You are currently viewing Salome and Saint John. I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness (ἐγὼ φωνὴ βοῶντος ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ)
salome and saint john the baptist

Salome and Saint John. I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness (ἐγὼ φωνὴ βοῶντος ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ)

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The story of the beheading of St. John the Baptist is recounted in the holy book of Christians. Matthew 14 and Mark 6 say that John was the victim of a plot by Herodias, wife of King Herod and former consort of his deceased brother Philip. What is striking is that in both accounts Herodias plays a secondary role, she is mentioned more as a passenger. Instead, the central role is occupied by Salomea, her and Philip’s daughter, a girl who had just passed into adolescence. Although the Gospel of Mark says unequivocally that Herod sent a guard and commanded that her head be brought to him, most pictorial representations show Salome either in league with the executioner or she is the one who commits the crime. In the latter case, we cannot, of course, ignore the fact that the painters were inspired by the story of Judith and Holofernes. In both cases, Salome is portrayed in a cynical and bloody manner. Not only does she accept John’s head on the tray, but more often than not she presents it to the royal audience as a trophy. We see, therefore, that the church was quick to condemn Salome and place her on the same guilty step as her mother. The ecclesiastics have perhaps ignored the fact that a 15-year-old girl, practically a child, has an incomplete perception of what life as a whole is all about, and she may be an innocent murderer rather than a vicious killer. This antinomy was the source of meditation from which I started when thinking about this image. I set out to show the other, unseen face of Salome; the face that stubbornly refuses to look openly at her head and unclad body. I believe it is only our conscience that can tell us something about the outcome of our acts. In Salome’s case, her bowed head, the tears in her eyes, and the right hand that hides the murder weapon behind her back, are all gestures that unmistakably indicate her regret and repentance. In the economy of salvation, these are two necessary ingredients, but are they also sufficient? Is it enough for the Christian to say, like Christ, “Mercy I desire, not sacrifice.” (Matthew 12) in order to forgive even the greatest faults of one’s fellow man? Do we have the ability to forgive fully and without resentment?

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