IDLE SPECULATIONS: January 2009

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Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Presentation in the Temple: The Purification

The Presentation in the Temple
10 th century
Fresco
Byzantine
Eski Gumus Monastery (Eski Gumusler Monastery)
Nigde, Nigde province, Central Anatolian Region, Turkey


Nunc Dimittis (Canticle of Simeon; Luke 2:29-32):

"Now thou dost dismiss thy servant, O Lord, according to thy word in peace; because my eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples: a light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel."

The Church at Jerusalem was observing the feast as early as the first half of the fourth century, and likely earlier.

According to Jewish law, the firstborn male child belonged to God, and the parents had to "buy him back" on the 40th day after his birth, by offering a sacrifice of "a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons" (Luke 2:24) in the temple (thus the "presentation" of the child). On that same day, the mother would be ritually purified (thus the "purification").





Eski Gumus Monastery (Eski Gumusler Monastery) Lower picture: Refectory
Nigde, Nigde province, Central Anatolian Region, Turkey





Gumus is a small modern village not far from the ancient road which linked Tyana to Cesarea (today's Kayseri) in Cappadocia, Turkey.

Eski (old) Gumus is the previous location of the village.

The inhabitants of Gumus were monks and their servants; cells, warehouses, stables were all cut into the rock. The walls of the courtyard were decorated with blind arches and crosses. The monks gathered in a domed church decorated with frescoes.

From the paintings and other decorative elements it is thought the monastery was in existence from the 7th to the 11th century,

St John Bosco

Saint John Bosco (1815 - 1888) in Barcelona (1886)


This year is the 150th anniversary of the Foundation of the Salesian Congregation.

Today is the feast day of St John Bosco

Friday, January 30, 2009

Key Aspects



Zenit has published a translation of the introduction Siegfried Wiedenhofer, one of Benedict XVI's former assistants, gave Nov. 12 2008 at the launch in Munich of the Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI Foundation.

The foundation is the project of a group of Joseph Ratzinger's former doctoral and postdoctoral students, known as the Schülerkreis (Circle of Students).

His address was titled "Key Aspects of the Theology of Professor Joseph Ratzinger."

First he gives a brief overview of the field of work by the Pope as theologian: the amount of work which he has published and the range of themes are enormous.

The lecture is worth reading in the entirety

Some points in particular caught my eye:

1."For Joseph Ratzinger after the Council, the ecclesial and theological situation in the Catholic Church increasingly emerged as a crisis such as had not been seen since the 13th century, as he once said."

2. "This essence of the faith can be summarized in three decisive aspects of Ratzinger's understanding of Christian faith: the rationality of faith, faith's historicity as centered in the revelation of Jesus Christ, and the personal nature of faith as summed up in love"

3. ."The theology of Joseph Ratzinger had developed above all in conversation with the Fathers of the Church and with the theology of the High Middle Ages, especially in conversation with Augustine, then also in conversation with Bonaventure -- thus on the whole much more strongly in dialogue with the tradition of Christian Platonism than with Christian Aristotelianism. "

4. "[T]he doctrine of creation, for instance, which J. Ratzinger has continually taken up since his early lectures in dogmatics, acquires an elevated theological significance. "

5. "According to the Christian confession of faith, the truth of God, the subject matter of theology, has appeared definitively in history in the person and history of Jesus Christ, the Word of God made flesh, the decisive sign of God's revelation and salvation in the world -- a revelation which, by the power of the Holy Spirit in the Church, is ever made newly present and effective. God has really bridged the abyss of infinity and has become approachable in a wholly human way, in Jesus Christ and in the witness of the ecclesial community of faith immersed in history. And here we find not only that Christian faith bears a certain claim to absoluteness, but also the importance of the Church as a theme in the theology of J. Ratzinger. The significance of this historical positivity of Christian faith can be seen also in J. Ratzinger's important historical works, in his lectures on dogma, which interpreted faith as a living path through history, and in his dogmatics, which, like few others, rests upon an intensive personal exegetical study of the biblical sources."

