Two Views?

It’s not an Emmaus year, at least not on Sundays. A social media friend cited Dale Ahlquist’s piece on Catholic-Protestant views on the story of Luke 24:13-35. I’d like to think I have a non-trivial background in Christian art and Protestant understandings of the Bible, but I confess this piece comparing two paintings with the religion of the creators a bit curious.

Here’s landscape painter Robert Zünd’s vision of Jesus with two disciples on the road:

See the source image

Subjectively, I like this painting. It sure seems like the oak trees are the star of the show. But even so, the artist conveys with one arm gesture and three head positions something of the passage.

1602-3 Caravaggio,Supper at Emmaus National Gallery, London.jpg

Caravaggio’s thing is human gesture. In an even more famous post-Resurrection work, he portrays Thomas sticking a finger into Jesus’ side, although the Bible does not report that the apostle ever followed through on his assertion of wanting to see the Lord’s wounds.

According to Mr Ahlquist, these contrasts are a Protestant/Catholic thing. The former are focused on the burning explanation of the Scriptures. The latter on the recognition of Jesus in the breaking of the bread.

Robert Zund’s painting depicts the experience of a Protestant worship service: a sermon, a teaching from Scripture. It has a certain careful comfort to it. Caravaggio depicts the experience of the Mass. He captures the sacrament, the miracle of the Eucharist.

Here’s the thing. I can appreciate one individual’s personal insights on these works. It’s clear enough that one painter likes nature; the other likes people. I’m less down with the quick brush strokes on Christian divisions. Traditionally, some iconographers present Luke 24:13-35 as a triptych: on the road, at the table, back in Jerusalem. Like here. Even if I were Orthodox, I don’t think I’d trot out my tradition and suggest it was more complete than Romans and Reformed combined.

Let’s celebrate Easter. Let’s look at good art and notice how God uses human imagination to get us to notice things that are important for us. Maybe even notice his presence in some unexpected way.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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1 Response to Two Views?

  1. Liam says:

    Actually, today’s Gospel is subtly part of the Emmaus story. It’s another example of disciples being mystified by the Resurrection and what to make of it: the Emmaus disciples trek back 7 miles to the Upper Room, and then the Risen Lord appears to them all and…they are all afraid, et cet. No mention that the disciples from Emmaus had a different reaction from the rest. Unlike the rest, they had experienced an epiphany in Emmaus, but, only perhaps 2-3 hours after it, they are back with the rest in fear.

    The Risen Lord comes to the places in our hearts/souls that we keep locked up because we can’t imagine that he’d even want to be present with us in those places.

    Even locked rooms of fear and doubt after experiencing the sublimity of God’s indisputable presence. Because the Risen Lord, having taken on human nature, comprehends it in toto.

    That’s…Good News. But not easy news.

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