the Pope about the Nativity. Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of Christianity could have put them right
One of the points made by the Pope was that according to the strict rendering of Scripture the angels did not sing but said “Glory to God in the highest” . This was twisted by some to make out there were no angels at the Nativity
Not withstanding the Pope went on to say that angels were there and they did sing
If they had done some research they have seen that the Pope had already made the same point about two years before at his Midnight Mass homily in 2010 It was part of his peroration
"At the end of the Christmas Gospel, we are told that a great heavenly host of angels praised God and said: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!” (Lk 2:14).
The Church, in the Gloria, has extended this song of praise, which the angels sang in response to the event of the holy night, into a hymn of joy at God’s glory – “we praise you for your glory”. ...
Saint Luke does not say that the angels sang.
He states quite soberly: the heavenly host praised God and said: “Glory to God in the highest” (Lk 2:13f.).
But men have always known that the speech of angels is different from human speech, and that above all on this night of joyful proclamation it was in song that they extolled God’s heavenly glory.
So this angelic song has been recognized from the earliest days as music proceeding from God, indeed, as an invitation to join in the singing with hearts filled with joy at the fact that we are loved by God.
Cantare amantis est, says Saint Augustine: singing belongs to one who loves. Thus, down the centuries, the angels’ song has again and again become a song of love and joy, a song of those who love.
At this hour, full of thankfulness, we join in the singing of all the centuries, singing that unites heaven and earth, angels and men. Yes, indeed, we praise you for your glory.
We praise you for your love. Grant that we may join with you in love more and more and thus become people of peace. Amen"
Unfortunately the Pope`s subtle points about Divine praise, joy, peace and goodwill were drowned out by the cackling and brayiing cacophony who prefer a cheap joke to the Gospel message