6. "[T]he Christian message of the truth of God does not reach man as a foreign message that imposes itself from the outside, but rather that it is a message of life that permits him to live in the full and proper sense. And it is this precisely because it is a message of love. For man lives, finally, from the love that he receives and passes on, first and finally from the love that God is and that has become visible in the history of Jesus Christ. No one can live if he is not able to accept himself. But no one is able to accept himself if he has not already been accepted and loved by another. Truly being human is dependent upon being loved -- but of course what we mean here is true love. For love, in its own concrete expression, is no less multifarious and ambivalent than faith and hope. Thus it is only where love is identical with truth that love is able to offer the salvation of man."


"It is true that the theology of Joseph Ratzinger has in fact been read, criticized, and taken up in quite different ways, but the decisive aspect of this basic vision can be fairly clearly identified, in my opinion.

1. The theology of Joseph Ratzinger is not a theology for all times or a theology about history, but rather a theology for this time, and this time is for him above all the time of a fundamental crisis.

In the first place, there is the crisis of the Catholic Church, out of which the Second Vatican Council --prepared for and accompanied by a broad stream of Catholic reform theology -- sought to lead us. The theology of Joseph Ratzinger is a part of this theology of reform. Nonetheless, it differs from the work of the other theologians of reform, in the main, in that the question of the identity of faith and Church soon found its way to the fore in his theology. This came about because for Joseph Ratzinger after the Council, the ecclesial and theological situation in the Catholic Church increasingly emerged as a crisis such as had not been seen since the 13th century, as he once said. In addition to this first diagnosis of crisis, there is -- in connection with the great departure from tradition in the last third of the 20th century, and also in connection with the collapse of communism -- his diagnosis of a fundamental crisis in morality and meaning in modern culture and society, which finds increasingly decisive expression in the charge of relativism. Finally, toward the end of the second millennium and in the beginning of the third, in light of the new sense of globalization, he also diagnoses and reflects upon a fundamental crisis of Christianity and its truth-claim.

2. A theology in such a time of crisis and transition must concentrate upon what is essential in Christian faith, its identity and specificity, as these are recognizable in the basic structure and constitution of the faith.

This essence of the faith can be summarized in three decisive aspects of Ratzinger's understanding of Christian faith: the rationality of faith, faith's historicity as centered in the revelation of Jesus Christ, and the personal nature of faith as summed up in love.

The rationality of faith as a claim to truth, a claim of knowledge

The theology of Joseph Ratzinger had developed above all in conversation with the Fathers of the Church and with the theology of the High Middle Ages, especially in conversation with Augustine, then also in conversation with Bonaventure -- thus on the whole much more strongly in dialogue with the tradition of Christian Platonism than with Christian Aristotelianism. It is from the ancient Church's constitution of Christian theology, to which he continually makes reference, that 1) the epistemological claim of Christian faith, its truth claim, and 2) a dialectical relationship of faith to reason, philosophy, and science, come to be a dominant strain of his own theology.

On the one hand, the truth of God has, according to the witness of Christian faith, entered history definitively with the final revelation in Jesus Christ. But this knowledge of faith necessarily requires thought, requires philosophy, because it claims to be a knowledge of all of reality, and because, in any case, it has to make its witness to the truth comprehensible. On the other hand, thinking needs the challenge of faith's recognition of truth, so that it can remain on the right path in the search for the real, one, whole truth, amid the intensifying Western dichotomization of faith and reason, theology and philosophy.

In his conversation with Jürgen Habermas on April 19, 2004, here in the Katholische Akademie Bayern in Munich, Cardinal Ratzinger could speak, in the face of dangerous pathologies of both religion and reason that cannot be ignored today, “of a necessary correlationality of reason and faith, reason and religion, which are called to mutual purification and healing, and which need one another and must each acknowledge this” (Habermas/Ratzinger 2005, 57). It is only through a prolonged struggle with the present intellectual situation that it became evident to him that the question of truth must become a basic question for theology and philosophy: as he says, we do not dispose over truth -- rather, only in acknowledging ourselves to be claimed together by the truth can we escape the dictatorship of arbitrariness and relativism and rescue the true humanity and human dignity.

