Monthly Archives: June 2016

On Independence Day, 2016

Emanuel Leutze (American, Schwäbisch Gmünd 1816–1868 Washington, D.C.) - Washington Crossing the Delaware - Google Art Project.jpgWashington Crossing the Delaware” – which he somehow did without “rocking the boat…”

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Sam DuPont.JPGJune 29 – I’m sitting here in the dining room of my aunt’s home, in Wilmington, Delaware.  (Near Rockford Park, as seen at left.)  And the folks in the kitchen – to my right – are now talking about Washington Crossing the Delaware.  (And about his not “rocking the boat.”)

So naturally I had to use the painting above to start off this post.

And speaking of the July 4th – coming up this long weekend – yesterday the whole family visited downtown Philadelphia.  (“Birthplace of American Democracy.”)  And today we’re planning to visit Valley Forge.

Which makes this a perfect time and place to bring up Independence Day in the U.S.

Independence Day is a day of family celebrations [with] a great deal of emphasis on the American tradition of political freedom…  Independence Day is a patriotic holiday for celebrating the positive aspects of the United States…  Above all, people in the United States express and give thanks for the freedom and liberties fought by the first generation of many of today’s Americans.

But it’s also a religious feast day , as noted in the link Independence Day.

That article noted that on July 4th we commemorate the day the formal wording of the Declaration of Independence was approved and the document signed. In turn – and as Satucket noted – the words of the Declaration – written mostly by Thomas Jefferson – spoke “in terms of the Natural Law and God-given principles of justice and right.”  And Jefferson did so in language that was, as one British writer said, “combines great prose, great politics, and great theology.”

And speaking of great theology, the Bible readings set aside for that day include:  Deuteronomy 10:17-21Psalm 145Hebrews 11:8-16, and Matthew 5:43-48.  I commented on those Bible readings in the post, On the Bible readings for July 4, 2014.

The gist of that post was that the political leaders of the Colony of Virginia – in creating the Statute for Religious Freedom – voluntarily gave up a monopoly in matters of religion.

That was important because Jefferson based much of his Declaration on the Virginia statutes he’d grown up with.  That is, the official religion of the Colony of Virginia was Anglicanism.  (The Church of England.)  In turn, most if not all Burgesses in Virginia at the time were members of that official state church.  That means the Established Church of England in Virginia voluntarily gave up its power, including the power to tax residents to support their church:

The [Virginia Statute for Religious Freedomdisestablished the Church of England in Virginia and guaranteed freedom of religion to people of all religious faiths, including Catholics and Jews as well as members of all Protestant denominations [and] was a notable precursor of the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.  The Statute for Religious Freedom is one of only three accomplishments Jefferson instructed be put in his epitaph. (E.A.)

But first note the definition of disestablish.  It means to “deprive an established church, military squadron, operations base, etc of its official status.”  And Jefferson’s tombstone – at left – shows how important that was to him.

He wrote the inscription for the stone himself, and it reads: “Here was buried Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, and father of the University of Virginia.”

So Jefferson seems to have considered his part in writing the Statute for Religious Freedom just as important – if not more important – as his part in writing the Declaration of Independence.

Bible readings for July 4, 2014 went on to note some reasons those Virginia Burgesses gave up their monopoly on religion.  For starters, they wrote that “Almighty God hath created the mind free,” and also that when any majority tries to influence the religious beliefs of others, they “tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness.”  Which I wrote:

…sounds like it was written yesterday!

The Burgesses also knew of the  “impious presumption of legislators and rulers,” to establish “their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible.”  They knew that’s when trouble starts.  That is, when “fallible and uninspired men” try and establish their own view of religion as “the only true and infallible.”  (Which also could have been written yesterday.)

And finally, the statute noted “that Truth is great, and will prevail if left to herself … and has nothing to fear from the conflict.”   In other words, that religion is best that proves itself in the “free market place of ideas.”  See Marketplace of ideas – Wikipedia.  In further words, if your faith is true and sound, you won’t be afraid of a little competition.

