Matthew Sottile, Editor
The Conversion of St. Paul; what to think of such a dramatic moment? Many are reminded of the theatrical representation captured best by the hands of Michelangelo- and no, I do not mean that Michelangelo. Instead, I’m referring to that of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. For those of you who are familiar with Caravaggio the artist, understand that his biblical interpretations were the embodiment of melancholy and intensity, all of which positively influenced the Baroque art movement. For those of you who are familiar with Caravaggio the man, understand that he carried his fair share of pain and torment throughout life, while serving as a controversial figure in the artistic community.
In a similar fashion, Saint Paul lived most of his life as an individual who pinned himself against the Word of the Lord, persecuting Jesus’ followers wherever they may have been. Then, one day, on his way to Damascus, the resurrected Jesus spoke to him directly and altered his life’s path forever. The moment resulted in Saint Paul’s vision being taken away, which was eventually restored after three days of blindness. Subsequently, Saint Paul decided to dedicate his life to preaching the Word of the Lord. This conversion remains one of the most vital moments in the history of Catholicism, as Saint Paul went on to influence the direction of the religion in a major way.
Caravaggio captures the immediate aftermath of their exchange; his dramatic use of chiaroscuro (the use of darkness and light that came from this time period, fathered and perfected by Caravaggio), strips away the noise and forces the viewer to focus on the significance of what just took place. Saint Paul, who can be seen on his back with sprawling hands on either side, has been reduced to blindness as he feels for something to grab onto. The viewer shares in his sudden moment of fear, loneliness and desperation, reminding us all of the power that is Jesus’ love; the hate that lived in Saint Paul’s heart disappears, transforming into love and acceptance.
As we live in trying times, always take a moment to spread love and goodwill, just as Saint Paul had done upon experiencing the light of Jesus. Let the remarkable story of The Conversion serve as a reminder that even through times of darkness, of blindness, Jesus walks with us and guides us toward the light.
Take time to familiarize yourself with the influential Letters of Paul in our Getting to Know series. These pocket-sized books pack an informative punch, as Fr. Scott Lewis shares with us the riches of the New Testament. Click here to browse through our selection.