In Our Suffering We Are Never Alone

There are two portraits fascinating to compare.  The first is Ecce Homo by Philippe de Champaigne.  It is also titled, "Christ Mocked," and, of course, is a depiction of the scene when our Lord is clothed in scarlet and given a reed and crown of thorns by the Roman soldiers.  The second painting is Napoleon at Fontainebleau, 31 March 1814 by Paul Delaroche, depicting the emperor after his first abdication following the surrender of Paris to the Allies.

Both figures appear to be at their low-points.  (Napoleon looks like me after a Bears game.) But there is a profound difference between the two.  Napoleon is alone.  Christ is not. 

Jesus, though his countenance is downward, is actually looking at the Father.  The Father in Heaven is looking at him.  (Heaven is not always upward; not necessarily in the sky.)  Christ is enshrouded in the love of the Holy Spirit, highlighted by the color of the cloak.  In the midst of his suffering and humiliation, our Lord is at deep peace.

Napoleon, on the other hand, is dejected, empty.  The initiative of conquest was his and he is alone in defeat.  His once-trusted commanders have abandoned him.  Yes, some will repledge their loyalty at Napoleon's resurrection, when he will return from exile and regain authority for the infamous '100 Days,' but Napoleon will experience this isolation all over again after Waterloo.

We are called by the Father and in our suffering we are never alone.  It is our task to keep our eyes not on the pain itself, not to stare into nothingness like Napoleon, but to gaze upon the Father's face.  Then our humiliation will be a blessing and we will be primed for everlasting resurrection.




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