ROME — A striking image began this academic year’s final Bible study for the Vatican Ambassadorial Women’s Association — Rembrandt’s “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee,” which vividly and dramatically depicts the scene narrated in the passage from the Gospel of Mark.
The session was led by Lay Centre Director Dr. Donna Orsuto and Lay Centre Leadership Scholar Monica Prandi, a doctoral student at the Pontifical Biblical Institute. They invited participants to reflect on the scene depicted in the painting, based on the question, “What does it mean to say that Jesus is Lord of Creation?”
The participants examined the painting attentively before reading Mark 4:35-41 in French, English and Italian.
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?
Orsuto noted how this biblical passage is interpreted often on a personal level, “as Jesus calming the storms of our own lives.” On the other hand, we perceive powerfully from this passage the idea of Jesus as Lord of Creation.
“Just as God the Father commanded over all Creation, dividing the waters, here you see Jesus, who is also Lord of Creation, calming the waters,” she said.
A lively dialogue ensued, each participant sharing their perception of the passage.
Orsuto invited participants to take time during the week to sit down with this Bible passage, imagine themselves in that boat and ask, “Where am I in that boat? Can I experience Jesus saying, ‘Peace! Be still!’?”
The meeting ended with a moment of silent prayer for peace.
Painting - The Storm on the Sea of Galilee (Rembrandt) at Wikimedia Commons