Sunday, March 31, 2024

Jesus as Gardener - The Risen Christ Reveals Himself to Mary

1368-70, Probably by Jacopo di Cione(c 1325-after 1390) an Italian painter in the Republic of Florence. Resurrection Noli me tangere.   Jesus holds a hoe.

The Gospel of John 20:1-13 (NIV) contains a narrative of an empty garden tomb including the appearance of Jesus: Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb & saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter & the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, & said, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, & we don't know where they have put him!" 

So Peter & the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter & reached the tomb first. He bent over & looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived & went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus' head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw & believed. 

Then the disciples went back to their homes, but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb & saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus' body had been, one at the head & the other at the foot. They asked her, "Woman, why are you crying?" "They have taken my Lord away," she said, "& I don't know where they have put him." At this, she turned around & saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. He asked her, "Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?" Thinking he was the gardener, she said, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, & I will get him."  Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned toward him & cried out, "Rabboni!" ("Teacher"). Jesus said, "Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, & say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, & your Father; & to my God, & your God." 

Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: "I have seen the Lord!" And she told them that he had said these things to her.

13C Fresco - in Lower Basilica in Assisi Noli Me Tangere

Giotto di Bondone (c. 1267 - 1337). Resurrection Noli me tangere - on North wall of Scrovegni (Arena) Chapel, Padua. 1305-1306

1460 The Meister des Göttinger Barfüßeraltars Resurrection Noli me tangere. Jesus holds a shovel. The wattle fenced flowery mead follows Boccaccio's model.

Fra Angelico, Noli Me Tangere 1440-42 Jesus and Mary Magdalene in a walled Garden

1460-90s Master of the Martyrdom of the Ten Thousand (German; 1460 - 1470; fl. c.) Christ appearing as a gardener to St Mary Magdalene within a garden with wattle fencing. Jesus holds a shovel.

1469 Noli me tangere in Prayer Book of Charles the Bold, Lieven van Lathem. J. Paul Getty Museum, Ms. 37, fol. 46v. Jesus holds a shovel in a wattle-fenced mead.

Martin Schongauer German, c. 1450-1491. Noli me tangere. Here Jesus holds a staff but the garden is surrounded by a wattle fence.

1473 Martin Schongauer (1450–1491) Noli Me Tangere. This garden appears to be enclosed with a wattle fence, and roses grow in the background. Birds perch in the trees.

c 1500 Perugino, Pietro di Cristoforo Vannucci 1445-1523) Resurrection Noli me tangere. Here Jesus holds a garden tool. Art Institute of Chicago

1506 Fra Bartolomeo (1472–1517) Noli Me Tangere. Depicted at the tomb with Christ holding a garden tool.

c 1500 by Master of the Chronique scandaleuse, illuminator (French, active about 1493 - 1510), Noli me tangere, French. Here Jesus & Mary Magdalene meet on a garden path.

1512 Titian (1490–1576) Noli Me Tangere. Christ appears holding a garden tool.
1500s Greek Icon Μη μου άπτου Crete Resurrection - Noli me tangere. Here Jesus & Mary Magdalene are in a flowery mead.

1526 Hans Holbein the Younger (1498–1543) Noli Me Tangere. Depicted at the tomb on a flowery mead.

1534 Antonio da Correggio (1489-1534) Noli Me Tangere. Christ appears as a gardener holding a hoe.

1548-53 Lambert Sustris (Dutch artist, c.1515-1520-c.1584) Noli Me Tangere
This image includes formal gardens used as the background for a Biblical scene. These gardens are primarily from the Italian Renaissance.  The trellis walkways & arbors were built to provide both shade & privacy. Planners raised beds to prevent plants becoming waterlogged. Gardens were used for recreation, relaxation, & sport. The garden consists of geometric beds of interlacing patterns designed to be seen from windows & hills above & is filled with herbs & favorite flowers. A fountain sits in the farthest parterre. Statues & symbolic ornaments are spread throughout the grounds.

1560-70 Unknown German artist. Christ appears here as a gardener to Mary Magdalene; part of a town beyond the garden & three crosses on the hill behind at left. Jesus holds a garden shovel in a bedded garden surrounded by a wooden fence.

Agnolo di Cosimo usually known as Bronzino or Agnolo Bronzino, Italian Mannerist painter, 1503-72) Resurrection, Noli Me Tangere Jesus holds a shovel, and a walled garden of flowers blooms just behind them.

1581 Lavinia Fontana Resurrection Noli me tangere. Jesus holds a shovel in a defined garden area.

1620 Abraham Janssens (1567–1632) painted figures & Jan Wildens (15841586–1653) painted the landscape Resurrection Noli me tangere. Jesus holds a shovel & the fruits of the garden are on the earth.

1630-35 Pedro Núñez del Valle (Spanish, 1597-1649)Noli me tangere. A garden of formal beds defined by a wattle wall appears to be growing food.

