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Yellow on yellow

One of my students beat me to it. I’ve been itching to see Vincent’s Sunflowers at the National Gallery ever since it was unpacked and hung on the wall. But one of my college students jumped the queue, and in his enthusiasm, sent me a sunflower selfie, along with an insightful observation. Vincent’s genius, he said, was his skill to paint yellow upon yellow. I’d never thought of that, but it strikes me now as an artistic technique that is counterintuitive, complicated, and clever.

There’s an expression in the Book that bears some resemblance: Grace for grace. It appears on the first page of John’s Gospel, (in the old version): ‘And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.’ The meaning is: grace piled upon grace, piled upon grace, piled upon grace. And as such it expresses the generosity of God and his wonderful benevolence and exuberant kindness.

The grace however that John speaks about, is not merely an abundance of good things like warm sunshine and flowers in their yellow hues, but the favour that has been shown to us in the Son of God, and especially of the redemptive kind: like the grace of pardon, upon which is piled the grace of reconciliation, above which is the grace of new life, on top of which is the grace of adoption, upon which is piled the grace of communion with God, and crowned with the grace of eternal life. And that, is a beautiful arrangement in any colour.

DM 30th March 2021

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