Reflections On Light And Hope: Agony In The Garden

Giovanni Bellini: 'The Agony in the Garden'
 The Agony in the Garden, about 1465, Giovanni Bellini

It is dawn, and this gloomy, barren landscape is about to be flooded with warm rosy light. Throughout the long night, the central figure of Christ has been at prayer while his friends sleep. Knowing that he will be arrested and executed, Christ asks for strength to accept this fate. As an angel appears to greet him, the sun lights up the hilltop town in the distance, reminding Christians that Jesus will triumph over darkness and conquer death through his resurrection.

This is a painting about hope and the promise of a new day. In various traditions, people look to the light of the rising sun as a symbol of life-giving energy. For many Hindus, sunrise is a time for prayer and for making a gesture of thanksgiving to the sun. In early Christian times, Christ was associated with the pagan sun god; he is celebrated as the “light of the world”, sent to dispel the darkness and to rise again after his death.

“The wise see the Lord of Love in the sun, rising in all its golden radiance to give its warmth and light and life to all.” – Hindu: Prashna Upanishad.

The National Gallery, London, UK, brings together the symbol of light in various cultures through paintings. The link below is to the Festival of Lights trail which has the text in Hindi and Gujarati as well.


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