The commentary of the cover

Prepare in Your Hearts the Way of the Lord by Pierre-Marie Dumont

Sir Joshua Reynolds († 1792) is known as “the prince of ­portraiture,” so devoted was he to this genre (he left more than 2,000 portraits to posterity), which he raised to new heights. To a style clearly of its time in the second half of the 18th century, he adds a highly original intellectual and psychological boldness. Remarkably ­prophetic of romanticism, his art goes as far as pathos when it comes to ­depictions of children or themes touching on his Christian faith—that is to say, when he gave his heart free rein to guide his brush. This is clearly visible in this child Samuel, captured at the moment of his response to the fourth nocturnal call of God, Speak, Lord, your servant is listening (1 Sm 3:10).

Samuel is the prefiguration of the last and greatest of prophets, John the Baptist. Both were conceived and brought into the world by barren mothers who had received a special grace from God. They were both “nazarites,” people set apart and consecrated to God through a vow which, according to the prescriptions set down in the Book of Numbers (Nm 6:1-21), forbade them from drinking wine, cutting their hair, or approaching anything considered ­impure by the Law. Along with Samson, they remain the sole nazarites for life cited in the Bible. The mission entrusted to Samuel was to ­announce the advent of David, a king of Israel according to God’s heart; to prepare his coming; and to anoint him with divine ­unction. The mission entrusted to John the Baptist was to herald and prepare the coming of the One of whom the shepherd-king David was but the prophetic prefiguration, the true Christ (“the anointed one”) of God, he who would fulfill and bring to perfection all of the divine promises passed on by Samuel. And not only for the glory of David and the salvation of Israel but, more, for the glory of God and the Salvation of the world.

 

Pierre-Marie Dumont

The Infant Samuel Praying (1777), Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723–1792), Fabre Museum, Montpellier, France. © akg-images / Nimatallah.