Ciro Ferri 1670-80s (1634-1689) Resurrection Noli me tangere. Jesus holds a shovel in a garden protected by a wood fence.

1539 Hans Baldung (c.1484 - 1545) Resurrection Noli me tangere. Jesus holds a garden shovel.

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Why Does A Rabbit Bring Eggs on Easter?

Boy With Rabbit 18th Century European Portrait

Why has a rabbit become a prominent part of one of Christianity's Easter celebrations of rebirth & renewal? One theory, according to Time, is that the symbol of the rabbit stems from the ancient pagan tradition on which many Easter traditions are based — the festival of Eostre, which honored the goddess of fertility & spring. The goddess's animal symbol was a rabbit, which have long traditionally stood for fertility due to their high reproduction rates.

Little Bertha with a Hare  Friedrich von Amerling (Austro-Hungarian 

The Easter Bunny made its way to colonial America. reports that it was first introduced in the 1700s by German immigrants to Pennsylvania, who reportedly brought over their tradition of an egg-laying hare named "Osterhase" or "Oschter Haws" from Europe. Legend has it, the rabbit would lay colorful eggs as gifts to children who were good, so kids would make nests in which the bunny could leave his eggs & even sometimes set out carrots in case the hare got hungry. 

Breton Girl with Rabbit  James Collinson (British  1825 - 1881)

According to, the tradition of decorating eggs for Easter may date back to the 13th century, when eggs were traditionally considered a forbidden food during the Lent season. That's why people decorated them as the fasting period came to an end, to make eating them an even more celebratory way to feast on Easter Sunday.

The White Rabbit John Roddam Spencer Stanhope (English 1829 - 1908)

A rabbit does not bring Easter eggs in some countries outside of the U.S. In Australia, for example, the spring holiday is greeted with the Easter Bilby, an endangered rabbit-like marsupial native to that country. Other gift-bearing animals include the Easter Cuckoo in Switzerland &, in some parts of Germany, the Easter Fox or the Easter Rooster! 

Feeding the RabbitysFelix Schlesinger (German 1833 - 1910)

The Smithsonian Magazine tells us that, "In European traditions, the Easter bunny is known as the Easter hare. The symbolism of the hare has had many tantalizing ritual & religious roles down through the years.

Young Girl Holding a Pet Rabbitt  Frank Holl (British painter) 1845 - 1888

"Hares were given ritual burials alongside humans during the Neolithic age in Europe. Archaeologists have interpreted this as a religious ritual, with hares representing rebirth.

Feeding the Rabbits  Emile Munier (French 1840 - 1895

"Over a thousand years later, during the Iron Age, ritual burials for hares were common, & in 51 B.C.E., Julius Caesar mentioned that in Britain, hares were not eaten due to their religious significance...

Feeding the BunniesCharles Edward Wilson (English 1854 - 1941)

"Accounts from the 1600s in Germany describe children hunting for Easter eggs hidden by the Easter hare, much as in the United States today.

Feeding the Rabbits  Paul Hoecker (German 1854 - 1910)

"Written accounts from England around the same time also mention the Easter hare, particularly in terms of traditional Easter hare hunts & the eating of hare meat at Easter...

Louisav & Ther Rabbit Charles Edward Wilson (British 1854 - 1941)

"In 1835, the folklorist Jacob Grimm, one of the famous team of the fairy tale Brothers Grimm, argued that the Easter hare was connected to a goddess he imagined would have been called Ostara in ancient German. He derived this name from the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre, who Bede, an early medieval monk considered to be the father of English history, mentioned in 731 C.E.

Feeding the Rabbits  Laura Muntz Lyall (Canadian 1860 - 1930)

"Bede noted that in eighth-century England, the month of April was called Eosturmonath, or Eostre Month, after the goddess Eostre. He wrote that a pagan festival of spring in the name of the goddess had become assimilated into the Christian celebration of the resurrection of Christ...

A Peek in the Basket  George Sheridan Knowles (British 1863 - 1931)

"Recent archaeological research appears to confirm the worship of Eostre in parts of England & Germany, with the hare as her main symbol. The Easter bunny therefore seems to recall these pre-Christian celebrations of spring, heralded by the vernal equinox & personified by the goddess Eostre."


Time Magazine

Good Housekeeping Magazine

The Smithsonian Magazine

It's All About Animals by Christa.Zaat

Easter - Preparing to Anoint Christ's Body

The Three Marys by Michael  Wolgemut or Wolgemuth (German 1434-1519) 

Biblical Holy Women associated with Christ's Resurrection buying anointing spices from merchant in the “Egmont Breviary.” New York, Morgan Library (M.87, fol. 202v). Utrecht, c. 1440.  The Marys buying ointment at the ointment shop.  Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome had bought sweet spices, that they might come to the tomb to anoint him.  The Gospel of Mark has this happening on the Saturday evening. The author of Matthew may have copied the wording from the Saturday spice buying & combined it with their visit to the tomb, creating the ambiguity in the timing.

