“Valentines” or “How easily life passes by me”

Last year, I received this painting as a Valentine.

And it was the first time I was receiving a Valentine. In France, Valentines are exchanged between lovers or people that love each other. It is no mean symbol. One would not send a card to a friend or an acquaintance or someone of his or her family. Well, I give The Girls Valentines but they are really inocuous. Teddy bears hugging a pillow or a lovely embroidered cushion. Gracious flowers. Swans or birds or butterflies. It is only to say: in this celebration, you are not forgotten; do think that you are loved and cherished; you are important persons. But I to receive a Valentine? Well, I was elated. Furthermore, it was a painting and a painter that my Valentine and I had discussed at some length before. I thought it was so much up-to-the-point. It was a wonderful day. Certainly one of my most wonderful days.

There is no Valentine this year. Well, I should not have expected any joy to last. There is no reason why it should: no one would dream to have a Valentine trailing behind her two, one, more, less, any, disabled person. That was asking too much. And I had forgotten that I was depressed with other side-illnesses. And bad tempered. That was a lovely mistake while it lasted but it was doomed since the beginning.

Instead of a Valentine, I have Lent this year. It began with Ash Wednesday last week, and is now in full swing with the first Sunday in Lent today. My picture for Valentine Day is certainly more spiritually up-lifting but is it as immediately happy? As I am no saint (see the reference to my bad temper above), I doubt I enjoy it as much as last year’s… Here it is.

The Seven Works of Mercy

(Caravaggio)

It has been painted around 1607 as altarpiece for the church of Pio Monte della Misericordia in Naples and is still there after four hundred years. It depicts the seven corporal works of mercy that are mentioned in the Gospel according to Matthew, which are traditional Catholic belief, and are also the set of compassionate acts concerning the material welfare of others. Some sort of complement to the Beatitudes of the Discourse on the Mount.

I have better quote art critics about it.

The titular seven works/acts of mercy are represented in the painting as follows:

Bury the dead
In the background, two men carry a dead man (of whom only the feet are visible).

Visit the imprisoned, and feed the hungry
On the right, a woman visits an imprisoned man and gives him milk from her breast. This image alludes to the classical story of Roman Charity.

Shelter the homeless
A pilgrim (third from left, as identified by the shell in his hat) asks an innkeeper (at far left) for shelter.

Clothe the naked
St. Martin of Tours, fourth from the left, has torn his robe in half and given it to the naked beggar in the foreground, recalling the saint’s popular legend.

Visit the sick
St. Martin greets and comforts the beggar who is a cripple.

Refresh the thirsty
Samson (second from the left) drinks water from the jawbone of an ass.

American art historian John Spike notes that the angel at the center of Caravaggio’s altarpiece transmits the grace that inspires humanity to be merciful.

Spike also notes that the choice of Samson as an emblem of Giving Drink to the Thirsty is so peculiar as to demand some explanation. The fearsome scourge of the Philistines was a deeply flawed man who accomplished his heroic tasks through the grace of God. When Samson was in danger of dying of thirst, God gave him water to drink from the jawbone of an ass. It is difficult to square this miracle with an allegory of the Seven Acts of Mercy since it was not in fact the work of human charity.

 

I know, I know. As a Christian and as a Roman Catholic, I should welcome Lent and I should be contemplating and seeking inspiration in this painting, which is strictly and artistically speaking a masterpiece for those who believe in God and those who do not believe in Him. So, why do I feel so wretch when I compare my two paintings?

God knows, but I have an inkling!

Psalm 50

also known as “Miserere”

Allegri

The Tallis Scholars

(legendary recording – 1980)

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8 thoughts on ““Valentines” or “How easily life passes by me”

  1. To be honest with you, I don’t celebrate Valentine’s day, because I don’t like to dedicate one day out of all other days in year especially for love. I believe if you truly love someone, then you better love them every single day.
    Plus, Jia also don’t like it either. So we are good without it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It has never been celebrated in my family: it is thought to be mostly commercial and the same feeling about love lasting all year round and not one special day prevails.
      Nevertheless, I have to say that I was happy to have a Valentine last year ans someone who cared for me. Later, it apppeared that it was not to go on. I understand that I shall have no family and love life of my own: nobody wants to accept The Girls as part of my luggage in life. There comes a moment when I am told that they would be better in a special home for disabled people. I cannot blame anyone for not wanting them tagging me. But it is a very lonely life and not very happy, to be true.
      I try not to complain and to endure and be as cheerful as possible but….

      Liked by 1 person

      1. And this speciality of your is what I like most about you 🙂 The connection between you and The Girls is one of a kind and those who are unable to understand it are themselves disable

        Like

      2. I’m so much sorry for that last comment of mine. I didn’t pointed it towards you. I was referring to all those others out there who are unable to understand who you truly are.
        Please forgive me if my last comment hurt you in anyway. I felt extremely bad myself as soon as I realized what have I done. I’m so sorry!! 😦

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hammad, let me tell you something important for me. I do believe that you are not ordinary fellow blogger but, as surprising as it may seem, you have become a friend from the other side of the earth, and your family is a friend as well. I NEVER would think friends hurt each others intentionally. So I NEVER believed you wanted to hurt me.
    I understood very well that you were alluding to the solitude of my mind because as much as I love The Girls and as much they love me, there is at least one part of me who is always lonely. There is no one near me to fill up this solitude. There has been someone last year with the symbolic Valentine but there is no more.
    Do not feel bad: I understood you and you did not hurt me. All is right and well, my friend. 🙂

    Like

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