The Hartford Angel – 15 October 2018

A single angel, God’s messenger bringing good news, pulls back a curtain to reveal something wonderful. We cannot see what the angel is looking at, but the pathos in the angel’s carefully painted face tells us all we need to know. The good news that the angel observes is both amazing and costly at the same time. By focusing all of this emotion in the angel’s face the artist is illustrating a foundational truth for anyone considering responding to the call to belong to Christ. We are drawn by the wonder and hope in good news, but must know that to follow Jesus difficult decisions will have to be made. The angel is able to look ahead and see how joy and pain come together in God’s act of redemption. One does not come without the other.

The image here is of a tiny painting (c1445-50) by the Dominican friar Fra Angelico found in the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut. This small panel was once part of a larger work, the rest of which is in Amsterdam. The angel is looking at the Virgin Mary with her infant on her lap. There is good news because the saviour of the world is being revealed, but the face of the angel tells us that the cost of salvation will be very great – for Mary’s son and for Mary herself.


In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

1 Peter 1:6-9

Look to Jesus, weary one,
Look and live! look and live!
Look at what the Lord has done,
Look and live!
See Him lifted on the tree,
Look and live! look and live!
Hear Him say, “Look unto Me!”
Look and live!
Look! the Lord is lifted high,
Look to Him, He’s ever nigh;
Look and live! why will ye die?
Look and live!

Philip Paul Bliss (1838-76)