Many of Caravaggio’s contemporaries considered this altarpiece to be his best work. It was painted for the Chapel of the Pietà in the Oratorians’ Chiesa Nuova in Rome. In it, Caravaggio seems to have combined two scenes. It is like a Pietà in that the older of the three women is Mary who laments her dead son with outstretched hands. But it is like a Deposition in that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary watch as Joseph of Arimathea and, according to John’s Gospel, Nicodemus, lay the body of Jesus in a new tomb. However, because the one on the left is younger, he is more likely to be the Beloved Disciple than to be Nicodemus. These two men are lowering the body of Jesus into the tomb below them which will be sealed by the great stone slab on which they stand. The deal Christ’s arm and shroud fall towards the tomb below. I choose this painting because for me, at least, it echoes the words of Jesus in today’s gospel passage: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” On the first day of the week, the women will find the tomb empty and then their sorrow will turn to joy, and it is they who will bear the message of resurrection.
The Catholic Chaplaincy serves the students and staff of the University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh Napier University and Queen Margaret University.
The Catholic Chaplaincy is also a parish of the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh (the Parish of St Albert the Great) and all Catholic students and staff are automatically members of this parish.