See also the 2014 post Sunday of the July 4th weekend.  (With the image at right.)  It noted that “our duty as Americans – and especially as Christian Americans – is to help and not hinder either the endless possibilities of the American Dream or the promise of Jesus that we should live a life of abundance, in His name.”  Which is pretty much what the Collect of the Day says:

Lord God Almighty, in whose Name the founders of this country won liberty for themselves and for us, and lit the torch of freedom for nations then unborn: Grant that we and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain our liberties in righteousness and peace…

Which is another way of saying that we as Christians should be willing “fight to the death” to protect the right of our fellow citizens not to believe in God, or Jesus.

But here’s a cautionary note:  You can only do that if your faith is really strong…

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The upper image is courtesy of Washington Crossing the Delaware – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Washington Crossing the Delaware is an 1851 oil-on-canvas painting by the German American artist Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze.  It commemorates General George Washington’s crossing of the Delaware River on the night of December 25–26, 1776, during the American Revolutionary War.  That action was the first move in a surprise attack against the Hessian forces at Trenton, New Jersey, in the Battle of Trenton.

Wikipedia listed inaccuracies including:  The American flag in the boat “did not exist at the time of Washington’s crossing;”  The boat was the wrong model, and much too small;  The painting showed “phantom light sources besides the upcoming sun,” while the crossing itself “took place in the dead of night;”  and finally: “Washington’s stance … would have been very hard to maintain in the stormy conditions of the crossing[, and] would have risked capsizing the boat.”  (See also artistic licence.)

The lower image is courtesy of the link – When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going (album) – within the article When the going gets tough, the tough get going – Wikipedia.

John the Baptist, Peter and Paul – 2016

“Scholars Disputing” – a painting of Peter and Paul – yet still they managed to work together… 

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We have two major feast days coming up.

Friday, June 24, is the feast recalling the Birth of St. John, the Baptist.  (He went on to “preach in the Wilderness,” as shown in the painting at right.)  The following Wednesday, June 29, is the day for remembering St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles.

And as noted in last year’s Peter, Paul – and other “relics:”

On January 18 [each year,] we celebrate the Confession of Peter:  “Thou art the Christ, Son of the Living God.”  A week later on January 25 we celebrate the Conversion of St. Paul.  Then comes June 29, when we celebrate both men…  (Emphasis added.)

But getting back to The Nativity of John the Baptist.  Last year’s post noted that  “John the Baptist served as a precursor, forerunner or advance man for Jesus.  (As in, ‘News Flash:  Jesus is on the way!)  Or as it says in the Collect for the day:  ‘Your servant John the Baptist [was] sent to prepare the way of your Son our Savior.'”

Which is pretty much what he did with his life…

See also Nativity of St. John the Baptist, from the Satucket website.  (It lists the Daily Office Readings.)  The article there helps explain the comment by Jesus – so puzzling to many – in Matthew 11:11:  “Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist;  yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he:”

Which sounds a lot like a backhanded compliment

So what was the point Jesus was trying to make?  One interpretation goes like this:

John represents the climax of the long tradition of Jewish prophets…  John is the climax of the Law.  He lives in the wilderness, a life with no frills…  He has renounced the joys of family life, and dedicated himself completely [to] calling people to an observance of the law…   In terms of natural goodness, no one is better than John.  But he represents Law, not Grace.  Among men born of woman, among the once-born, he has no superior.  But anyone who has been born anew in the kingdom of God has something better than what John symbolizes.

How Faith WorksWhich brings up the controversy that’s been going on for over 2,000 years.

(Since the birth of the Church.)

That’s the ongoing controversy between Faith and Works.  (Or between Faith and following “the Letter of the Law,” as illustrated at right.)

The question is this:  “Are you ‘saved’ by following a set of rules and regulations, or by faith in Jesus alone?”  (See e.g.Controversy Over Faith And Works Continues.”  As also noted in last year’s Peter, Paul – and other “relics.”)

Thus the argument is about how “Jesus saves.”

