The following article appeared on Catholic Exchange on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. I am grateful to CE for publishing my work!
This holy feast day give us an opportunity to look at some of the best art that Christian civilization has to offer. Specifically, Presentation of Jesus in the Temple by Bl. Giovanni di Fiesole, also known as Fra Angelico (whose feast day is approaching on February 18), which offers important and powerful lessons for those of us who desire to become better disciples of Jesus. While this fresco from the mid-fifteenth century occupies a wall of a Dominican monastery in Florence, Italy, it still offers many lessons even in our modern world. We ought to take time to gaze upon it, meditate on its details, and ask how it applies to our lives.
We learn much from gazing upon the faces of the three biblical figures in the painting. The first apparent lesson comes from the focal point of the painting, right near Jesus. Specifically, we notice Simeon, the man who took Jesus into his arms and spoke two powerful prophecies in the Temple. In Fra Angelico’s rendition of this event, Simeon’s eyes focus unwaveringly on the Lord. He looks intently upon Jesus and nowhere else. This small, significant detail helps us remember that to speak forth the mind of the Lord, which all of us must do in some way, means we must gaze upon Him fully and constantly.