Sunday 1st March
My eyes are drawn to the strength of Jesus’ finger pointing; resisting temptation and rebuking Satan. This strength serves as a reminder that I am giving up something for Lent: not to kick start a diet or to waver after a day. My Lenten promise will help me to grow closer to God through resisting daily temptations. I am giving up something to transform myself spiritually: to train my ears and heart to hear God and listen to him.
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” 1 Corinthians 10:13.
Rosetta Dyer, Head Teacher at Burdett Coutts
Monday 2nd March
I love how this painting juxtaposes Jesus’ blue and red garments against the devil’s pitch-black! Jesus’ temptation in the desert, which appears in the gospels of Matthew, Luke, and Mark, culminates in him being led to the top of a mountain, where the devil offers all of the world’s riches if Jesus will worship him. Jesus rebuffs the devil immediately, replying, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.”
The temptation narrative exemplifies “kenosis,” the theological term for Jesus’ emptying of his own will so that he can become receptive to God’s will. Lent is a time when, like Jesus, we strive to empty ourselves of our ego, selfishness, and love of earthly pleasures, all of which keep us from what is most important: loving God, and living according to His will.
Steve Knight, Environmental Ministry Volunteer, Holy Trinity
Tuesday 3rd March
This depiction of The Temptation of Christ on the Mountain is quite spectacular. The painting uses size and scale to illustrate the juxtaposition of good and evil, divinity and impiety, resistance and temptation. Jesus has been taken by the devil to the highest point of the mountain, above the earth majestically towering over the spurned kingdoms with their diminutive buildings and crenellations. He is taken to this high level so that from this standpoint he can observe all that he can command if he only succumbs to the devil’s temptation and worships him. Even the head of Jesus has been situated at the apex of the painting to again give his position dominance over all he could have power over if he follows the devil.
The artists impression of the devil is interesting too. Described as many things: Satan, an angel, demi-god, Lucifer - here he is shown as a demon in black (not red as is commonly depicted) with hair, gnome ears, forked feet and bat wings (with surprisingly no long tail) and with a grin on his face possibly denoting teasing, slyness or mischievousness. All the qualities you would expect from a being devoid of morals, conscience or goodness.
Jesus is shown rejecting the devil and sending him on his way reminding him that the only one worthy of praise and reverence is God himself. Jesus is supported by two angels sent down from God to give ministry to him and tend to him following his 40 days and nights of fasting in the desert.
Tony Sewell, Weekend Verger at St Stephen’s Church
Wednesday 4th March
Isn’t it strange that, though our lives are inundated with pictures, many find it hard to read, no less pray through, images? Many of the images surrounding us give us the very same choice Satan (the Deceiver) gives Jesus in Duccio’s painting. Bow to the way we see the world, and you shall receive it.
Such an instant microwave dinner version of the world, however, is always a half-dish. It offers little of what a shared meal is: more than sustenance but a shared experience of preparation, consumption, and then tidying. Half-backed ideas we should consume without questioning. As image after image promises us quick fixes to our problems more than ever, we need to approach all pictures with prayerful discernment.
Calvyn du Toit, Musician & Theologian, Holy Trinity
Thursday 5th March
Dear Friends at St Stephen’s Church, London and the Church of the Holy Trinity, New York,
I wonder when you look at this painting you notice the deep reds, blues and also the icy mountain that that Christ is standing on. Notice also the blackness of Satan and the kingdoms that the Christ is tempted with. In these temptations we see the humanity of the Christ as one who battle through. As you and I read this story and look deeply at the picture we also remember what St Paul says in 1 Cor. 10. 13-15: “No temptation has seized you except what is common to us. God is faithful He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted He will also provide a way of escape so that you can stand under it”
So friends, whether your temptation this lent is power, status, money or any other temptation, let us look at the faithfulness of God who always provides a way of escape, so that we can overcome. Remember also that we have a loving God who will restore and forgive when we do fall. Yes, our temptations may feel huge but don’t despair, look for the way of escape and draw on the Saviour’s love.
Sr Theresa Pountney (CA Sister), Weekday Member of St Stephen’s Church
Friday 6th March
This painting depicts the famous Gospel passage of Satan’s final attempt at Jesus “with all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.”
Jesus and Satan are shown as much larger than the kingdoms, not only because of the height of the mountain but perhaps also of the smallness of what is being offered when compared to one’s soul and the Kingdom of God?
I find myself most focused on the angels who came to minister to Jesus after he sends Satan away. Jesus doesn’t seem to know of their presence while he’s dispensing of temptation. Maybe that’s what Faith is about? Not knowing what will happen but at the same time knowing God will not desert us on our journey?
Joe Lipuma, Vestry Member & HTNC Volunteer and
Patti Li, Physician & Volunteer, Holy Trinity
Saturday 7th March
Firstly, I must just say that I absolutely adore Duccio’s work and the whole story of the Maesta - the magnificent double-sided altarpiece which was carried proudly by the people of Siena, through their streets and placed on the high altar at the crossing of the Cathedral in 1311. This panel was a small part of the altarpiece, the third scene of the predella on the sanctuary side of the altar. I am delighted to mention that we also have, at the National Gallery in London, two panels from the rear predella, two stories from the latter part of Christ’s ministry, the healing of the blind man, and Transfiguration. The panels in London and New York seem to me to be like separated siblings, brothers and sisters.
In the Frick Collection panel of the Temptation of Christ by the Devil I particularly love the play of scale within the painting, the clarity of the lines and design, and the questions that Duccio opens up through his representation of the narrative, which you have explored in your reflections and thoughts. I love the colours, the myriad of greys, lilacs, earth red browns and pale mint greens, which provide a magically muted backdrop for the intense blues and reds that lead our eyes to Jesus. At first glance, we are hovering above the roof tops, balconies and crenelated campaniles of the city lower left, but on closer inspection, we can also walk through a gateway and along a terracotta road into the city, we can imagine being on the mountain tops and, at the same time, being within the city walls.
For me, the composition feels perfect, everything is meant to be this way, and yet, this panel was not only designed tell this story, but also to speak to the other panels across the entire surface of the Maesta, across 27 different panels on the rear.
Marc Woodhead, Educator at the National Gallery