This painting is so powerful that Henri Nouwen, another of my “inspirers”, wrote a whole book about it…
At first sight, you might miss the amazing contrast of darkness and light, and the way the light bathes the loving father and the sorrowful son.
It’s easy to miss the hand of the father, that hold the son so tenderly. Is one a man’s hand and one a woman’s hand?
And it’s easy to miss the shattered shoe of the son. He has been through the mill. He has walked a long way. He has been humiliated. And now he has returned.
I wrote a whole collection based on Henri Nouwen’s book about this painting, called Returning to the Father, and I post a few poems from this collection below:
On the darkness and the light:
Hidden for so long
the light glowed brighter
As the years removed
the layers of darkness
Flesh begins to fail
and spirit starts to show more clearly
It is time to live seriously
touch with hands of blessing
All fragile holy things
that come in need of love.
On the son’s long walk home:
On the long walk home
I prepared my explanation many times
I could justify
every wrong I ever did
I could not think his heart to be so great
it could simply forgive
And how could I accept
that moment of complete
overwhelming of the soul
by an impossible love?
The full title of the painting is The Return of the Prodigal Son
It is based on this parable in Luke
Henri Nouwen’s book is called The Return of the Prodigal Son : A Story of Homecoming