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Queen Jadwiga's Knights



No. 1, July 2003

A Head of Christ by Cornelis van Haarlem (1562-1638)


Sister Wendy Beckett

We shall never know what Jesus looked like. Those who wrote about Him, the Evangelists, were not interested in how He looked but in what He was, what He meant. But from early times, artists have imagined that face, usually seeng Jesus as a dark-haired man with a short beard and dark expressive eyes. It is a majestic face they imagine, and they nearly always show Jesus in His relationship with us. It is Jesus the judge, or the teacher, or the healer. He is grave, tender, stern, turning on us the full force of that divine regard. What I find so moving about this picture is that this Jesus is not addressing us. He is addressing His Father. Of course, to show Jesus concentrating the fullness of His attention on those around Him is profoundly theological. He came to give Himself to us. He died giving Himself to us: that was His purpose. “For this was I born, for this did I come into the world”. But this human relationship was the expression of that infinitely deeper relationship with His Father. It was that oneness, (the Father and I are one) that all pervading closeness, that sustained Him. He tells us that He never did His own will, only the will of the One Who had sent him. The Father’s will was His will. Only a few times in the gospels do we catch a precious glimpse of Jesus speaking to this totally loved Father. Usually the communications would have been wordless, so much a part of His being that it needed no visible outlet. Here Cornelis van Haarlem has caught Jesus in a moment of conflict. We tend to think of Him as always certain, in command, emotionally invulnerable. But this is not true. There were times when He was confused, uncertain. “Now is my soul troubled…” Jesus was fully man, living as we all do in uncertainties, seeking the best way forward. In this touching picture, He looks upwards, not in anguish, as in that supreme moment of need, in the Garden of Gethsemane, but all the same, in need. He attends, with all the force of His being, on the complete support that is His God and Father, not in anxiety, but in trust, with love, with hope. This is what prayer is, a turning to God with the absoluteness that we see here. And this too, His capacity for prayer, Jesus has given us in His self-surrender. In His relationship with us He has given us, in the Holy Spirit, His relationship with His Father.


Copyright The Queen Jadwiga Foundation


The Queen Jadwiga Foundation

P.O. Box 654, Toorak, VIC 3142