Against this backdrop, the doctrine of creation, for instance, which J. Ratzinger has continually taken up since his early lectures in dogmatics, acquires an elevated theological significance. Ethical questions, too (regarding education, culture, politics, the state, democracy, and so on) are increasingly discussed. On the other hand, the thought of modernity finds itself the object of a radical critique (explicit for the first time in Introduction to Christianity): While in the metaphysics of antiquity and the Middle Ages the world, as an expression of the (creative) divine reason, was meaningful, comprehensible, reasonable, and transparent to its finality, the dominant modern notion of reason restricts itself to the knowledge of phenomena and the bare facts of history and to the cultural and technical production of goods in the service of man's self-realization. In this reconfiguration of values, according to Ratzinger, reason becomes blind not only with respect to the truth of God, but also -- and in connection with this -- with respect to the difference between bare human existence and truly being human, a distinction essential for man's humanity.

The historicity of faith and its christological center

According to the Christian confession of faith, the truth of God, the subject matter of theology, has appeared definitively in history in the person and history of Jesus Christ, the Word of God made flesh, the decisive sign of God's revelation and salvation in the world -- a revelation which, by the power of the Holy Spirit in the Church, is ever made newly present and effective. God has really bridged the abyss of infinity and has become approachable in a wholly human way, in Jesus Christ and in the witness of the ecclesial community of faith immersed in history. And here we find not only that Christian faith bears a certain claim to absoluteness, but also the importance of the Church as a theme in the theology of J. Ratzinger. The significance of this historical positivity of Christian faith can be seen also in J. Ratzinger's important historical works, in his lectures on dogma, which interpreted faith as a living path through history, and in his dogmatics, which, like few others, rests upon an intensive personal exegetical study of the biblical sources.

The personal nature of faith

According to the logic of Christian faith, the question of truth is, in the final analysis, the quest for a truth that is really humane, that is, the truth of love, which permits the person to realize himself precisely in what most fully characterizes him: his being a person. In this emphasis on personhood as entailed in being human and in faith, we certainly see resonances of the personalist thinking of the period between the World Wars (Scheler, Guardini), which greatly influenced the theological development of Joseph Ratzinger in his early years. For it was possible to show, from this perspective, that the Christian message of the truth of God does not reach man as a foreign message that imposes itself from the outside, but rather that it is a message of life that permits him to live in the full and proper sense. And it is this precisely because it is a message of love. For man lives, finally, from the love that he receives and passes on, first and finally from the love that God is and that has become visible in the history of Jesus Christ. No one can live if he is not able to accept himself. But no one is able to accept himself if he has not already been accepted and loved by another. Truly being human is dependent upon being loved -- but of course what we mean here is true love. For love, in its own concrete expression, is no less multifarious and ambivalent than faith and hope. Thus it is only where love is identical with truth that love is able to offer the salvation of man. And, of course, the inverse is also true: Only where truth is connected with love does truth become a possibility that does not need to be forced upon a person, but rather one that he can take up in freedom. Love is thus the true center of Christianity.

* * *

Naturally one might ask in closing, in light of all this: Why establish a foundation? Do we not have before us a very attractive understanding of Christian faith without the need for such a thing? And don't the unbelievable book sales ("Jesus of Nazareth" alone, for instance, began by selling 200,000 copies just in the first edition of the German) show that this message has in many ways arrived -- that this theology has already generated a strong response?

But in order to remain alive and effective, every great intellectual impulse needs cultivation, elaboration, interpretation, application, concretization, defense against misunderstanding and false criticism, but also expansion, debate, and critique. It was never the goal of Joseph Ratzinger, the theology teacher, to found a school in which every member would be bound to his own theological conceptions. His purpose was always, in the first place, to understand and articulate for the present day the liberating and redeeming claim of the truth of faith -- most often through dialogue but also not infrequently through quite polemical disputation for the sake of this truth.

