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Christ's Hope for the Suffering

In the Koch Gallery of Boston's Museum of Fine Arts hangs Bartolome Murillo's Christ after the Flagellation, a painting that depicts two angels gazing sadly upon Jesus just after his whipping at the hands of Pilate's soldiers. Although most of the image is shadowed, you can clearly see the angels and Jesus on his hands and knees. His eyes barely open, body battered, the marks of the lash evident upon his back. The painting is so dark it seems to be set in a dungeon and it takes you a few minutes to notice the pillar to which Jesus was bound at the far left, and a minute more to see the rope now lying idle and the blood spattered on the floor.

Then you peer more closely at the darkness and blink a couple times. You wonder if you've just been staring at one point for so long that a faint image is forming on your retina. You look away. But when you turn back to the painting, you see it is true: there is a slight luminescence around Christ's bruised head. The color lightens faintly and outlines a halo, still there despite the oppressive blackness of evil and pain.

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