Saturday, November 22, 2008


Roy de Maistre 1894-1968
Annunciation (early 1930s)
Oil on Panel 66.5 by 55.8cm
Private collection

"1096. Jewish liturgy and Christian liturgy.

A better knowledge of the Jewish people's faith and religious life as professed and lived even now can help our better understanding of certain aspects of Christian liturgy.

For both Jews and Christians Sacred Scripture is an essential part of their respective liturgies: in the proclamation of the Word of God, the response to this word, prayer of praise and intercession for the living and the dead, invocation of God's mercy.

In its characteristic structure the Liturgy of the Word originates in Jewish prayer.

The Liturgy of the Hours and other liturgical texts and formularies, as well as those of our most venerable prayers, including the Lord's Prayer, have parallels in Jewish prayer.

The Eucharistic Prayers also draw their inspiration from the Jewish tradition.

The relationship between Jewish liturgy and Christian liturgy, but also their differences in content, are particularly evident in the great feasts of the liturgical year, such as Passover. Christians and Jews both celebrate the Passover.

For Jews, it is the Passover of history, tending toward the future; for Christians, it is the Passover fulfilled in the death and Resurrection of Christ, though always in expectation of its definitive consummation. "

Paragraph 1096. Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part 2, Section 1, Chapter 1 The Paschal Mystery in the Age of the Church

In this connection, readers may like to read Jonathan L. Friedmann : “Know Before Whom You Stand”: Humility in Jewish Prayer and Music

The full version is in the Journal for the Renewal of Religion and Theology 2008/9 Volume 4 (October 2008)

The abstract reads:

"While Jewish religiosity is expressed through a complex system of liturgy, employing language that extols the greatness of God, there is also subtle recognition of the inability of such words to capture the vastness of God and His attributes.

This paper argues that both confident prayer and a sense of personal finitude are necessary for Jewish spirituality: prayer helps establish and maintain an awareness of God, while realization that God is beyond full human comprehension—and thus beyond prayer—enables one to remain in a state of humble religiosity.

Moreover, as Jewish prayer is sung and not spoken, it is argued that it is especially important for the cantor, who acts as a singing intermediary between the congregation and God, to approach his or her task with an overwhelming sense of humility before God...

Humility, it has been said, is the trait on which all virtues and duties depend. The humble individual is one who views him or herself “as a dependent and corrupt but capable and dignified rational agent.” This balanced self-awareness results, ultimately, in a measured view of one's own significance, and an apperception of personal finitude.

By acknowledging a force beyond one's limited purview—whether religious, philosophical, or scientific—one may cultivate a “grounded” and humble evaluation of oneself—what Saint Augustine saw as the foundation of ethical life....

This examination is comprised of two parts: an analysis of humility in Jewish liturgy, as exemplified in Kaddish , and an overview of the importance of modesty to the vocation of the cantor.

I will argue that being humble before God is fundamental to the spiritually efficacious singing of sacred text, and that such humility begins with sincere and total acknowledgement of one's personal finitude.

Furthermore, I will demonstrate that music in Jewish ritual is employed primarily to help worshipers transcend the inherent limitations of language. Where words often fail to capture the grandeur of the sacred moment, music enhances the words of prayer, providing them with a greater emotive range and associational power.

Thus, sacred music, and the manner in which the cantor sings it, may inspire within worshipers the simultaneous and spiritually necessary feelings of elation and trembling before God."

The painting above illustrates the artist's developing commitment to the Roman Catholic faith. He was received into the faith in London in 1949. It incorporates two figures from traditional Christian Annunciation iconography: the Archangel Gabriel / the Holy Spirit, and the humble Virgin.

At the time of this painting, though not yet committed to Catholic Christianity and its imagery, he was nonethless a searcher, believing that 'art, being a reflection of life in the most profound sense, is an attempt by the artist to express in concrete form, through symbols, his highest concept of what constitutes for him the Good, the Beautiful and the True.' (see Roy de Maistre, 'Modern Art and the Australian Outlook', Art in Australia, 3rd series, no. 14, December 1925, cited in Heather Johnson, Roy de Maistre: The English Years 1930-1968, Craftsman House, Sydney, 1995, p. 77)

His religious works stemmed from his profound Catholic belief in the truth of the images they represented

He has been acknowledged as Australia's first abstract painter, but lived most of his professional life in London.

His paintings reveal the influence of cubism. In 1954 he commenced painting 'Stations of the Cross' for Westminster Cathedral