A foundation that wishes not only to promote the study of his theology but also to foster a theology in his spirit might be aided by a word of guidance from the Council. The Second Vatican Council's constitution on revelation summarizes its fidelity to the previous councils in the expression "vestigiis inhaerens": cleaving to the paths of these councils. To which, however, we ought to add Karl Barth's suggested translation (which, incidentally, Joseph Ratzinger affirmed in his commentary): “going forward along the paths of these councils.” For this foundation is not merely dedicated to the study and cultivation of the powerful theological work that we find before us, but is still more committed to its living future -- in the various modes of reception, continuance, debate, and also criticism -- as an effective orientation along the path of faith."

Chesterton

G. K. Chesterton and his wife Frances



In The Paradox Who Was Chesterton, A.N. Wilson reviews the latest biography of G.K. Chesterton.

He discusses the new evidence about the development of G. K. Chesterton's ideas and his progress towards Roman Catholicism

The new biography is : William Oddie CHESTERTON AND THE ROMANCE OF ORTHODOXY :The making of GKC 1874–1908, 416pp. Oxford University Press. £25 (US $50).

"Chesterton and the Romance of Orthodoxy painstakingly follows the development of GK’s ideas from the schoolboy poet and debater of the 1880s to the author of Orthodoxy in 1908. William Oddie’s book demonstrates, sometimes with a little too much bluster, that although Chesterton did not actually become a Roman Catholic until 1922, his “position” as a robust defender of Catholic Orthodoxy was well in place fifteen years earlier. It is also Oddie’s intention to demonstrate that Chesterton absorbed many of his Catholic ideas not, as might previously have been supposed, from his friend Belloc, nor from Fr O’Connor, the model for Father Brown, but from his Anglo-Catholic wife Frances Blogg, and from some of her high-church heroes, most notably Charles Gore, Conrad Noel and Percy Dearmer. Oddie has produced an abundance of new material to substantiate his picture, notably Chesterton’s contributions to the Debater magazine (written when he was a pupil at St Paul’s School), and from the journalism. He has used newspaper articles which have hitherto been unnoticed, or only quoted in part. And he has also been attentive to the G. K. Chesterton manuscripts in the British Library, which contain unfinished poems, sayings and theological musings from Chesterton’s unformed youth. It is now possible to follow Chesterton’s development from schoolboy Communist to a sort of Unitarian under the spell of Stopford Brooke, to full-blown Anglo-Catholic husband of the clergy-loving Frances Blogg. ...

Chesterton’s fiction and journalism were dashed off at speed. This is not to say that they were not on some levels deeply considered. It could be said, truthfully as well as Chestertonianly, that he was never deeper than when he was being superficial. Many of his wisest remarks are the throwaways, but you do not necessarily preserve the truth of a throwaway remark by patching it together with other throwaway remarks to construct a Summa. Chesterton’s observation about angels – that they can fly because they carry so little weight – applies to his own writings. ...

W. B. Yeats, in his Introduction to The Oxford Book of Modern Verse, recalled how the 1890s came to an end – “Then in 1900, everybody got down off his stilts; henceforth nobody drank absinthe with his black coffee; nobody went mad; nobody committed suicide; nobody joined the Catholic Church”. Oddie’s comment – “He was wrong about the Catholic Church of course” suggests that he has not quite caught Yeats’s tone. But maybe the joke tells us more than many more serious sentences about Chesterton.

Having abstained from the absinthe and, as in one of his funnier Ballades, decided not to hang himself, GK was perhaps never more “Nineties” than when he followed in the footsteps of Lionel Johnson, John Gray and Oscar Wilde himself, into the arms of Rome."

"Rome’s Reconciliation: Did the Pope heal, or deepen, the Lefebvrist schism?" by George Weigel

George Weigel in Newsweek has produced a thoughtful piece on the revocation of the excommunications of the four schismatic bishops which has caused controversy this week.

