This week I have been looking at the Wilton Diptych with our summer school students. It is remarkable that such a powerful pre-Reformation image should have survived, with its connotations of England as Our Lady’s Dowry. But the mysterious painting is much more than a symbolic exercise. The portrayal of the mother of Christ is one of the most beautiful and tender I have ever seen: her face has a marvellous spiritual maternity about it.
Apart from her face, the eye is also drawn inexorably toward her left hand, painted disproportionately larger than the rest of her body. This hand, like a human monstrance, holds out the Christ child’s foot for us to venerate. This Sunday’s Gospel (the continuation of last week’s reading from John 6) provides us with Our Lord’s explanation of this invitation to worship the Word incarnate.
“I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.”
To understand how crucial this revelation is for our faith, we can turn to the meditation from St Thomas Aquinas that Fr Cameron has chosen for this day (p 126). The angelic doctor describes the strength this divine food gives to the soul, and quotes St John Chrysostom: “Like lions breathing forth fire, thus do we depart from that table, being made terrible to the devil.”
Aquinas also makes an interesting link between the Eucharist and charity, which he says is increased by reception of the Blessed Sacrament. It’s good to be reminded that receiving the most holy Body and Blood of Jesus should indeed cause supernatural amounts of charity to course through our own veins.
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