Sunday, 25 July 2010


The Deposition, by Roger Van Der Weyden, circa 1435

I've spent a long time looking at this painting in The Prado over the years. Undoubtedly one of the world's greatest, and a case could be made for being the world's most moving. All the action takes place in a sort of painted 'niche' about six feet deep, from front to back. Christ's arms echo the shape of a crossbow, because the Guild of Crossbowmen, or something similar, commissioned the work. Early 'image branding.' The little reproduction here cannot come near to doing it justice. The original is 8.5 feet wide and the figures are almost life-size.

It really has little or nothing to do with today's topic, unless you take an existential view of the world. I suppose I do.
Anyway, on Friday, I was in our little church on duty, giving pilgrims 'sellos' and keeping the place open for them. Ten minutes away from closing time, at 2pm, a woman pilgrim came in looking a bit disturbed and asked if she could go into the church. She did so.
Five minutes or so later, she came back out to me with tears streaming down her face. She had spoken to her mother, by phone, about half an hour before, for the first time in six months. The mother's news was very grim. Two operations for cancer within the last few weeks and the prospects for recovery bleak.
Bad enough. But it gets worse. The pilgrim, Elizabeth, from Budapest, told me she also has cancer, the same sort as her mother, and her chances of survival are equally low. That, she said, is why she is doing The Camino now. While she still can.I told her she should come back to our house and rest and stop for a while. She wanted to keep on walking, but I managed to persuade her to come over.
We gave her lunch and she ended up staying the night. She slept a long time and said the visit had done her good, 'thank God for sending me to your house,' etc. My wife and Kim are wise and good listeners. Pilgrims often want to talk a lot. But then, others are virtually mute.
What does it all mean? Everything and nothing, I suppose. Religious-minded people would see some significance in it all. I don't.

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