The Holy Family with Saints Francis and Anne and the Infant Saint John the Baptist, oil on canvas, early or mid-1630s. Peter Paul Rubens, 1577 – 1640. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
This mellifluous painting is on a wall all by itself so that it is difficult not to see it and to be swept up in its rightward tilt centering on the infant Jesus.
The Museum says that Saint Francis is in ecstasy, in vision trance. As is known, Saint Francis underwent a number of experiences which he interpreted spiritually to lead him to an extraordinarily rich and exemplary life.
This painting, whose style the Museum says was too exuberant for the American public until late (1900), concentrates the mystery of Saint Francis’ devotion to Jesus.
Yet the institutional forms of this faith have all but been emptied of their spiritual content in the saint’s native continent.
Off whose shores, 4913 people died** this year, trying to reach Europe, an increase in the numbers of dead despite a fall of 60% in the numbers embarking on this perilous journey from Africa and Asia. Despite the commitment of the Italian Navy to life.
Among the dead children, babies, and unborn babies in the waters off Europe. And countless more on its land borders.
Because there is no room in any European inn for them nor for the thousands piled up in insalubrious camps on the continent and on its land margins.
And those of us on the North American continent, we also are facing waves of hate speech and hateful actions, become state doctrine no less, against those risking their lives to cross land borders into the country.
What are we celebrating?
** Figures from the International Organization for Migration as of 12/24/2016