His explanation of the background to the " SSPX Four" helps explain the difficult decision which confronted the Holy Father.

But his conclusion is disturbiing and worrying. Or are we seeing the signs of the foundations for a new constitution for the Church: not unitary, but more federal or confederal.

"Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, the pope's spokesman, emphasized to reporters on Jan. 24 that the lifting of the excommunications did not mean that "full communion" had been restored with the Lefebvrists.

The terms of such reconciliation are, presumably, the subject of the "talks" to which Bishop Fellay referred in his letter.

Those talks should be interesting indeed.

For it is not easy to see how the unity of the Catholic Church will be advanced if the Lefebvrist faction does not publicly and unambiguously affirm Vatican Council II's teaching on the nature of the church, on religious freedom, and on the sin of anti-Semitism.

Absent such an affirmation, pick-and-choose cafeteria Catholicism will be reborn on the far fringes of the Catholic right, just when it was fading into insignificance on the dwindling Catholic left, its longtime home."

Church Fashion Show

In Westpoint, Devon priests in the Church of England have staged a fashion show for "religious clothing".

"The ecclesiastical event was a showcase of the latest designs of religious gowns in various colours, patterns, shapes and textures.

Several priests acted as 'models' to strut the cat walk in front of hundreds of clergy at the exhibition .

One model, The Rev James Hutchings, said: "I've done nothing like this before. It has certainly caused lots of laughs in the parish.

"My children thought it was hilarious. They probably won't ask me back. My pirouette was terrible."

All of which is terribly reminiscent of the famous "Clerical Fashion Show" in Fellini`s Roma (1972) above.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Blessed are...

Gaetano Callani 1736-1809
Statue of Beatitude, the Peacemaker
18th century
Sant' Antonio Abate
Parma, Emilia-Romagna, Italy


Blessed are the peacemakers. Perhaps the importance and truth of the Beatitudes has never been more needed.

Callani was the prize pupil of Peroni

The German painter, Anton Raphael Mengs, met the Parma painter and sculptor Gaetano Callani, in 1774.

Callani`s reputation has not lasted as it should have.

One of his main works involved the restoration of the church of St. Anthony Abate in Parma. Ottavio and Giambattista Bettoli, on behalf of Pope Clement XIII Rezzonico, started construction work in 1759.

The origin of the church of is tied to the arrival of the Hospitaller monks of St. Anthony to Parma in the mid-14th century.

St. Anthony’s casket was embellished by beautiful sculptures by Callani

The above picture shows one of the figures made by Callani for the Church, each representing one of the Beatitudes.

His style is a mixture of Rococco and Neoclassicism.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Coroners and Justice Bill 2008-09

While everyone`s attention is presently engrossed in the Recession/Depression, the House of Commons has on 26 January 2009 given a Second Reading to the Coroners and Justice Bill 2008-09

The official summary of the Bill states that it is a Bill:

"to amend the law relating to coroners and to certification and registration of deaths; to amend the criminal law; to make provision about criminal justice and about dealing with offenders; to make provision about the Commissioner for Victims and Witnesses; to make provision relating to the security of court and other buildings; to make provision about legal aid; to make provision for payments to be made by offenders in respect of benefits derived from the exploitation of material pertaining to offences; to amend the Data Protection Act 1998; and for connected purposes. "


Hidden in the middle of the huge Bill are Clauses 46 to 48 and Schedule 10.

These unhighlighted parts amend the Suicide Act 1961`s provisions in regard to encouraging or assisting suicide.

The Government in its commentary states:

"Clause 46 replaces the substantive and attempt offences with a single offence expressed in terms of “encouraging or assisting” the suicide or attempted suicide of another person.

The clause modernises the language of the current law with the aim of improving understanding of this area of the law. It is in line with the case law relating to the existing substantive and attempt offences.

The clause does not change the scope of the current law."
(emphasis added)

One hopes that the Bill goes through as presently drafted and that there are no attempts to "liberalise" the provisions to allow the assisting of suicide.


