About this blog

This Blog is named after an ancient gnoseological riddle which hints hidden, disseminated, omnipresent wisdom.
I invite you to search, listen and observe with me for "the word of tree, whisper of stone, and humming together of the abyss and stars."


Refugee Jesus

I love this painting of Adoration of Kings by Jan Brueghel de Oude (the Elder). It marvelously fits with our theme for Advent and Christmas - Refugee Jesus. Just look at the ruined home into which he was born. It looks like a shanty or a home in a favela; a house cobbled together while already coming apart, yet still miraculously holding together...
    And then look at the sea of people, all those different dresses and diverse headgear! Those are truly crowds of people gathered from all corners of the world, at least as they knew it in XVI century Europe. But please, notice, not all people are interested in Jesus. Unlike more traditional nativity and adoration paintings, this one is not built around baby Jesus. This painting is different, more realistic, and I would say, also theologically more correct. Jesus is born into this world, but to a large degree, the world does not care. The World and its cities live as if nothing happened. Just around the corner people go on about their petty busyness and they do not notice a damn thing.
     And yes, then we can observe the rubberneckers and nosy folks who just like sensations or at least something, anything, happening. We also know these people with an attention span of minutes, just like today’s media. Then there are also the opportunists who love to use religion to boost their own image and their agendas. Look at those kings in Brueghel painting (and there are more than the traditional three) - at least some of them are recognizable caricatures. Brueghel clearly mistrusted and disliked royalty and nobility - those with power and always seeking more power.
     And he had an even bigger issue with people bearing arms. Soldiers and lawman ostensibly guard order, and citizen bear arms allegedly for their own protection. As we know from the biblical story, in just few days, many of those arms might be used in mass murder of the innocents of Bethlehem. Just as it happened many times over through the turbulent religious history of Brueghel’s home Flanders in the XVI century.
    Brueghel had clear artistic intuition. Jesus was born to this world. Through his life and especially through history Jesus became surrounded and associated with the sensationalist media and with the opportunists of power but he was and remains, in essence, an incarnation of humanity as God intended. Unfortunately in the alienated and alienating world, it means he was born as a poor vulnerable child in the center of cacophony of the world and away from centers of power. The biblical baby Jesus, transplanted into the early modern Flanders, brings hope to all the lost, forgotten, poor, marginalised, oppressed - and that is the true Good News of Refugee Jesus. Just wonder how and where would Jan paint Jesus today?      

By the way, the development and composition of this painting was developed and kept in the Bueghel family for generations. The tradition of non-idealised Jesus and Mary and caricature kings started with Pieter Brughel de Oude, was taken and further developed by Jan Brueghel de Oude and later copied several times by his sons Jan Brueghel de Jongere (the Younger) and his brother Pieter Brueghel de Jonger. Both “Jongers” copied works by their father and grandfather and sold them under “Oudes” signatures - speaking of early modern forgeries! So, who knows who exactly made this painting, and does it really matter? It was in this Flemish family.

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