The unfinished finished painting


Readings: Is 52:13-53:12, Heb 4:14-16; 5:7-9, Jn 18:1-19:42

“Las Meninas” is Spanish for “The Maids of Honor.” It is a 1656 painting by Diego Velázquez, the leading artist of the Spanish Golden Age, in the Museo del Prado in Madrid. Las Meninas has long been recognised as one of the most important paintings in Western art history. The Baroque painter Luca Giordano said that it represents the “theology of painting.” That’s interesting! I describe it as the unfinished finished painting.

The Maids of Honor’ by Diego Velazquez (1656)

The painting shows a large room in the Madrid palace of King Philip 4th of Spain, and presents several figures, most identifiable from the Spanish court, captured, in a particular moment as if in a snapshot. The young Infanta Margarita is surrounded by her entourage of maids of honour, chaperone, bodyguard, two dwarves and a dog. Just behind them, Velázquez portrays himself working at a large canvas.

The artist in the painting is Velázquez, the same painter who did this. He expected the nannies to convince the child princess to pose for him together with her parents for a happy family portrait. The idea of intended unfinished painting can be seen in the image in the mirror. Awaiting for their child are King Philip 4th of Spain and Queen Doña Mariana, who had already done their part. They brought the dwarves and the dog to try to convince the infanta, but the princess didn’t feel like it. And the painting, as planned was never done.

Notice how a simple child’s tantrum changed the course of things by not allowing the completion of the family picture. It allowed another picture to be painted, perhaps, in the eyes of art critics, a much better one. “Better” because it included the story behind the whole intended picture.

Veneration of the Cross
Today, we venerate the cross where Jesus died hanging for us. Jesus may have uttered His last words, “It is finished.” But that is not the whole picture. The cross, the symbol of humanity’s sin, changed the course of this world. God, our Master Painter, from the beginning, intended to create a family picture with Him. And more than just our tantrums, it is our sinfulness that altered the course of our lives. And, in the process, in God’s merciful and humble love, He adjusts His plans. He gives humanity the paintbrushes. Then He allows for humanity’s misuse and abuse of intelligence, freedom and will. And so, we have Jesus’ bloodied body hanging on the cross!

Is this a better picture? Hmmm, only in the sense that you and I are in it.

Our life stories are painted with Jesus’ blood. For sure, in the eyes of artists, they are ugly. But in the eyes of the Master Painter who sees the Big Picture, these are ugly only for now because what makes them most beautiful is that each of our life paintings is yet unfinished.

We approach to venerate the Cross in its ugly form. Knowing, trusting and believing this time around that the Master Painter will finish this most beautiful picture during Easter, with you and I in it.

And so…
All your pains, all your worries, all your uncertainties about the future bring it to the Cross because at the Cross… it is finished. No matter where you are, no matter who you are, no matter what you’ve done in your life, come to the Cross…because at the Cross…You are forgiven.

At the Cross… He confronted your pains. At the Cross… He stood up to your uncertainty. At the Cross… He forgives you all your sins. At the Cross…He conquered sin and death… once and for all of us.

The challenge for all of us is this: To love and forgive, as we are loved and forgiven.

At matapos na tayo ay linisin at hugasan ng dugo ng ating Panginoon, ang hamon sa ating lahat na naririto: ang umibig at mag patawad.

Are we ready to take up our challenge?


About the author: Father Ambrosio Nonato Legaspi, fondly called by his parishioners as “Father Nonnette,” is the parish priest of Christ the King in Filinvest 2, Quezon City, under the Diocese of Novaliches.


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