Anglican Morning Devotion for 10 January 2022 Anno Domini
a ministry of the Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, 2Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. 3When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. 5And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, 6And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. 7Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. 8And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. 9When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. 10When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. 11And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. 12And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way. 13And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. 14When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: 15And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.” (Matthew 2:1-15; all scripture quoted is from the King James Version)
The classical artist has great potential to reveal truth and beauty to a world that has lost its taste for truth and beauty. There is overpowering emotion that can be evoked by the artful brush strokes on canvas. Da Vinci’s Last Supper is an example of that power. So is the above painting by Merson entitled, “Repose in Egypt” exhibited at the Louvre in Paris.
There is a relatively recent but famous French painting called “The Repose in Egypt” (above). The artist who painted this remarkably meaningful and mystical work was Luc Oliver Merson. In the painting, the Sphinx is pictured with upturned face which gives the impression of questioning the great mysteries of life and its future. The Sphinx is positioned on the very edge of the Egyptian desert. This symbolizes the world as a great desert whose mortality is assured without God. Egypt, too, means the land of sin and bondage when spoken of prophetically in Holy Scripture.
Darkness broods over the scene, with only the far-off stars of tradition and philosophy shedding their dim light upon the dark desert wilderness. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is reclining on the arms of the Sphinx and holds in her arms the Child Jesus. Joseph and his donkey are lying in the opening before the Sphinx at which there is an oasis. Life in Christ is truly an oasis in a world of despondency and terror. The sands of wind erosion even grace the base of the pillar upon which the virgin reclines.
The light before the Sphinx emanates from the face of the Christ Child. It makes bright the oasis and the nearer sands. Only those rays of light from Christ penetrate the limitless darkness of the wilderness. Christ is, indeed, the Light of the World. “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
The Sphinx looks forward to future promise, and light from Christ also brightens the face of the Sphinx, but to the rear of the Sphinx is only dark desert and barren wastes. This represents the world before Christ’s coming. This is illustrative of the darkness in which men sat before the Beauty of the Light of Christ illumined their dark hearts.
“The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.” (Isaiah 9:2)
Open your eyes, and the eyes of your heart, and behold the Light!
(Information gleaned from Peloubet’s Illustrations from the Gospel of St Matthew for insight on this painting)