Sunday, June 09, 2013

Claude Vignon and John 21

Claude Vignon (1593-1670)
The miraculous catch of fish (Pêche Miraculeuse)
Oil on panel
98,5 x 76 cm
Musée Carnavalet, Paris

Each May from 1609 to 1629 the Guild of Goldsmiths presented tabernacles with a number of panels to the Chapter of Notre Dame in Paris: les  Petits Mays de Notre-Dame de Paris

This is one of the panels from 1624

It was preserved in the chapelle Sainte-Anne in Notre-Dame 

From 1630, bigger panels were made and presented: les Grands Mays de Notre-Dame de Paris

They were either destroyed or scattered to the winds during and after the Revolution

All the themes were on the life of Mary or Scripture, the Old Testament, the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles

Vignon pained six of these panels

The last chapter of St John`s Gospel (Chapter 21) is the theme of the above painting

The text says it is the third appearance of Jesus to his disciples after the Resurrection

Seven disciples went out on the Sea of Tiberias to fish at night. Five are named ("Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, Zebedee’s sons"). Two are not

They catch nothing. 

At dawn Christ calls out to them from the shore. They do not recognise him. 

He tells them to cast their nets on the right. There is a miraculous catch of 153 fish.

Peter hastens to Christ. He confirms his love for Jesus. Jesus gives his commission to Peter: feed my lambs; tend my sheep; feed my sheep.

This makes us recall John 10: the Parable of the Good Shepherd; "I am the Door"; and "I am the Good Shepherd"

In 1624 Vignon painted another  work expressly on this theme of John 21: Feed my sheep. It is in the Rijksmuseum

Claude Vignon (1593-1670)
Christus draagt Petrus op: 'Weid mijn schapen'
Christ commands Peter: "Feed my sheep"
Oil on canvas
124 cm x 105 cm 
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Finally in John 21, there is a foretelling of Peter's death in old age, and a comment about John's future.

Claude Vignon (1593-1670)
St Peter in repentance
Oil on canvas
93.3 x  86 cm
Musée des beaux-arts, Nantes

Vignon`s painting is not that of the young vigorous Peter who denied Peter before the Crucifixion. This is an old Peter well after the Resurrection and the Pentecost. This is the old shepherd. How many trials and tribulations had he been through since that meeting on the Sea of Tiberias.

In late May Pope Francis reflected and meditated on John 21 in his address to the Italian Episcopate. 

It was in the Confessio of St Peter`s Basilica immediately over the bones of the Saint who had had the conversation with the Lord on the shores of the Sea of Tiberias nearly two thousand years before:

"This evening this Altar of the Confessio thus becomes for us the Sea of Tiberias, on whose shores we listen once again to the marvellous conversation between Jesus and Peter with the question addressed to the Apostle, but which must also resonate in our own hearts, as Bishops. 
“Do you love me?”. “Are you my friend?” (cf. Jn 21, 15ff.). 
The question is addressed to a man who, despite his solemn declarations, let himself be gripped by fear and so had denied. 
“Do you love me?”; “Are you my friend?”. 
The question is addressed to me and to each one of us, to all of us: if we take care not to respond too hastily and superficially it impels us to look within ourselves, to re-enter ourselves. 
“Do you love me?”; “Are you my friend?”. 
The One who scrutinizes hearts (cf. Rom 8:27), makes himself a beggar of love and questions us on the one truly essential issue, a premise and condition for feeding his sheep, his lambs, his Church. May every ministry be based on this intimacy with the Lord; living from him is the measure of our ecclesial service which is expressed in the readiness to obey, to humble ourselves, as we heard in the Letter to the Philippians, and for the total gift of self (cf. 2:6-11). 
Moreover, the consequence of loving the Lord is giving everything — truly everything, even our life — for him. This is what must distinguish our pastoral ministry; it is the litmus test that tells us how deeply we have embraced the gift received in responding to Jesus’ call, and how closely bound we are to the individuals and communities that have been entrusted to our care. We are not the expression of a structure or of an organizational need: even with the service of our authority we are called to be a sign of the presence and action of the Risen Lord; thus to build up the community in brotherly love. 
Not that this should be taken for granted: even the greatest love, in fact, when it is not constantly nourished, weakens and fades away. Not for nothing did the Apostle Paul recommend: “take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you guardians, to feed the church of the Lord which he obtained with his own Son's blood” (cf. Acts 20:28). 
A lack of vigilance — as we know — makes the Pastor tepid; it makes him absentminded, forgetful and even impatient. It tantalizes him with the prospect of a career, the enticement of money and with compromises with a mundane spirit; it makes him lazy, turning him into an official, a state functionary concerned with himself, with organization and structures, rather than with the true good of the People of God. Then one runs the risk of denying the Lord as did the Apostle Peter, even if he formally presents him and speaks in his name; one obscures the holiness of the hierarchical Mother Church making her less fruitful. 
Who are we, Brothers, before God? What are our trials? We have so many; each one of us has his own. What is God saying to us through them? What are we relying on in order to surmount them? 
Just as it did Peter, Jesus' insistent and heartfelt question can leave us pained and more aware of the weakness of our freedom, threatened as it is by thousands of interior and exterior forms of conditioning that all too often give rise to bewilderment, frustration, and even disbelief. 
These are not of course the sentiments and attitudes that the Lord wants to inspire; rather, the Enemy, the Devil, takes advantage of them to isolate us in bitterness, complaint and despair. 
Jesus, the Good Shepherd, does not humiliate or abandon people to remorse. Through him the tenderness of the Father, who consoles and revitalizes, speaks; it is he who brings us from the disintegration of shame — because shame truly breaks us up — to the fabric of trust; he restores courage, re-entrusts responsibility, and sends us out on mission.  
Peter, purified in the crucible of forgiveness could say humbly, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you” (Jn 21:17). I am sure that we can all say this with heartfelt feeling. And Peter, purified, urges us in his First Letter to tend “the flock of God... not by constraint but willingly, not for shameful gain but eagerly, not as domineering over those in your charge but being examples to the flock” (1 Pet 5:2-3). 
Yes, being Pastors means believing every day in the grace and strength that come to us from the Lord despite our weakness, and wholly assuming the responsibility for walking before the flock, relieved of the burdens that obstruct healthy apostolic promptness, hesitant leadership, so as to make our voice recognizable both to those who have embraced the faith and to those who “are not [yet] of this fold” (Jn 10:16). 
We are called to make our own the dream of God, whose house knows no exclusion of people or peoples, as Isaiah prophetically foretold in the First Reading (cf. Is 2:2-5). 
For this reason being Pastors also means being prepared to walk among and behind the flock; being capable of listening to the silent tale of those who are suffering and of sustaining the steps of those who fear they may not make it; attentive to raising, to reassuring and to instilling hope. 
Our faith emerges strengthened from sharing with the lowly. 
Let us therefore set aside every form of arrogance, to bend down to all whom the Lord has entrusted to our care. Among them let us keep a special, very special, place for our priests.  
Especially for them may our heart, our hand and our door stay open in every circumstance. 
They are the first faithful that we bishops have: our priests. Let us love them! Let us love them with all our heart! They are our sons and our brothers! 
Dear brothers, the profession of faith we are now renewing together is not a formal act. 
Rather, it means renewing our response to the “Follow me” with which John’s Gospel ends (21:19). It leads to living our life in accordance with God’s plan, committing our whole self to the Lord Jesus. The discernment that knows and takes on the thoughts, expectations and needs of the people of our time stems from this."

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