Vatican Museum' Pinacoteca
"This meditation comes at an important moment, then, for St. Ignatius invites us to choose Christ—the reign of God. According to the saint, it is essential to present the options before us to our mind and hearts, our whole being…. On one hand we can choose to fall into temptation by following the allures of Satan… By contrast, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Jesus calls each of us to discover God's promises of love, joy, and eternal riches."
"Ignatian spirituality calls this 'a meditation on the two standards (or flags).' We must choose our path. Do we stand with Jesus or will we be enticed by the world's riches and deceptions? The standards represent two kingdoms, two ideals, and two visions of humanity."
"Poussin's painting of the martyrdom of St. Eramus (also known as St. Elmo) brings this reality to light. Many early Christian martyrs died because they were unwilling to burn incense as a sign of their obedience to the Roman gods. Though they would give the state their allegiance and respect, they refused to give the gods what only belonged to the one true God—their praise and worship."
"The Martyrdom of St. Erasmus painting can give us a sense for the horrific persecution this martyr endured. In the painting we witness St. Elmo splayed out upon an altar in the lower foreground of the painting. His tormentor points up toward what we would call the 'two flags,' the choice of two kingdoms."
"Standing fast, St. Elmo endured unheard-of sufferings because his God was not of this world, but the one to come. Notice the interrogating faces of his fellow Romans as they lean over his body in anguish. Their mouths are hanging open in disbelief that the saintly bishop could withstand his tormentors, refusing to succumb to the pain that wracks his body. They plead with him to join their ranks and end the torture, an enticing invitation for one in distress. But St. Elmo is steadfast, anchored in Christ—he is a rock!"
"Though the circumstances may be less dramatic, we are faced with similar choices to fight the good fight. Decide today whom you will serve. Everyday we are faced with a choice to follow Jesus or to choose our own way—the way of the world. Will you turn away from sin to follow Jesus?"
“Now therefore revere the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods; for it is the Lord our God who brought us and our ancestors up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight. He protected us along all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed; and the Lord drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God.”
But Joshua said to the people, “You cannot serve the Lord, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm, and consume you, after having done you good.”
And the people said to Joshua, “No, we will serve the Lord!”
Then Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord, to serve him.”
And they said, “We are witnesses.”
He said, “Then put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.”
The people said to Joshua, “The Lord our God we will serve, and him we will obey.”
So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made statutes and ordinances for them at Shechem.
PRAYER AND REFLECTION
"What lures you away from the life offered in God? Ask God to renew a steadfast spirit in you, that your heart will be inflamed with divine love."
The comments above are taken from Meditations on Vatican Art by Fr. Mark Haydu. To truly enter into this Visio Divina, I suggest purchasing the book as each masterpiece comes with a complete description, prayer and reflection, and spiritual exercise.