Emblems

Andrea Alciati (1492-1550):
MEDIOLANUM . Emblema II. pag. 54
from The Book of Emblems ( Antverpiae: Ex officina Christophori Plantini, 1577)[Ed.: Claude Mignault; 1536-1606]
13,8 x 8,7 cm

Andrea Alciati (1492-1550):
Silentium. Emblema XI. pag. 89
from The Book of Emblems ( Antverpiae: Ex officina Christophori Plantini, 1577)[Ed.: Claude Mignault; 1536-1606]
13,8 x 8,7 cm


Andrea Alciato's Emblematum liber or Book of Emblems had enormous influence and popularity in the 16th and 17th centuries.

It is a collection of 212 Latin emblem poems, each consisting of a motto (a proverb or other short enigmatic expression), a picture, and an epigrammatic text. Alciato's book was first published in 1531.

For more information see The Glasgow University Emblem Site

For a translation and commentary on some of the emblems, see

"Claude Mignault of Dijon: Theoretical Writings on the Emblem: a Critical Edition, with apparatus and notes."By Denis Drysdall

The Holocaust



Sir Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth has explained why the Holocaust is not a matter which should be denigrated. And why all faiths must stand together against hatred


"When the Archbishop of Canterbury and I led a mission of leaders of all the faiths in Britain to Auschwitz in November, we did so in the belief that the time has come to strengthen our sense of human solidarity. For the Holocaust was not just a Jewish tragedy but a human one. Nor did it happen in some remote corner of the globe. It happened in the heart of Europe, in the culture that had given the world Goethe and Beethoven, Kant and Hegel. And it can happen again. Not in the same place, not in the same way, but hate still stalks our world.

Nine years ago, when a National Holocaust Memorial Day was first mooted, Tony Blair asked me for my views. I said that I felt the Jewish community did not need such a day. We have our own day, Yom Hashoa, which is, for us, a grief observed. All of us, literally or metaphorically, lost family in the great destruction. All of us are, in some sense, survivors. To be a Jew is to carry the burden of memory without letting it rob us of hope and faith in the possibility of a world at peace.

But such a day might be valuable to all of us, Jew and non-Jew alike, were two conditions satisfied. The first was that, without diminishing the uniqueness of the Holocaust, we might use it to highlight other tragedies: Bosnia, Cambodia, Rwanda and now Darfur. The second was that the day was taken into schools. For it is our children and grandchildren who must carry the fight for tolerance into the future, and we must make sure that they recognise the first steps along the path to Hell.

It was the Holocaust survivors who taught me this. I cannot imagine what they went through. Yet trauma did not turn them inward. They, more than anyone, empathised with victims of subsequent tragedies, and went into schools, teaching children to cherish freedom and be prepared to fight for it. They remain my role models in turning personal pain into sensitivity to the pain of others. About one Holocaust Memorial Day, in 2004, I was initially apprehensive. The organisers rightly chose to focus on the massacre in Rwanda ten years before. How, I wondered, would 80-year-old Central Europeans relate to young survivors from Africa? My concerns turned out to be utterly misplaced. One survivor instinctively recognises another across the barriers of colour, culture, age and creed.

Six months later Mary Kayetesi Blewitt, the remarkable woman who has led the work with the survivors in Rwanda, came round to see me bubbling with excitement. For years, she said, she had been working in obscurity, aided mainly by the Jewish community. Now, because of the prominence given to her work by Holocaust Memorial Day, she had been voted an international woman of the year. The Queen had invited her to Buckingham Palace and the British Government had given a large grant to build Aids clinics in Kigali.

Hence our decision to go to Auschwitz with leading British Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Zoroastrians and Bahai. Grief has the power to unite. Of the 6,000 languages spoken throughout the world today, only one is truly universal: the language of tears. And now, when the tectonic plates on which humanity stands are shifting, leading to violence, conflict and terror throughout the world, we must take a stand against hate - the theme of this year's commemoration.

