Jacopo Bassano (Italian (Venice), about 1515-1592), The Flight into Egypt, about 1540-45, oil on canvas, 62 x 80 in. (157.5 x 203.2 cm), Toledo Museum of Art, Purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gif t of Edward Drummond Libbey, 1977.41.
During the Advent Sacred Conversation at the Toledo Museum of Art, Dr. Marie Loudon-Hanes invited us to experience the “Flight into Egypt” painted by Jacopo Bassano. Depicted are an ardent Joseph steadfastly leading the way, a saddened Mary pondering while riding a donkey. She holds protectively the Christ child - clearly human and vulnerable. Three companions surround the family, one facing away as if to flee, and another encouraging him to stay the course. The third companion beckons to those off in the distance as if to invite them/us on the journey. Many of the feet are bare, walking and running upon stones, as if the artist is depicting the difficult path of the ways of the Christ. In the distance are the homes, and farms and mountains and far away places through which the journey must go.
I saw in this painting a visual parable of the significance of this season. The Light that has come into the world is tightly held by the sorrowful, yet led by the steadfast. We are marked by the Christ Child who is fully human and fully divine in our baptism. We walk with companions, some of whom are tempted to leave the Way of Christ behind. Other companions encourage us to keep to the journey. The road upon which we walk is filled with stumbling places and we walk barefooted and vulnerable on that road. Our towns, and farms and countrysides, cities and dwelling places are not so far away. We yearn for Jeremiah’s vision from Chapter 29: “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jeremiah 29: 7).
May you and yours be blessed this Christmas season with the Christ Child in your arms, and with companions for this Way.
Susan Meier and Beth Wenner