There are many artworks that depict St. John the Baptist in the wilderness. Many of them depict St. John the Baptist pointing up to Heaven, or pointing to a lamb right next to him, which is a reference of his famous words, “Behold, the Lamb of God.”
And that makes sense! After all, St. John the Baptist is also known as St. John the Forerunner. He preceded Christ! He was the last great prophet who foretold of Christ. He cried out in the desert so loudly that people heard his voice from their cities and came out to listen to them. After listening to him, many of them were baptized by him. Then, as soon as Christ came and began ministering, he pointed Christ out to his disciples, losing the following that he had so that Christ could be glorified.
So, there are many pictures of him depicted in the wilderness and pointing toward Christ in a subtle way.
However, out of all the pictures of St. John the Baptist in the wilderness, I think this one is one of my favorites:
He is surrounded by a lush wilderness that is quite more lush than he would have been surrounded by in the Holy Land. You can see ducks swimming in the river and a deer climbing on some of the cliffs overhanging In fact. The place reminds me more of some of the areas that I grew up near in California than it does of the images of the Holy Land. (Moretto da Brescia was Italian. And he typically depicted the wilderness with this sort of lush surrounding, judging by this artwork of Jesus in the wilderness.)
Yet, what I love about this artwork is the expression of longing on his face. His face is turned longingly toward the sky. There, in the sky hangs a yellow orb that looks like a sun. But, when you look closer at it, you can see a lamb in the brilliant orb shining brightly in the sky. And so, he is looking up at Heaven, looking at the Lamb of God from afar, and praying fervently for the God’s Kingdom to come.
It shows how wonderfully connected that St. John the Baptist was connected with God. Though he was in the desert alone for a long time, he still sought and developed a strong prayer life and connection with God. Though he was not with Jesus, he was still connected to God through the Holy Spirit, which directed every action of his.
And this picture beautifully portrays this.
This artwork is in my newest book, The Luminous Mystery, and this picture is actually that helped inspired me to develop the Introductory Prayers the way that you eventually see them in the actual books.
You see, when I prayed the Rosary, I tend to rush through the introductory prayers to get to the mysteries of the Rosary. Which I felt bad about… after all, the Rosary is not supposed to be rushed through. So, when I first started developing these books, I wanted to make sure that I didn’t rush through the introductory prayers, and instead used the time of praying the introductory prayers to fully center myself in Christ and prepare myself for the first mystery.
And so, when I was contemplating the Luminous Mysteries, I was trying to think of a reverent way to do this. At first, I tried to put images of Jesus Christ as a young man, but when I prayed with those pictures, something felt off. After all, Jesus is not introduced like that in the gospel. He is not merely a man, but God, and it is through His ministry in which this becomes particularly evident. So, I didn’t want to put so much emphasis on Him being Man.
But… what would I put instead that would lead naturally into the first mystery, the Baptism of Christ?
And then, I remembered St. John the Baptist. He was the one who preceded our Lord. He was the one that preached the coming of the Messiah. Why not start with him?
And yet, I hesitated because the Rosary is not about St. John the Baptist.
And yet… this direction seemed like right direction to go.
So, I began researching artwork depicting of St. John the Baptist, at first with little success. While there were some good ones, many of the ones didn’t seem to point to Jesus Christ in the way that I hoped in a way that would naturally segue to the Baptism of Christ. And so I began to think that maybe I was going in the wrong direction.
Then, I saw this picture of St. John the Baptist praying, looking longingly to Heaven while the Lamb of God shone in Heaven. And I thought of my own longing when I started to pray earnestly to God. Of that desire to have God with me in a world that can seem so crazy and hectic. Of that moment of prayer in which I would occasionally get that glimpse of God, so to speak. Of that desire for Heaven over all.
Also, what better way to introduce the prayers of the Rosary with an image that spoke to our desire of that communion of God? That longing for the Messiah to come and transform our lives? That touch of God?
And what a beautiful way to introduce Christ! To start off with that longing of the Messiah, and then to start with the first mystery in which Christ is baptized and the Heavens open up and reveal the Holy Trinity in all its glory!
Tomorrow is the official release date of The Luminous Mysteries, which is a book that I’ve been working on for the last two years. When I first felt the tug in my heart to make these books, which pair a classic artwork with every prayer of the Rosary, it was when I was trying to pray the Luminous Mysteries with my daughter, then only two. So, in a way, this book release is especially sweet: this is truly the book that I wanted to have when I first started this project.
And now? It’s published.
So, once more, thank you from the bottom of my heart for supporting this project. It’s been such a wild ride, but really… it’s a dream come true. And I hope that this book helps you pray The Luminous Mysteries devoutly and helps you love Jesus Christ all the more.