Saturday, September 20, 2008

Mary and the Eucharist

Fra' Filippo Lippi (1406 – October 8, 1469)
Madonna in the Forest (also called L' Adorazione del Bambino con san Bernardo e san Giovannino, as well as Adorazione di Palazzo Medici )
c. 1458-1460
Oil on panel, 129.5 x 118.5 cm
Staatliche Museen, Berlin

Christ was born in the womb of the Virgin Mary. His body was offered on the Cross. It is present in the Eucharist.

There has always been a link between Mary and the Eucharist

It has been a theme in art as well.

In the altarpiece by Filippo Lippi for the private chapel of the Medici Chapel in the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi, Florence, Mary is shown adoring her Son beneath the Father and the Holy Spirit with the figures of Saint John the Baptist (the Patron Saint of Florence) and Saint Bernard (or is it St Romauld). The picture was the physical and spiritual centre of the chapel.

As originally situated, the Child was just above the point where the priest consecrated the bread and wine

The remaining walls of the Chapel show Gozzoli`s celebrated frescoes of the Journey of the Magi. The picture by Lippi is the beginning and end of the journey depicted by Gozzoli. In the wall above the altar there is a circular window which is the "Star": the end of the Magi`s journey. The scene depicted in Lippi`s altarpiece is the destination of the Journey.

Father, Son and Holy Ghost form a central vertical axis immediately above the point of consecration by the priest at Mass.

Above this central point of action, God the Father is seen pouring forth the Holy Spirit.

Mary is the largest figure in the scene. She is kneeling on bare earth to contemplate and to adore her child. The Child who at and after the moment of consecration is again present on the altar

She is meant to indicate the right way to participate at Mass: to contemplate and adore the Christ.

Stuck in a Museum and not properly placed in a Church, the altar piece loses much of its meaning and significance.

As well as a contemplation on the role of Mary, the picture is also a contemplation on the Trinity.

The Council of Ferrara-Florence in 1439 reached agreement in principle (subsequently rejected) on the healing of the schism between the Western and Orthodox churches. One of the major differences was on the nature of the Trinity. The Western Church held that the Holy Spirit emanates from the Father and Son. This contrasts with the view held by the Orthodox Church, in which the Holy Spirit emanates from God the Father alone.