God is so good: he allows for everyone to learn about him and absorb his love in different ways! For me, that’s usually happened through words. For others, traditional art and iconography tells a visual story of faith. We’re able to learn about and absorb so much just by really observing, feeling, even breathing in an image.
That’s certainly true when we consider Jesus, Divine Master, as told through an image that today sits in the heart of a busy city—Rome. Blessed James Alberione, the founder of the Pauline Family of congregations (including the Daughters of St. Paul), had a sanctuary built in 1954 following a promise he’d made to Our Lady, and so there the Queen of Apostles Basilica stands today. And within that sanctuary is an oil painting by Fausto Conti depicting Jesus, Divine Master.
Taking a visual “tour” of this painting is learning the deepest of truths, and you can do it right here and right now, without even traveling to Rome!
So stop for a moment. Breathe in slowly, hold your breath, breathe out again. Look at the image for a moment, and then join me as we examine what we can learn and see and feel together:
- The frame: The icon of Jesus Master is depicted within a door-shaped frame. This is a doorway into the mystery, a bright, visible, and straight path that draws us into the Invisible. “I am the gate. Anyone who enters through me will be safe: such a one will go in and out and will find pasture” (John 10:9-10).
- The four evangelists: Immediately around the frame you can see the evangelists portrayed by their traditional Gospel symbols, standing, available to the Master, listening to him and ready to follow him.
- The figure of Jesus Master: The complete figure of Jesus Master is where it should be—at the center of the picture. Christ is the Master, the Way, the Truth and the Life. Our Risen Master bears the signs of his crucifixion on his hands and feet. Christ came into the world to do the will of the Father, becoming obedient even to death on the cross.
- Jesus’ clothing: The complete figure (not just the head and shoulders, as we often see in iconography) of the Divine Master represents the humanity of Christ. The white tunic is his belonging to God; his red cloak is his role as teacher; his sandals symbolize his entire mission. This informs our mission as Christians in the twenty-first century: a new holiness for a new evangelization.
- His raised hand: Jesus’ hand is raised as he teaches with authority. He asks that we heed him, our Master: Come to me. Listen to me.
Learn from me.
Become like me. (cf. Jn. 1:39; Mt 11:28-30)
- The book: The open book in Jesus’ left hand show us his own self-description: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.”
- The halo and the shining cross: Jesus’ halo and the light irradiating from the cross and from him indicate the glory of the risen Christ. This light banishes the shadows engulfing the world (the globe at his feet).
- The invocation: At the foot of the icon are the words, Jesu Magister Via et Veritas et Vita: this is the Word we listen to, meditate on and transform into intercessory apostolic prayer.
The spirituality of the Pauline family can be summed up in four words: Come. Listen. Learn. Become. We come to learn, to be transformed at the feet of the Master, in order to become Jesus for the world today.
The Divine Master asks questions that are difficult to answer. Who is this Jesus that we become? How can we walk in the world today as Jesus? We have to find the answers for each of our lives, rooted in our time and our place. And the best place to start is through opening our hearts to Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life.