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Bill Thayer

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Magisterium

46And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. 47And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. 48And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said upon him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.

Gospel according to Luke, ch. 42 (King James Version)


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Jesus speaks simply but with assurance; Joseph looks more worried than Mary, who has an inner glow as in the knowledge that all is at it should be: one of the many wonderful portrayals of humanity in the Cappellone (close-up).

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The doctors have their books, but Jesus has none, referring his listeners to Heaven. His chair is of the general type that in antiquity was called a cathedra (q.v.), and symbolizes teaching authority; the doves that cap the uprights indicate the source of that authority, the Holy Spirit. This magisterium (from magister, master) continues to be claimed by the Church.

The Augustinian Order, whose church this is, and whose priest St. Nicola was, is one of the most scholarly in the Roman church, with a particular vocation to books and knowledge. In context then, the quiet humility of this depiction is very appealing: books are not everything.


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Page updated: 24 Jun 06