Several years ago I went to visit a good friend in Boston. We took a day to explore downtown. We went to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. What an incredible experience! I was totally enthralled as we wandered through the museum taking in all of the art. It was fantastic.
But I was stopped dead in my tracks by this painting that was hanging in an obscure corner of the museum. My friend lost me and I lost him as I stood before this magnificent piece for over an hour, just absorbing the power of the image. It is the French artist Luc-Olivier Merson's Rest on the Flight Into Egypt, painted in 1879. I'm normally not into religious art. But this one was different. It completely caught me by surprise. It isn't your typical holy family portrait. It is painted with a limited palette, dark, and the figures are sensual and somewhat realistic. Joseph sleeps on the desert floor. Mary, perhaps to protect herself and the child, is sleeping up between the feet of the Sphynx. A thin ribbon of smoke rises from the smoldering fire. The donkey sleeps standing. The only intentionally "religious" part of the painting is the glow around the baby. But it is perfect. The symbolism is what struck me. The good news, silently nestled in the arms of a foreign symbol.
I think, above all others, this is my favorite "Christmas" image. In fact, when I was at the BMFA, I purchased a print of the original. I have it hanging in my study. I look at it every day, and every day it stirs me.
By the way, I'm afraid that over this Christmas I might not be posting as much, but I'll try. In any case, please have a great holiday time. I hope you are loved and know it. That's my prayer for you.