Thursday, November 08, 2007

Seeing the sublime

From Andrew Sullivan's blog. Wish I had eyes like Henri Nouwen's.


“Often I have asked friends to give me their first impression of Rembrandt's 'Prodigal Son.' Inevitably, they point to the wise old man who forgives his son: the benevolent patriarch.

The longer I look at 'the patriarch', the clearer it becomes to me that Rembrandt has done something quite different from letting God pose as the wise old head of a family. It all began with the hands. The two are quite different. The father's left hand touching the son's shoulder is strong and muscular. The fingers are spread out and cover a large part of the prodigal son's shoulder and back. I can see a certain pressure, especially in the thumb. That hand seems not only to touch, but, with its strength, also to hold. Even though there is a gentleness in the way the father's left hand touches his son, it is not without a firm grip.

How different is the father's right hand! This hand does not hold or grasp. It is refined, soft, and very tender. The fingers are close to each other and they have an elegant quality. It lies gently upon the son's shoulder. It wants to caress, to stroke, and to offer consolation and comfort. It is a mother's hand....

As soon as I recognized the difference between the two hands of the father, a new world of meaning opened up for me. The Father is not simply a great patriarch. He is mother as well as father. He touches the son with a masculine hand and a feminine hand. He holds, and she caresses. He confirms and she consoles. He is , indeed, God, in whom both manhood and womanhood, fatherhood and motherhood, are fully present. That gentle and caressing right hand echoes for me the words of the prophet Isaiah: "Can a woman forget her baby at the breast, feel no pity for the chile she has borne? Even if these were to forget, I shall not forget you. Look, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” --
Henri Nouwen, “The Return Of The Prodigal Son.”

5 comments:

mitsuru said...

Amen...

btw, just saw a lot of rembrandt's at the met. they're having a "dutch treat" i think until jan 2008- from rembrandt to vermeer to van dyck, et al--400 yrs of dutch paintings.

btw, na contact ka na padi kan cousin ko?

gibbs cadiz said...

MITS, haay, inggit. here, as you know, works of art get defaced by politicians and their toadies. anyway, i might have a chance to go to the van gogh museum very soon! saka na details, hehe... nope, haven't heard from your cousin. can you check please, baka he lost my number? :)

Swipe said...

that was a very interesting insight. thanks for sharing.

mitsuru said...

then you can visit the rembrandt museum, too. pati na rin anne frank museum. :0

a friend of mine asked me to accompany her to amsterdam last year but i wasn't able to get a LOA fr work. hehe. She went without me and had great time, there.

beektur said...

para palang pelikula ni dolphy: ang tatay kong nanay.

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