Does Jesus want you to earn your way into heaven?  Or do you get there simply by accepting His free gift?  (Or put another way, the issue is one of  “legalism” versus “grace.”) this debate, John represented the Old Way.  (Resulting in the kind of “ending” illustrated at left.)  Jesus – on the other hand – represents the New Way.  “John is the climax of the Law…  But anyone who has been born anew in the kingdom of God has something better than what John symbolizes.”  That would be grace, which “excludes merit.”

Which is another way of saying that practicing Christians should not go around being obnoxious, as Paul noted in 1st Corinthians 4:7:

Who says that you are any better than other people?  What do you have that wasn’t given to you [by God]?  If you were given what you have, why are you bragging as if it weren’t a gift?

Of course many say, “I earned everything I have, through the sweat of my brow.”  Which raises the questions:  “Who gave you the brow?  And who gave you the capacity to sweat?”  Which is another way of saying the myth that you can earn your way into heaven dies hard.

But we digress…   Getting back to the feast for the Birth of John the Baptist:  The Bible readings for the day are Isaiah 40:1-11Psalm 85Acts 13:14b-26, and Luke 1:57-80.

Turning to the Feast for June 29:  Last year’s Peter, Paul – and other “relics” noted that that particular date was chosen as “the anniversary either of their death or of the translation of their relics:”

On 29 June we commemorate the martyrdoms of both apostles.  The date is the anniversary of a day around 258, under the Valerian Persecution, when what were believed to be the remains of the two apostles were both moved temporarily to prevent them from falling into the hands of the persecutors.

Thus the term relic – as used here – means the body parts of people considered especially holy. (Like Peter and Paul.)   In turn translating relics means moving those “holy objects from one locality to another.”  (Usually to a “better neighborhood,” metaphorically.  For example, the image above right  shows “St. Corbinian’s relics being moved to Freising from Merano.”)

Last year’s post indicated the dispute between Peter and Paul came to a head with the Incident at Antioch.  As to that dispute the Wikipedia article added,  “The final outcome of the incident remains uncertain resulting in several Christian views of the Old Covenant to this day.”

(Briefly, that question involves how much of the Old Testament “law” is binding on Christians.)

However, to me the main point of the Feast of Peter and Paul was that it’s okay to have differences of opinion between Christians.  (Or even to “squabble” from time to time.  And for that matter, that it’s okay to argue with God too, if and as necessary…)

In the meantime, enjoy the painting below, of Jesus and John, together as youngsters

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 John the Baptist – at right – and the boy Jesus, enjoying their childhood

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The upper image is courtesy of Two Scholars Disputing by REMBRANDT Harmenszoon … (web gallery of art.)  The explanatory section added that the most likely explanation of the painting is that it “represents St Peter and St Paul in conversation,” or even Argument:

Rembrandt omits the attributes by which the two apostles were traditionally identified, he relies only on their physical characteristics … and on what they are seen to be doing, that is earnestly discussing a text which the one (St Peter) is explaining to the other.

For other interpretations and/or images, see also  See also Two Scholars Disputing by REMBRANDT Harmenszoon van Rijn.

Re: The Controversy Over Faith And Works.  See also the Matthew Henry Commentary on  Matthew 11:11:  “The things of God are of great and common concern.  God requires no more from us than the right use of the faculties he has given us.” 

Re:  John as “climax of the Law.” See In the Bible we read about “the law”. What does this mean?

As God’s new creation we actually want to obey His law – not because it gets us anything, but because of our love for Him.  We still say with the Psalmist in his ageless words, “I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” (Psalm 40:8)

Emphasis added.  Which is yet another way of saying that even Christian of long-standing need to remind themselves that “the myth that you can earn your way into heaven dies hard.”   

The “Jesus is Lord” image is courtesy of How Faith Works | Christianity Today.  That article studied the issue in-depth, including a note on the “progressive character” of the Christian spiritual journey.  It said that “under the influence of the Word and the Spirit … believers begin to grow in holiness.”

