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Art and the Church -> Materials for Use in Churches

Year B, Proper 17 - Pure and impure

Year B, Proper 17, Revised Common Lectionary

How do you picture a conversation, especially one about purity and impurity? It is not easy, and we should therefore not be surprised that there are hardly any representations of Mark 7:1-23. This Bible illustration is the exception, a beautiful medieval woodcut with many decorative details.

The print is divided into two compartments. On the right we see Jesus, recognisable by his cruciform halo, next to two servants who offer him water for washing his hands. Jesus waves it aside. In the Bible it is the disciples who did not wash their hands; Jesus is pictured here as their representative.

On the left we see Jesus at a dining table in discussion with two Pharisees. Jesus’ fingers seem to express the logic of his words: from the one follows the other. His table companion on the right puts his hand over his heart, conveying that his position is very dear to him. The man on the left gesticulates vehemently.

But Jesus calls them hypocrites. In their piety they have become more pious than the Pope and have lost sight of the love for their neighbours. By declaring people impure, they built a wall between themselves and the rest of the world, a world that needs their God so badly.  

Marleen Hengelaar-Rookmaaker

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Scripture readings: Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9, Psalm 15, James 1:17-27, Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23