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Contemplate Death For Real Life

St. Francis Contemplating a Skull by Francisco Zurbaran

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St. Francis contemplating a skull

The artist Zurbaran has painted a different perspective of St. Francis usually seen walking with all the birds and animals. His hood covers his head as if to shut out all distraction. The mood of this painting is very somber with the black background. Yet, there is a glorious light on St. Francis so that we catch a glimpse of his face.

He focuses on one thing and it is the human skull resting carefully in both of his hands -- a symbol of all that is left of death and decay. St. Francis's eyes are fixed on the eyes that formerly might have looked back on him. But there is nothing to say in this painting because the dead cannot answer back.

When we take the time to contemplate death we also gain a new perspective on life. God's word says that Christ died for all, therefore all have died. (2 Corinthians 5:14) When Jesus died on the Cross he reached down the centuries and gathered all of us into himself. Our old selfish nature that wants to live independent of God is actually just as dry and dead as the skull in St. Francis's hand. The skull as a symbol of death is a bleak picture of man apart from God.

But God hasn't left us in death. His Son came and tasted death so that every man and woman could live. The bright light on St. Francis seems a testimony to the light and life God has for all men reborn in him.

You and I have been crucified with Christ so that it is no longer we who live but Christ who lives here within us (Galatians 2:20). He is the light of our life.

Our walk in life is fulfilled only because we have already tasted death with Christ on the Cross. Contemplate the fact that when he died, you died. All that was bent in you to be sinful, rebellious and selfish was put onto the cross and killed (Romans 6:6-7). Because of that, you and I can walk in newness of life symbolized by all the light surrounding St. Francis. "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature, the old has gone, the new has come!" (2 Corinthians 5:17)

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