Rest on the Flight into Egypt
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The "Rest on the Flight into Egypt," is the 1879 painting by Luc Olivier Merson. I mentioned the painting at the very end of my last blog which was about focusing on beauty as preparation for an upcoming oblate retreat.
As I studied "Rest on the Flight into Egypt" I remembered Pope Benedict XVI’s own masterpiece work of art: his recent address to representatives from the world of culture, Collège des Bernardins, Paris, Friday, 12 September 2008. The Pope said:
“From the perspective of monasticism’s historical influence [on European culture], we could say that, amid the great cultural upheaval resulting from migrations of peoples and the emerging new political configurations, the monasteries were the places where the treasures of ancient culture survived, and where at the same time a new culture slowly took shape out of the old. But how did it happen? ... First and foremost, it must be frankly admitted straight away that it was not their intention to create a culture nor even to preserve a culture from the past. Their motivation was much more basic. Their goal was: quaerere Deum [seeking God]. Amid the confusion of the times, in which nothing seemed permanent, they wanted to do the essential ...
“They were searching for God. They wanted to go from the inessential to the essential, to the only truly important and reliable thing there is. .... “They were seeking the definitive behind the provisional. Quaerere Deum: because they were Christians, this was not an expedition into a trackless wilderness, a search leading them into total darkness. God himself had provided signposts, indeed he had marked out a path which was theirs to find and to follow.”
To me, Pope Benedict XVI described the "Rest on the Flight into Egypt." The painting reveals the same story — Mary and Joseph were treasuring the definitive beyond the provisional of this world. They preserved the eternal Truth from Herod’s tyrannical savagery.
We should not see Mary and Joseph in a barren desert. They are in total rest — in total peace. They were following signposts by the light that is God. Monasteries did the same thing and it created beauty in the parched soul of Europe.