Created between 1600 and 1601, this conversion, like the Cerasi Chapel painting, uses Caravaggio’s trademark light and dark or chiaroscuro technique to depict a busy, historical event.
The painting records the moment when Saul of Tarsus, on his way to Damascus to annihilate the Christian community there, is struck blind by a brilliant light and hears the voice of Christ saying, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?...And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid, but they heard not the voice..." (Acts 22:6-11). Note how the composition, with its jagged shapes and irrational light which licks out details for their dramatic impact, creates "a sense of crisis and dislocation [in which] Christ disrupts the mundane world."
John of the Cross said that the soul is like a pane of glass and God's love is like the sun. It is, accordingly, when God's love is shining most direclty on the soul that its smudges and imperfections are the most apparant (not unlike a salt-caked car windshield in a Chicago winter - where you see through it fine at night - away from direct lighting. But come the next morning when one is driving straight toward the rising sun, the same windshield is suddenly opaque). We sinners spend our time riding away from the divine light, our lives focused on money, sex, power, and our own egos; and thus it is not the least bit surprising that we remain relatively unaware of our sinfulness. But the saints, the ones who have directed their lives toward the ligth and heat of God, are most congizant of all that still remains incomplete in their souls. Saul of Tarsus galloped off to Damascus to persecute the church of Christ, utterly convinced that he was following the will of God. And then he was struck blind by the light of God's presence (Acts 9:3). When the true God appeared to him, he, suddenly and salvifically, did not know where he was going. In Caravaggio's painting of this scene, Saul is a young man, well-muscled and lean, and he is clothed in the raiment of a soldier. Everything in his body and his array suggests focus, energy, and aggressive confidence. But in teh wake of the shock of the light, he lies on the ground, eyes shut, arms groping into the darkness, his confidence dissipated. And it is at this moment he begins to be a saint.