The Convento of San Marco in Florence has the most incredible frescos I have ever seen, painted by the Dominican friar, Fra Angelico, and his school.
What is most remarkable is that the paintings are on the walls of the cells where the Dominican friars studied, prayed, and slept. They are aids to contemplation for these friars noted for their preaching. Preaching without contemplation is worth little.
In one cell there is a famous image of Saint Dominic, the founder of the Order of Preachers. He is attentively and carefully reading a book, in his lap. He is said to have carried with him the Gospel according to Saint Matthew and the Letters of Saint Paul.
But this image of Saint Dominic is only a small part of the fresco which features Jesus blindfolded, crowned with thorns, being buffeted by hands and spat upon by a disembodied head.
Faced with this, Dominic is absorbed in contemplation, not looking at the mocked Christ, but still before God.
What could this mean for us?
My initial thoughts are that we are called to contemplate the suffering Christ but also the Word of God – so that we may absorbed in Him, in love. Not either/or – but both. Not just gazing at the wounded Christ, but trying to understand this mystery, with the assistance of the Scriptures. Most of all, this means sitting still – in tranquility.
“Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46: 10)