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Sample Call to Worship

Titian: The Virgin and Child with St. John the Baptist and a Female Saint

Titian: Virgin and Child with St. John the Baptist and a Female Saint - call to worship

(This image is projected onto a screen as the speaker delivers the accompanying text)

Speaker: Titian was breaking new ground in this portrait.  Among his patrons, portraiture was becoming popular, but it was limited to formal poses.  And in this portrait we find Mary, Jesus, and John the Baptist in their traditional, formal poses.  But who is this mad woman who steals the scene, falling all over herself to disrespectfully embrace Jesus?  She has no sense of decorum at all!


She’s most likely Saint Catherine, a beautiful princess who lived hundreds of years after Christ.  She’s famous for having considered her devotion to Christ in terms of a wedding vow.  She was later martyred by a pagan Roman emperor when she refused his advances.


Of course, since Catherine did not live at the same time as Mary, this scene could never have actually occurred.  But Titian has played with the constraints of time to create a fictional scene so that he could portray to us just how passionate and selfless and all-consuming Catherine’s love was for Jesus.  She’s willing to break through the stuffiness of formality expected by proper society; in fact, she clearly does not even pause to consider what people might think.  She’s only focused on loving her Lord.

In transcending time as Titian does here, he also suggests that Catherine may represent not just one individual in Egypt, but the yearning of all mankind for the gift of salvation.  In this sense, the formal pose of Mary can be seen to represent the spiritual source of the gift, while Catherine’s groveling posture is the earthly response of gratitude.


(Congregational responses may be printed in the order of worship, or may be projected onto the screen with the art.)


Speaker: Will we observe worship today from the sidelines, like properly-behaved museum visitors?


Congregation: My soul clings to the Lord; His right hand upholds me.*


Speaker: Will we instead take our place with Catherine in this portrait?


Congregation: My soul clings to the Lord.  Let His left hand be under my head and His right hand embrace me.*


Speaker: Let us join together in devoted worship.  


Speaker + Congregation: We will forget ourselves and fall on our knees to embrace Jesus with all we have.  Our souls cling to the Lord.


* Psalm 63:8, Song of Solomon 2:6, NASB

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