Never in my lifetime have we needed that message more. All the danger signs are flashing: financial meltdown, recession and a sense that “things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world”. Anti-Semitism is only a small part of the problem. Instantaneous global communication ensures that conflicts anywhere can light fuses everywhere. The internet is the most powerful spreader of hate and paranoia invented.

The world has become more unstable and confusing. At such times people search for certainties, . They rally round scapegoats and slogans that simplify. They resolve complex issues into polarities: us and them, the children of light versus the children of darkness, friends and enemies, the saved and the damned. People lose faith in the long, slow process of conflict resolution. They lose the very precondition of justice: the ability to hear both sides. They see themselves as victims and identify someone else to blame.

Academics, who should be guardians of objectivity, become partisan and instigate boycotts. That is what happened in Germany in the 1930s. The greatest philosopher of his time, Martin Heidegger, was a Nazi. Doctors and scientists administered the Final Solution. Carl Schmitt, an anti-Semite, a Nazi, and the leading political thinker of his day, held that liberalism is too weak to sustain passion and conviction at times of crisis. For him, real politics is about identifying an enemy and a cause you are willing to die for. That is how it is in parts of the world today. It must not become the way it is in Britain.

We, the religious leaders and faith communities of Britain, must work hard at our friendship and stand together in this turbulent age. Our visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau was organised by the Holocaust Educational Trust. As we stood together that chill November night, lighting candles and saying prayers where 1.25 million people were gassed, burnt and turned to ash, we knew to the core of our being where hate, unchecked, can lead. We cannot change the past. We can, and must, change the future. For the sake of the victims, for the sake of our children, and for the sake of God, whose image we bear."


Monday, January 26, 2009

Jesus, Symbol of God

Chiesa on line has an interesting article on the publication this month of an order by the Vatican that the Jesuit theologian Roger Haight should stop teaching theology anywhere, including non-Catholic institutions, and not to publish books and essays on theological subjects.

According to the article, the reasons for the sanctions are important.

"The reasons given in support of Haight's condemnation are not insignificant. The 2004 notification lists them meticulously.

In the judgment of the Vatican authorities, Haight uses a theological method that subordinates the content of the faith to its acceptability on the part of postmodern culture. And for the objective realities defined by the articles of the Creed, it substitutes symbols.

The result is the loss of substance of key truths of the Christian faith like the preexistence of the Word, the divinity of Jesus, the Trinity, the salvific value of the death of Jesus, the unicity and universality of the salvific mediation of Jesus and of the Church, the resurrection of Jesus.

On each of these points, the Vatican notification says how and why Haight contradicts Catholic doctrine.

Haight has always cooperated with the sanctions he has received, although he has delayed this somewhat. He will soon leave his professorship at the Union Theological Seminary in New York. And he is preparing a new written response to send to the Holy See.

At the Vatican, they are seriously concerned about this case.

They do not believe that it is at all confined to academic circles. Haight is a theologian with a significant capacity for communication, he is appreciated by the "liberal" culture extensively present in the media, and enjoys widespread support within the Church, especially in the Society of Jesus.

Of the last seven theologians scrutinized by the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, four are Jesuits. In addition to Haight, the others are Anthony De Mello, Jacques Dupuis, and Jon Sobrino, the last of these a leading exponent of liberation theology. "


The condemnation in 2004 by the then Cardinal Ratzinger is here on the Vatican website.

Reliquary or salt cellar ?



Affabel Partridge (fl.1554-79).
Reliquary c.1551
The Poor Clare Nuns of Much Birch, Hereford


The Victoria and Albert Museum in London presently have on display "The Poor Clare's Reliquary" (above).

Scholars are divided as to whether:

1. it was made as a reliquary or a salt cellar;
2. was it made by the Royal Goldsmith Affabel Partridge, at a time when Catholics in England were being persecuted

In 1737, the vessel was given to the Poor Claes in Rouen. In 1741 it was made into a reliquary to house relics given to the Convent in Rouen by James Stuart, the Old Pretender.

