From the shadows of disability – 22 August 2022

Here is a dark picture of very limited palette. There is a sense of gloom and despondency.

A woman, middle aged or elderly, is bent double. She has been this way for some considerable time because she has had fashioned for her a crutch of the right height. This crutch supports her upper body and allows her to raise her head a little, to look sideways to be able to see. Her right arm hooks around the crutch, it has become part of her, essential.

The floor of the painting is paved. This then gives the image a ‘sound’, that of the wood of the crutch tapping on the stones as she walked.

The woman then is neither invisible or silent. Many will know when she is present. How will she be received, how will she be accommodated. There are such women, with this kind of disability, in very many places.

A woman bent double was included in today’s Gospel reading – Luke 13:10-17. She came to the synagogue (‘tap, tap’, maybe). She did not appeal to Jesus for healing, nor did anyone ask on her behalf. Yet she was noticed and healed, her body straightened by Jesus. This act, and so the woman herself, were seen as ‘work’, rather than a person to be cared for and experience the grace and mercy of God.

The picture is Bent Woman Ó Milos Todorovic, 2018. A Serbian artist, he studied in Paris. This picture is reminiscent of the images drawn and painted by Rembrandt of Gospel stories.


Now Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, ‘Woman, you are set free from your ailment.’ When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, ‘There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.’ But the Lord answered him and said, ‘You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?’ When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.

Luke 13:10-17



Eighteen years stooped over
Like a bowing fern
No real recollection
Of the cause
Only sunny vistas gone
Her Brother’s face
Almost forgot.
Routines doubly daunting.
And a nagging sense
That blame was hers.
Cobblestones became friends
And guides.
The smooth ones to market.
Red ones to synagogue
Overgrown ones to pasture
Where the stream began
And washing of few clothes.
Invisible became strange comfort.
No explanations.
No hopes dashed down.
Just soothing sameness.
From waste level.
But news spread that
The Rabbi had come.
The One with stories
Hope of untarnished Life
And healing hands.
Tempted by novelty
Nothing else
She followed the human flow
To teaching’s fount.
He saw her right away
The one most hurting
And knew in an instant
She could in no wise lift herself up.
But He could.
And did, with but a touch.
“Woman…loosed from thine infirmity
Daughter of Abraham
Target of Satan
These eighteen years
Straightened now to the glory of God.”
And His face was beaming
And delighted.
And without condemnation
Although others tried
And they wore the robes of propriety
Their faces sour and stale.

Doug Blair