Re: the “sweat of my brow,”  The term also refers to an “intellectual property law doctrine, chiefly related to copyright law.”  See Sweat of the brow – Wikipedia.

Re:  The image to the left of the paragraph, “Briefly, John represented the Old Way.”  Titled “Salome receives the Head of John the Baptist,” it is courtesy of

The subject is from the New Testament [Mark 6, verses 14-29].  Salome had danced so well for King Herod that he swore he would grant her any request.  Her mother, Herodias, who sought revenge on John the Baptist, persuaded Salome to ask for his head.  The old woman behind Salome may be Herodias.”

The lower image is courtesy of John the Baptist – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The caption:  “John the Baptist (right) with child Jesus, painting by Bartolomé Esteban Perez Murillo.”

Re: John and Jesus enjoying their childhood.  See also Childhood – Wikipedia, which noted:

Nature deficit disorder, a term coined by Richard Louv in his 2005 book Last Child in the Woods, refers to the trend in the United States and Canada towards less time for outdoor play resulting in a wide range of behavioral problems. With the heavy use of cellphones, computers, video games and television, children have more reasons to stay inside rather than outdoors exploring…  The media has accelerated the trend by de-emphasizing views of nature, as in Disney films.

See also Food for thought, i.e.: “something that warrants serious consideration.”

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On “latitude, attitude,” and other life changes…

This is something like how it was at the high-school graduation party I attended yesterday…

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It’s early June.  (Actually June 12, 2016.)  That means it’s time for Changes in Attitude.  Or at least time for a change of status, for “moving on.”  In other words, June is a time for big changes, like weddings and graduations.  (See also On June 6, about another major “Life Change…”)

In my case, yesterday I went to the high-school graduation of my “favorite grandson named Austin.”  And among other things, such life-changes for other people – especially those important to you – can lead you to do some reflections of your own.  (As illustrated at right.)

Like my giving Austin a check for $100, to celebrate his change in life-status.  I did that in part because my aunt Esther gave me a check for my high-school graduation, back in 1969.  (Which I promptly blew on playing poker “with my idiot buddies.”)

That led me to give a cautionary instruction to Austin:  Here’s a hundred bucks for you, but don’t blow it “playing poker with your idiot buddies!”

But we digress…

The point of all this is that the graduation reminded me of some recent Daily Office Readings.

Like the ones for June 1, 2016.  That was the morning I set out on my most-recent jaunt into the Okefenokee Swamp.  (As detailed in “There he goes again,” which included the image at left.  And which itself will be the subject of a future post.)  

So anyway, those readings included Ecclesiastes 3:1-15.  It begins:  “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die.”  And verse 8 reads like this:  “A time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.

If all that sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because this Bible passage was immortalized in Turn! Turn! Turn!  That’s the song sub-titled, “To Everything There Is a Season,” which makes it especially appropriate for June, the time for weddings and graduations.

Turn! Turn! Turn! as a song “became an international hit in late 1965 when it was covered by the American folk rock band The Byrds.”  But it was written a decade before, by Pete Seeger:

The lyrics, except for the title which is repeated throughout the song, and the final verse of the song, are adapted word-for-word from Chapter 3 of the Book of Ecclesiastes, set to music and recorded in 1962…

Wikipedia noted the Book of Ecclesiastes – illustrated musically at right – was written in the “late 3rd century BC,” and is traditionally ascribed to King Solomon.

Finally, the article noted that the song is “notable for being one of a few instances in popular music in which a large portion of scripture is set to music.”  And that the song holds the distinction of being “the #1 hit with the oldest lyrics.”

Ecclesiastes has had a deep influence on Western literature…  American novelist Thomas Wolfe wrote that of “all I have ever seen or learned, that book seems to me the noblest, the wisest, and the most powerful expression of man’s life upon this earth – and also the highest flower of poetry, eloquence, and truth…  Ecclesiastes is the greatest single piece of writing I have ever known, and the wisdom expressed in it the most lasting and profound.”

Which makes it well worth reading in its entirety, and especially at times of great change.

