Every conversion requires an encounter with Jesus Christ. This is why St. Philip is such a good model for witnessing the Faith. He first listens to the voice of the Holy Spirit guiding him into the desert. When he meets the Ethiopian he first asks him a question to see if he is receptive to the word of God. Finally, he tells the Ethiopian the good news of Jesus once he sees the desire to know more.
In this painting St. Philip and the Ethiopian are engaged in intimate conversation. St. Philip points one hand to scripture and the other heavenward to a dove, a symbol of the Holy Spirit. His gesture connects the holy scripture to its Divine source. The Ethiopian raises his hands in solemn amazement. The chariot can be understood as a symbol for the pilgrim Church on earth traveling towards the Heavenly Kingdom. The half arch is architecturally symbolic of the heavens bending towards earth. Beneath the figures, the chariot’s edifice holds reliefs of the passion of Jesus Christ, the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, the passage they are reading. In the background there is the hint of a sparkling river in which upon seeing the Ethiopian will exclaim “What is to prevent my being baptized?”
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