Sunday, March 23, 2008

Van Gogh - Preacher and Painter

In 1876 - at he age of 23 - Vincent van Gogh worked as a teacher at a school for boys in London. During this year he devoted himself to his Bible study; spending many hours reading and rereading the Gospel.
The summer of 1876 was a time of religious transformation for Vincent. Although raised in a religious family, it wasn't until then that he seriously began to consider devoting his life to the Church.
Above photo: Vincent van Gogh,
c. 1876, photographer unknown.


During the autumn of that year he began to speak at prayer meetings held within the parish of Turnham Green in London. These talks served as a means of preparing Vincent for the task which he had long anticipated: his first Sunday sermon:

I Am a Stranger on the Earth . .
29 October 1876

Our life is a pilgrim's progress

I once saw a very beautiful picture: it was a landscape at evening. In the distance on the right-hand side a row of hills appeared blue in the evening mist. Above those hills the splendour of the sunset, the grey clouds with their linings of silver and gold and purple. The landscape is a plain or heath covered with grass and its yellow leaves, for it was in autumn. Through the landscape a road leads to a high mountain far, far away, on the top of that mountain is a city wherein the setting sun casts a glory.

On the road walks a pilgrim, staff in hand. He has been walking for a good long while already and he is very tired. And now he meets a woman, or figure in black, that makes one think of St. Paul's word: As being sorrowful yet always rejoicing. That Angel of God has been placed there to encourage the pilgrims and to answer their questions and the pilgrim asks her: Does the road go uphill then all the way?"

And the answer is: "Yes to the very end.
nd he asks again: "And will the journey take all day long?"
And the answer is: "From morn till night my friend."

And the pilgrim goes on sorrowful yet always rejoicing – sorrowful because it is so far off and the road so long. Hopeful as he looks up to the eternal city far away, resplendent in the evening glow and he thinks of two old sayings that he heard long ago – the one is:

"Much strife must be striven
Much suffering must be suffered
Much prayer must be prayed
And then the end will be peace."

And the other is:

"The water comes up to the lips
But higher comes it not."

And he says: I shall be more and more tired but also nearer and nearer to Thee. Has not man a strife on earth? But there is a consolation from God in this life. An Angel of God comforting man – that is the Angel of Charity. Let us not forget her. And when each of us goes back to the daily things and daily duties let us not forget that things are not what they seem, that God by the things of daily life teacheth us higher things, that our life is a pilgrim's progress, and that we are strangers on the earth, but that we have a God and father who preserveth strangers, – and that we are all brethren."

The above text is an excerpt from Van Goghs's sermon "I Am a Stranger on the Earth"
(Source: Vincent - http://www.vggallery.com/).

Starry night
Vincent van Gogh's painting La Nuit étoilée or Starry Night (Saint-Remy, 1889) inspired Don McLean's song Vincent. Click "Play" to hear the song and see a slideshow of Van Gogh's work.



Vincent Van Gogh: The Biography (The Vincent Van Gogh Gallery)
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