Satan and Angels – 22 February 2021
Today’s image is a detail from a larger painting. It is concerned with the first temptation of Christ. The detail has two scenes. At the top Christ stands before an oak grove and is in conversation with an itinerant friar, identified by his robes, staff, and rosary. However, this is no friar who cares for the poor but Satan, dressed in the outer garments of piety, but with his true identity revealed through the demonic wings and clawed feet. Satan approaches Christ, who is himself hungry and knows the hunger present in the world, and points to stones, suggesting that they are made into bread. Christ resists him.
In the scene below Christ is accompanied by archangels, one of whom is Gabriel, who announced to Mary the coming of the Saviour. The angels provide company, strength, and support for Christ, and he in turn instructs them, as he is greater and has deeper knowledge of God than they.
The painting here is a fresco, taken from The Temptations of Christ (1481-82) by Botticelli, in the Sistine Chapel. The patrons of this fresco were the Della Rovere family of Urbino. ‘Della Rovere’ means ‘of the oak tree’, hence the setting.
And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
whose Son Jesus Christ fasted forty days in the wilderness,
and was tempted as we are, yet without sin:
give us grace to discipline ourselves in obedience to your Spirit;
and, as you know our weakness,
so may we know your power to save;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Church of England, Collect of Lent 1
Defeated! but never disheartened!
Repulsed! but unconquered in will,
Upon dreary discomfitures building
Her virtue’s strong battlements still,
The soul, through the siege of temptations,
Yields not unto fraud, nor to might,
Unquelled by the rush of the passions,
Serene ‘mid the tumults of fight.
She sees a grand prize in the distance,
She hears a glad sound of acclaims,
The crown wrought of blooms amaranthine
The music far sweeter than Fame’s
And so, ‘gainst the rush of the passions
She lifts the broad buckler of right,
And so, through the glooms of temptation,
She walks in a splendour of light.
Paul Hamilton Hayne, The Soul Conflict