Unconditional Love II
oil & liquid gold leaf on canvas
20 x 16 in
This Eucharist in the shape of a heart was inspired by a parishioner at St. Bernadette Roman Catholic Church in Scottsdale, AZ. This painting was commissioned as a gift for Father Andrew Vogel, the pastor of St. Thomas More Catholic Newman Center in Mankato, Minnesota. The painting is part of the "Unconditional Love" series.
This painting illustrates the moment when the priest (here, Fr. Vogel) elevates the Host after the words of consecration are spoken, wherein the bread now becomes the Body of Christ. The Host is in the shape of a heart, emphasizing the notion that Christ gives us His Heart in the Eucharist. The priest’s eyes are purposely hidden so as to draw greater attention to Jesus in the Eucharist than in the priest himself, in his individuality or countenance. Behind the Host is a radiating light, reminiscent of a candle flame. This not only highlights Jesus, to Whom all our attention ought to be directed, but also illustrates how Christ is the Light of the World, shining in the darkness, and that upon receiving Him in Holy Communion, we also now bear this same Light within us. The stark black background contrasts with the brightness of the Host, and the priest’s white vestments disappear into the background, further showcasing how it is not the priest, but Christ, to Whom we should all gaze. It also symbolizes the reality that the priest is in persona Christi (Latin for, “in the person of Christ”); it is not the priest we see in this moment, but Christ Himself offering His own Body and Blood.
Beneath the priest is the phrase, “Unconditional Love.” This simple yet powerful phrase emphasizes Christ’s perfect, sacrificial, and unreserved love for each of us, and that He gives us His whole Self, in a seemingly insignificant piece of bread, as a free gift, unmerited by us. Encompassing the image is a decorative border, reminiscent of a canopy or baldacchino housing the Consecration. The purple color was chosen as it is the color associated with the Newman Center; this draws a connection between the painting for Father and the community he pastors. Subtly painted at the bottom is Father’s name, which serves as an inscription that the piece was gifted to him. In each of the four corners, the border transforms into the Auspice Maria symbol, which in Latin means, “Under the protection of Mary.” In this way, with his name written within the border, Father is “under the protection of Mary,” as well as all who partake of this Holy Eucharist. This Marian symbol also alludes to Father's connection to Immaculate Heart Seminary.