In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. Matthew 28:1
The Lamentation of Christ by Simon Marmion (French, 1425-1489) c 1473  The Met tells us that the lifeless body of Christ rests in his mother's lap, his torso supported by Joseph of Arimathea & Nicodemus. Just behind, and somewhat apart from the Virgin, Saint John the Evangelist kneels in prayer. Mary Magdalen & a female companion express their quiet grief at far left. Essentially a Pietà in concept, this image of mourning foregrounds Christ's limp body, reminding the viewer that his sacrifice makes possible mankind's salvation through the celebration of the Eucharist. The drooping poppy at bottom left symbolizes sleep and death.

This man [Joseph of Arimathea] went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. … It was the day of Preparation, and the sabbath was beginning.  The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid.  Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments.  On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment. 
Luke 23
Wall mosaic of entombment of Jesus near Stone of anointing at Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

By the Jewish calendar, the new day begins at sundown, thus the beginning of the day would have been Saturday evening. One debate over this verse is what it says about the time of the visit, & thus the resurrection. The 3 other gospels & the current Christian tradition, have the empty tomb discovered the day after Sabbath, today known as Easter Sunday. This verse actually contains 2 time indicators. The 1st can be translated as "late on Sabbath" and the 2nd as "at the beginning of the first day of the week." It literally translates as dawning of the day, but as at Luke 23:54 this term can also refer to the time at sundown as the beginning of night. Thus the verse can be read as describing the resurrection as happening on Saturday rather than Sunday.

Easter - The Empty Tomb - Imagined in Manuscripts

British Library - Royal 19 A XXII fol-16 The Empty Tomb Resurrection, detail actually showing a garden

British Library - Harley 4328 fol-410 The Empty Tomb Resurrection

The Gospel of John 20 contains a narrative of an empty garden tomb including the appearance of Jesus:   
The Empty Tomb
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 

So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

In Christianity, the tomb of Jesus was found to be empty by the women who had come to anoint his body with spices & by pouring oils over it.  The empty tomb points to Jesus' resurrection, implicitly in the early Gospel of Mark & explicitly in the gospel narratives of Matthew, Luke & John. 

British Library - Add. MS 7170, fol-160 (detail) 1b - Syriac Lectionary Mosul (Iraq), 1216-1220 The Holy Women at the Empty Tomb - The Resurrection

For some people of antiquity, empty tombs were seen as signs of the dead person bodily entering heaven. In Chariton’s ancient Greek novel Callirhoe, the hero Chaereas finds his wife’s tomb empty & immediately assumes the gods took her. In Ancient Greek thinking, there are numerous examples of individuals conspiring, before their deaths, to have their remains hidden in order to promote postmortem veneration. Arrian wrote of Alexander the Great planning his own bodily disappearance, so that he would be revered as a god. Disappearances of individuals to the divine realm also occur in Jewish literature, but do not involve an empty tomb.

British Library - Additional 35254D-F fol-D The Empty Tomb - The Resurrection

A site in Jerusalem now called The Garden Tomb was unearthed in 1867 & is considered by some Christians to be the site of the burial & resurrection of Jesus. The tomb has been dated by prominent Israeli archaeologist Gabriel Barkay to the 8–7C BC. However, the re-use of old tombs was common practice in ancient burial rituals. The Garden Tomb is adjacent to a rocky escarpment which since the mid-19C has been proposed by some scholars to be Golgotha. The traditional site where the death & resurrection of Christ are believed to have occurred has been the Church of the Holy Sepulchre at least since the 4C.

British Library - Lansdowne 383 fol-13 Holy Women at the Empty Tomb

British Library - Royal 20 B IV fol-142 The Maries at the Empty Tomb

The St Albans Psalter, owned by St Godehard's Church, Hildesheim now at University of Aberdeen, Scotland Maries at the empty Tomb of Jesus.

Friday, March 29, 2024

"On Good Friday" - The Holy Women by Hans Memling (1435-1494)

Hans Memling (German-born Flemish painter, 1435-1494) The Holy Women, right hand panel of the Granada Deposition Diptych

Hans Memling (German-born Flemish painter, 1435-1494) The Mourning Virgin

"On Good Friday" - lluminated Manuscripts

Crucifixion of Christ. British Library Royal 15 DI.f.353. Guyart des Moulins.La Bible Historiale, part 4 (Bible Historiale of Edward IV) Netherlands, S. (Bruges)1470 and c.1479. French.

In the Christian Bible, Good Friday marks the day on which Jesus Christ was crucified on the cross for the sins of the the people of the world. Good Friday is a day of mourning and sorrow over the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. It's also a day of gratitude for the supreme sacrifice that he made.

Missal and Book of Hours, Lombardy ca. 1385-1390 (Paris, BnF, Latin 757, fol. 79r)

Prayer Book (Use of Rome), Entombment, Walters Manuscript W.438, fol. 354vb11