The Vatican unveiled on Thursday the official image of the 2022 World Meeting of Families in Rome.
The image, painted by the Slovenian Jesuit priest Marko Ivan Rupnik, was released July 28 by the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life and the Diocese of Rome, which will host the event on June 22-26, 2022.
The image, entitled “This mystery is great,” features the Wedding at Cana, the first miracle of Jesus in the Gospel of John.
The wedding is depicted in the background of the painting, with the bride and groom standing behind a veil on the left, and Jesus and Mary on the right. Before them is a servant pouring wine.
Rupnik, the director of the Centro Aletti in Rome, is best known for overseeing the renovation of the Redemptoris Mater Chapel in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, which reopened in 1999 after three years of work.
He redesigned the Knights of Columbus’ Holy Family Chapel in New Haven, Connecticut, in 2005. He also designed the mosaics in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut.
In a video exploring the new painting’s meaning, Rupnik said: “For us Christians, the family is the expression of a sacrament, which is marriage. And this changes its meaning completely, because a sacrament always implies transformation.”
He continued: “It is within natural life that the Holy Spirit brings about the transformation of the way of existence. And he does so by transfiguring natural life, not by denying it, but by embracing it and transforming it, because the primacy is no longer of nature, but of the relation.”
“So to set up this image, on the occasion of this great gathering of families, I thought about where I should start from.”
“What I felt was important was to show the novelty of the family according to the Church, according to baptism, according to life in Christ, according to the new man.”
The priest said that he was inspired to depict the servant pouring wine as St. Paul the Apostle by the writings of the Syriac poet-theologian St. Jacob of Serugh (c. 451-521).
The saint wrote: “After the wedding feast, Paul went in and saw / the veil spread out there, he took it and pulled it away from the beautiful couple. / In this way he uncovered and revealed to the whole world Christ and his Church / whom the prophet Moses had depicted in his prophecy.”
A July 28 press release explained that in the painting, St. Paul is drawing back the veil from the bride and groom, and exclaiming, regarding the wedding, “This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the Church!” (Ephesians 5:32).
Rupnik created the image using vinyl paint on plaster mounted on a wooden square with sides of approximately 30 inches.
The first World Meeting of Families took place in Rome in 1994 at the behest of St. John Paul II. It was also held in the Eternal City in the year 2000. The meetings take place every three years and the most recent gathering was in Dublin, Ireland, in 2018.
The 10th World Meeting of Families will be the third time that Rome has hosted the event. It was originally scheduled for June 2021, but was postponed by a year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
It will be held at the end of the Amoris Laetitia Family Year, which marks the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis apostolic exhortation on love in the family, Amoris laetitia. The Year, which began on March 19, will last for 15 months, culminating with the gathering in Rome.
Pope Francis has called for local gatherings to be held across the globe at the same time as the meeting in Rome.
In his reflection on the image, Rupnik recalled that the Russian philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev (1874-1948) once wrote that “in Christian traditions, marriage has not been explored yet, because we have included it too quickly into family, however according to nature.”
The priest said: “I hope that, through this text and also through this small image, we can understand that for us Christians, the family is the expression of the Sacrament and that it has an ecclesial dimension, therefore it is inseparable from the Church.”
“In it, the bond of blood cannot compete with our participation in the blood of Christ, even if it is easy for the blood according to nature to prevail and not the blood of the Eucharist.”
He continued: “But, as another great father, [the 14th-century Byzantine mystic] Nicholas Cabasilas, puts it: ‘We are truly blood relatives of Christ.’ Our parents gave us blood, but our blood is not the parents’ blood. As soon as they gave it to us, our blood is no longer theirs. While we are nourished by life, that is, by the blood of Christ that becomes ours.”
“Therefore, for Christians, the family is an expression of the sacrament and of ecclesiality, and it indicates how in this world man lives when he is united with God. It becomes an expression of the divine humanity of Christ.”