ALBRECHT DÜRER'S PRAYING HANDS

I have seen this story printed and passed around since I was a child. It is certainly not
original with me, but I share it with you because of the memorable lesson.

It seems that back in the fifteenth century, in a tiny village near Nuremberg, lived a family
with eighteen children. Eighteen!

In order merely to keep food on the table for this mob, the father and head of the
household, a goldsmith by
profession, worked almost eighteen hours a day at his trade and any other paying chore
he could find in the neighborhood.
Despite their seemingly hopeless condition, two of the
older children, Albrecht and Albert, had a dream. They
both wanted to pursue their talent for art, but they knew
full well that their father would never be financially able
to send either of them to Nuremberg to study at the
Academy.

After many long discussions at night in their crowded
bed, the two boys finally worked out a pact. They would
toss a coin. The loser would go down into the nearby
mines and, with his earnings, support his brother while
he attended the academy. Then, when the brother who
won the toss completed his studies, in four years, he
would support the other brother at the academy, either
with sales of his artwork or, if necessary, also by
laboring in the mines.
According to the story that has been passed down through the ages, the two brothers
tossed a coin on a Sunday morning after church. Albrecht Dürer won the toss and went
off to Nuremberg. Albert went down into the dangerous mines and, for the next four
years, financed his brother, whose work at the academy was almost an immediate
sensation. Albrecht's etchings, his woodcuts, and his oils were far better than those of
most of his professors; and by the time he graduated, he was beginning to earn
considerable fees for his commissioned works.

When the young artist returned to his village, the Dürer family held a festive dinner on
their lawn to celebrate Albrecht's triumphant homecoming. After a long and memorable
meal, punctuated with music and laughter, Albrecht rose from his honored position a the
head of the table to drink a toast to his beloved brother for the years of sacrifice that had
enabled Albrecht to fulfill his ambition.

His closing words were, "And now, Albert, blessed brother of mine, now it is your turn.
Now you can go to Nuremberg to pursue your dream, and I will take care of you."

All heads turned in eager expectation to the far end of the table where Albert sat, tears
streaming down his pale face, shaking his lowered head from side to side while he
sobbed and repeated, over and over, "No...no...no...no."

Finally, Albert rose and wiped the tears from his cheeks. He glanced down the long table
at the faces he loved, and then, holding his hands close to his right cheek, he said softly,
"No, brother. I cannot go to Nuremberg. It is too late for me. Look what four years in the
mines have done to my hands! The bones in every finger have been smashed at least
once, and lately I have been suffering from arthritis so badly in my right hand that I
cannot even hold a glass to return your toast, much less make delicate lines on
parchment or canvas with a pen or a brush. No, my brother—for me it is too late."

More than 450 years have passed. By now, Albrecht Dürer's hundreds of masterful
portraits, pen and silver-point sketches, watercolors, charcoals, woodcuts, and copper
engravings hang in every great museum in the world.

    The German painter, printmaker, and mathematician is considered, with
    Rembrandt and Goya, as one of the greatest creators of old master prints.

    The odds are great that you, like most people, are familiar with "only one" of
    Albrecht Dürer's works. More than merely being familiar with it, you very well may
    have a reproduction hanging in your home or office.

    One day, to pay homage to Albert for all that he had sacrificed, Albrecht Dürer
    painstakingly drew his brother's abused hands with palms together and thin fingers
    stretched skyward. He called his powerful drawing simply "Hands," The entire world
    almost immediately opened their hearts to his great masterpiece and renamed his
    tribute of love "The Praying Hands."

    The next time you see a copy of that touching creation, take a second look. Let it
    be your reminder, if you still need one, that no one—no one—ever makes it alone!
FROM THE BEST BOOK

Greater love has no one than this,
than to lay down one’s life for his
friends.
          —John 15:13
THE COUNTRY
PARSON,
Benjamin Parsons,
has tended to hurts
and hearts in North
America's most
remote frontier
regions, including
the Pacific
Northwest, the
Canadian Rockies
and Alaska.
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Self-Portrait (1500) by Albrecht Dürer