The Prophet, the Artist and the Fall of a Nation

Skarga's Sermon by Jan  Matejko
Skarga’s Sermon
by Jan Matejko

As a Polish mystic and artist who can’t seem to ignore politics, I find the story of Jan Matejko and his painting “Skarga’s Sermon” both fascinating and timely.

Matejko paid his dues as a starving artist for a long time, then won at a big art show for his historical painting “Skarga’s Sermon.” Skarga was a priest and part of the court, but he also was a prophet: he told the truth (that is what a real prophet does) and he told the truth about the future (that is what we think a prophet does.)

Matejko was an interesting historical painter in that he painted the message, not the “facts.” Skarga never actually spoke the sermon, he wrote it. Matejko was depicting the sad fact that the legislators paid no attention. One is asleep, several are “whatever” and the few who appear to be listening, as it turned out, changed nothing. Sound like our legislators?

What did Skarga warn them about? The greedy nobles paid no taxes, oppressed the serfs (who had no legal remedy) and made sure no reforms were ever passed. Does this sound like our do-nothing congress?

“The deputies to the (congress) do not perform their duties and make it simply impossible for king and senate to realize the best plans, those of advantage to the state.

Just see to what turmoil you have come thanks to your indecent behavior and almost childish, actually ridiculous conduct into which you allow yourselves to be plunged in the (congress.)”

Sound like the 2013 government shutdown?

Skarga warned them that their avarice, usury and injustice would destroy the nation, and that “He (God) will give (the nation) to your enemies, but he will destroy you and your sons if you do not become better…”

Although Starga died unheeded, his prophecies came to pass and Poland subsequently went to hell in a hand basket: for 300 years they were invaded, partitioned, taken over by the Nazis with great loss of life and then swallowed up by the USSR.

History repeats, but not exactly: it repeats like variations on a theme. Poland then is much like the USA now. Will anyone hear this time? And having heard, will they act?







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