Christ Succoured by Angels in the Wilderness after the Temptation
National Trust, United Kingdom
In Matthew 4 the devil takes Jesus to a high mountain to offer him the kingdoms and wealth of this world. When he refuses the devil leaves him and angels come to "minister" to him. In this image we see the devil flying away as angels bring Jesus food. Still on the mountain, he blesses the bread and wine, as he would do at the Last Supper and as priests do in the Mass. The two fish reference the ones he will bless when he feeds the five thousand and also allude to his call to the apostles to be "fishers of men" (Natthew 4:19, Mark 1:17).
The men who will be fished are represented by the deer, hare, and rabbit approaching the cave. In some early texts Psalm 103:18 read "the heights are refuge for the deer, the rock for the lepusculus." Lepusculus is the diminutive of lepus, "hare," and can mean a young hare or a rabbit. Augustine explains that the heights and the rock are Christ, and the deer and lepusculus are those who flee to him for salvation. Bede and Jerome offer similar interpretations of Proverbs 30:26, which commends the hare as a weak creature wise enough to hide for safety in the rock.1
Read more about the Temptation of Christ.
Read more about the hare and the stag as symbols.
Source: Wikimedia Commons.
1 Augustine, Expositions III, 70:5 (p. 418). For Bede see Super Parabolas Salomonis, III, xxx (Migne, Pat. Lat., XCI, 1026). Jerome's comment is in the Glossa Ordinaria, III, 1736. For a complete study of this aspect of the hare, see Dines.