The painting by Durante Alberti is the kind of painting one is sometimes warned against using in catechesis, especially with children, for there is a worry that children will be led astray by the depiction of God the Father as an old man with a big beard – and, possibly for children, what appears to be a rather frightening old man. But all that we need to remember is that catechesis should accompany the presentation of Catholic art such as this, and the explanations that one can offer are not only striking in themselves, and deeply helpful for children as well as adults, but alter one’s perception of what is in the painting. Indeed, the initial alteration comes as soon as one applies the name, ‘Mercy seat’, to the painting. As one looks at the painting with this title in one’s mind, the meaning of the picture changes from being a straightforward depiction of the crucifixion, to a profound depiction of the Catholic understanding of God’s power as loving mercy.
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