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History: Charity

The most important duty of brotherly love, the great commandment of the new testament, is emphasized in the portrayal of Charity in the parable of the Good Samaritan which follows immediately the painting of hope as depicted in the Resurrection. Replying to the lawyer sent by the Pharisees to question Him, our Saviour answered, ((What is written in the law? How readest thou?" and the young man answering said: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart and with thy whole soul and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind, and thy neighbor as thyself."

But willing to justify himself he said to Jesus: "And who is my neighbor?"

Our Saviour answered him with the beautiful parable of the Good Samaritan showing that the way to eternal life is Charity; and the chief commandment is the love of God and of our neighbor. In the Good Samaritan is exemplified the first social worker of the Christian era.

The scene depicts the oppressive loneliness of the wayfarer who had fallen among robbers, deprived of everything, wounded and lying half dead on a rock by the wayside. At a turn in the road, the Levite having failed to succor the poor traveler, looks back to see the Samaritan bending over him. The Samaritan's beast stands ready to receive the wounded man. Compassion is reflected in the very atmosphere of this part of the painting, even a shaded spot under a tree nearby lending relief to the desolate road winding towards Jericho.

The priest had already passed that way, but neither the priest nor the Levite freed himself from self-love and self-interest long enough to show mercy to the distressed man. The charity of the Samaritan, however, is striking. He forgets himself.in behalf of a stranger and sacrifices his own comfort and property to aid him, promising to do more in future and that for a person who considered him an enemy and an inferior.

This picture is interesting both in incident and in detail, exemplifying in scene and in psychology a composition full of meaning and variety. The charm of kindness and a delicate feeling for the simple effects of light and shade and color; the popularity of the episode, the loneliness of the scene, the democratic idea it conveys, as well as the original place, Bethpage, and the occasion of its actual happening, a more than human purpose, as well as a Christ-like devotion to the needs of men, a feeling of contempt for those who neglect or refuse to assist such needs, all these things bespeak the reasons for the appreciation which this mural commands.

 


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