Like for the month of June in general, with its weddings and graduations.  (Or during a fascinating election season, like the one we’re now in the middle of…)  

But be forewarned:  Ecclesiastes can be depressing.  For example Ecclesiastes 2:17-18, where the writer said, “I hated life, because [it is] grievous to me; for all is vanity and a chasing after wind.”   And that he “hated all my toil in which I had toiled under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to those who come after me.”  Or Ecclesiastes 2:23:  “For all their days are full of pain, and their work is a vexation; even at night their minds do not rest.  This also is vanity.”

Or – for that matter – your grandfather giving you $100 for a graduation gift, but then adding, “don’t blow it ‘playing poker with your idiot buddies!'”

But it also has some positive notes, like in Ecclesiastes 3:1-15.

That passage also contains some good advice, like that there is “nothing better for [us] than to be happy” and enjoy ourselves.  And that “it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil.”  And also that “God has done this, so that all should stand in awe before him.”  (Which is good advice indeed.)

So for those of you undergoing life changes this June 2016, remember to enjoy the good times, while also remembering to “stand in awe” before God.  (Which sounds a lot like some of those long and – shall we say – “involved” graduation speeches I listened to yesterday…)

And incidentally, the Daily Office Readings for last June 1 included the Gospel – Matthew 14:1-12 – which told of John the Baptist literally “losing his head.”  (Talk about “life changes.”)

But that’s a subject for another time, and another post…“Salome receives the Head of John the Baptist…”

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The upper image is courtesy of the graduation parties link within the article, Graduation – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The actual caption:  “Wedding Feast in front of a Farm by Flemish artist Pieter Brueghel c. 1620.”  (But Brueghel’s painting did look like “my” graduation party…)

The “reflections” image is courtesy of the philosophy link in the Wikipedia article, Human self-reflection.  The caption: “Plato (left) and Aristotle (right): detail from The School of Athens by Raffaello Sanzio, 1509.”

The full Daily Office Readings for June 1, 2016, were Psalm 119:49-72 (for the morning); Psalms 49 and 53 (evening), along with Ecclesiastes 3:1-15; Galatians 2:11-21; and Matthew 14:1-12.

Re: “few instances” of a “large portion of scripture is set to music.”   Other examples include:  The Melodians‘ “Rivers of Babylon,” Sister Janet Mead‘s “The Lord’s Prayer,” and U2‘s “40.”

The “aces and eights” image is courtesy of Dead man’s hand – Wikipedia.

The lower image is courtesy of  From the “New Testament [Mark 6, verses 14-29].  Salome had danced so well for King Herod that he swore he would grant her any request.  Her mother, Herodias, who sought revenge on John the Baptist, persuaded Salome to ask for his head.  The old woman behind Salome may be Herodias.”  (I borrowed the image from a prior post, On the Nativity of John the Baptist.  And again, “Talk about ‘life changes…'”)

On June 6, 2016

Into the Jaws of Death 23-0455M edit.jpg

Men of the U.S. 1st Infantry Division wade “into the jaws of death,” on D-Day, 72 years ago…

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As of today – June 6, 2016 – it’s been 72 years since the Normandy landings.  (Otherwise known as “D-Day.”)  See 72nd Anniversary 2016 Events #DDay72, which noted celebrations in France:

World leaders and other dignitaries flew into Normandy to pay tribute to the real VIPs – the veterans themselves – whilst the global media descended on the region in huge numbers as they do every five years.

Impromptu pipes and drum on Gold Beach during the D-Day 70th AnniversaryThat article was affiliated with “the UK’s only museum” dedicated to the D-Day Landings,” near the “Southsea Castle in Portsmouth,” England.  It included the picture at right, of last year’s “Canopies Over Normandy (#DDay71).”  In that “jump:”

British airborne veteran Jock Hutton (89) and American veteran Jim “Pee Wee” Martin (93) both returned to the skies above Normandy.  At different ends of the invasion area, both veterans bravely made tandem parachute jumps into the countryside into which they dropped 70 years before.

