Interpreting Art

One of the famous pieces of Franciscan art can be found in the left transept of the Lower Church of San Francesco in Assisi. It is a fresco done by Pietro Lorenzetti and is one of 17 frescoes he created in the church. This fresco is located lower on the transept wall under Lorenzetti’s masterpiece, The Crucifixion. The fresco is known as Our Lady of the Sunsets.

In the scene the Virgin Marry is holding the Child Jesus. The other two figures in the fresco are St. John the Evangelist (right) and St. Francis of Assisi (left), both of whom are looking at what is unfolding in the center of the scene. There Mary and Jesus are focused on each other, and Mary has a unique gesture, holding her thumb up pointing back to Saint Francis.

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Jonah: a final lesson

10 When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them; he did not carry it out.” (Jonah 3:10) Great! The Ninevites repented, God relented, and Jonah’s prophetic mission is complete. As mentioned, that would have been an “they all lived happily ever after” ending. But there is another chapter in the story whose first verse gives us an idea that the story’s ending is anything but happy.

But this was greatly displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry.” (Jonah 4:1) Jonah’s reaction reveals something about the nature of repentance. In Nineveh, the King and all the subjects repented in their heart and in their actions. And Jonah? While externally he is obedient, he has long since lost the inspiration that fueled his psalm of thanksgiving in the belly of the great fish. When God relents of the destruction of Nineveh, the “fuse” runs out on Jonah’s own internal bomb. The prophetic saboteur falls prey to his own true feelings. When it becomes clear that Nineveh will be saved by the gracious mercy of God, Jonah is infuriated – “greatly (gā·ḏôl) displeasing.”

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