Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.” At this, Jesus said to him, “Get away, Satan! (Mt 4:8-10)
Every mountain high or low, every valley shallow or deep, every water narrow or broad belongs to the Lord God who created them all and keeps them. Nations encompass mountains and valleys, hills and flatlands, lakes and rivers and in their sovereignty claim these as their own. This is not a bad thing as national sovereignty maintains the diversity and unity of peoples and provides security against evil tyrants (unless such tyrants claim their own unjust sovereignty).
The devil is an unjust tyrant. In the myth behind The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien proposes that the leading angel who rebelled against God wanted to make his own creations and to be called “Lord”. Melkor, meaning “mighty-rising”, was the name of this preternatural spirit. He might have also been called “pride-rising” for as majestic as Melkor was he could not temper his desire for power; a power that wished to contend with and overthrow the One and only Lord God.
As we begin the season of Lent we enter into a season of anti-pride, a season of humility and contrition. We strip away all our self-given titles of honor especially those that set our will against what is good and graceful in the Lord. We examine our consciences, the evil things we have done in the past, and strive to enter the future with humility, temperance, gentleness and charity. We pray, we repent, and we give; all with the express purpose to put off the pride that brought us to death and to put on the faith and hope that brings us to new life.
As we celebrate our 1st Sunday in Lent we place on our bulletin cover an illustrated work by the Limbourg Brothers entitled The Temptation of Christ (late 14th Century). The Limbourg Brothers painted in a style known as “International Gothic” because it is said to have spread throughout Western Europe; or “Late Gothic” since it flourished before the Early Renaissance. The important thing to note is that it was a transitional style just as the Gothic period was an advancing period. Thus we see in these illuminated manuscripts (and in statuary of that time) the breakout of emotion, postures that step out toward the observer, and expansive landscapes, all features to be carried over to the proto-renaissance.
On our cover we see the beautiful colors of medieval illumination presenting a landscape that will release the deepening perspective of the Renaissance. There stands Jesus atop His creation tempted by Satan who has presumed lordship over the earth. On the weathervane to Jesus’ left is a rooster indicating the denial of Christ and the penance needed to overcome this. Swimming in the moat are swans, symbols of God’s grace. In the bottom right Jesus is the Lion of Judah chasing the Beast up the Tree of Knowledge.
All temptation is a solicitation to sin. We would have no Lent leading to Easter if the devil had convinced Jesus to sin only once. Jesus triumphed and so the redemption of man was established on earth and still carries on today.
-Steve Guillotte, Director of Pastoral Services