Closer to home, see D-Day in the United States – Time and Date.  That site noted that throughout America, museums and war memorials “host exhibitions featuring photos and film as a tribute to soldiers who were part of the Normandy landings.  D-Day memorials and ceremonies are also held to remember these soldiers.”  The article also noted that the invasion of Normandy was “one of history’s most significant military attacks.”

I first wrote about the commemoration – and “covenant renewal” – in On D-Day and confession, in 2014.  That post compared the kind of “de-briefing” that American fliers got – after their missions – with the concepts of “sin” and “repentance.”  But the goal back then was not to make people feel guilty.  (As some seem to imply.)  Instead they were and are “tools to help us get closer to the target ‘next time out,’ even if we know we can never become ‘perfect.'”

Description of  Planes from the 344th Bomb Group, which led the IX Bomber Command formations on D-Day on June 6, 2014. Operations started in March 1944 with attacks on targets in German-occupied France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. After the beginning of the Normandy invasion, the Group was active at Cotentin Peninsula, Caen, Saint-Lo and the Falaise Gap.  (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images)Then came On the DORs for June 6, 2015.  (Which included the image at left.)  That post noted that June 6, 2015 was a “red letter day, and not just because it’s been 71 years since the best-known D-Day.”  And from the Daily Office Readings for that day, I came up with the idea that those 40 years of wandering in the wilderness were a kind of “boot camp.”

(Of the kind necessary for the armed forces to succeed in their mission, 72 years ago…)

That idea was based on Deuteronomy 29, which was both a commemoration – like our remembering D-Day – and a “renewal of the covenant.”

Which by the way, seems to be another function of such celebrations of such long-ago events.

We “renew the covenant” that led thousands upon thousands of perfectly sane men and women to risk their lives for a cause they believed in.  And in that effort, those people who fought those battles 72 years ago succeeded largely because they weren’t “rigid.”

Put another way, this is a day to remember that “independent judgment” – not rigid obedience to a pre-formed set of “rules” – is the key to success in life, and especially the spiritual life:

During World War II, German generals often complained that U.S. forces were unpredictable…  After the Normandy invasion in 1944, American troops found that their movements were constrained by the thick hedgerows…   In response, “Army soldiers invented a mechanism on the fly that they welded onto the front of a tank to cut through hedgerows…”   American troops are famous for this kind of individual initiative.  It’s a point of pride among officers that the American way of war emphasizes independent judgment in the fog and friction of battle, rather than obedience and rules.  (E.A.)

Which is precisely the kind of Bible study I believe in.  And that in turn is “just another way of saying that by reading the Bible with an open mind, you’ll be on your way to the creative judgment that overcomes ‘the fog and friction’ of everyday life.”

On a somewhat related subject, this upcoming June 11th will celebrate St. Barnabus.  For more on that, see On St. Barnabus’ Day, 2015.  That post spoke of Barnabus, the apostle who was open-minded enough to welcome Paul, formerly an enemy of the early Church.

if it hadn’t been for Barnabas and his willingness to give Paul a second chance – a second chance for the formerly zealous persecutor of the early Church – he might never have become Christianity’s most important early convert, if not the “Founder of Christianity.”

“So we might just call Barnabas ‘the Apostle of Second Chances.’”


 If it wasn’t for Barnabus, Paul’s experience “might have gone for naught…”

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 The upper image is courtesy of Normandy landings – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The caption: “Men of the 16th Infantry Regiment, U.S. 1st Infantry Division wade ashore on Omaha Beach on the morning of 6 June 1944.”  Clicking on the picture in the Wikipedia article will lead to the attribution: “File: Into the Jaws of Death 23-0455M edit.jpg.”

The lower image is courtesy of Conversion of Paul the Apostle – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “The Conversion of Saint Paul, a 1600 painting by the Italian artist Caravaggio.”  See also What happened on the road to Damascus?  That site noted:  “The events that happened on the road to Damascus relate not only to the apostle Paul, whose dramatic conversion occurred there, but they also provide a clear picture of the conversion of all people.”  (E.A.)