It is thought by some that Partridge may have intended the vessel to be a reliquary but disguised it as a salt cellar to throw the anti-Catholic authorities off the scent.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

St Eustace



The Legend of St Eustace, [painting].(detail)
Canterbury Cathedral , England



Titian (about 1487-1576)
St Eustace c.1515
Drawing: black chalk
216.000 mm x 316.000 mm
The British Museum, London



Today I was on a trip to Canterbury Cathedral in Kent, always a pleasant and interesting experience.

On a visit to Canterbury Cathedral in Kent, one cannot miss a medieval wall painting of the Life of St Eustace. St Eustace was a very popular saint especially in medieval times. Now the position is otherwise.

Eustace was a Roman martyr who, while secretly hunting on Good Friday, converted to Christianity on seeing this stag with a crucufux in its antlers.

He was immediately converted, had himself and his family baptised, and changed his name to Eustace (meaning "good fortune" or "fruitful"). A series of calamities followed to test his faith.

He refused to make a pagan sacrifice. The emperor, Hadrian, condemned Eustace, his wife, and his sons to be roasted to death inside a bronze statue of a bull or an ox, in the year AD 118

The story was popularised in Jacobus de Voragine's "Golden Legend"

Now regarded as legend, his name was removed from the Catholic calendar.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Mariazell

The Gnadenkapelle in The Mariazell Basilica, home to the miraculous statue of Mary


The Mariazell Basilica (also the Basilica Mariä Geburt or in English the Basilica of the Birth of the Virgin Mary)in Austria is, according to Pope Benedict XVI one of the most important places of pilgrimage in Europe.

Legends give the date of the founding of the town as December 21, 1157, but it is first documented in 1243.

Pilgrims were already making their way to the Marian sanctuary in the 12th century.

Larger numbers of pilgrims are documented beginning around 1330, when a secular court imposed a "Zellfahrt" ('Zell journey) as atonement for its criminals.

A Marian altar was dedicated there in 1266.

The Basilica of the Mariä Geburt dates from the fifteenth century

In 1907, the pilgrimage church was elevated to a basilica minor.

The Holy Father said that:

"Mariazell is much more than a 'place,'" [It also represents] "the living history of a pilgrimage of faith and prayer down the centuries."

Yet, he added: "It is not only the prayers and invocations of men that are present, but rather a real answer is also present.

"We feel that the answer exists, that we do not extend a hand toward something unknown, that God exists, and that, through his mother, he wants to remain particularly close to us.

The Pope recalled that the Virgin of Mariazell has received important titles throughout history, like "great mother" of Austria and of the Slavic towns, in this sanctuary visited by thousands of people during the centuries, until Mariazell was even considered the spiritual center of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

However, he added, the Virgin shows us that greatness does not arise from the quality of being unattainable.

He explained that Mary's "greatness is evident precisely in the fact that she addresses herself to the smallest, that she is present for them, that we can turn to her at any moment without having to pay an entrance fee, just with our hearts."

This greatness has nothing to do with "exterior majesty," the Pontiff continued, but rather with "goodness of heart that offers to all the experience of what it means to be together."

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Saint Vincent of Saragossa

Scenes from the Passion of Saint Vincent of Saragossa and the History of His Relics, 1244–1247
French; From the Church of St. Germain-des-Prés, Paris
Pot-metal glass with vitreous paint; 147 x 43 1/2 in. (373.4 x 110.5 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Grande Chapelle de la Vierge, Saint-Germain-des-Prés, c.1244–47, from A. Lenoir, ‘Statistique monumentale de Paris’, 3 vols, Paris, 1867, I, pl. XII.


Saint Vincent is an exemplar of Christian piety in defiance of pagan authority. He was the Protomartyr of Spain, the earliest known Spanish martyr.. He suffered death in AD 304.

The account of the Passion of St Vincent of Saragossa appeared as early as 400 in the Peristephanon (‘Crowns of Martyrdom’), a collection of poems by the Spanish Christian writer Prudentius of Calahorra.

It was also recounted in the Legenda Sanctorum or Golden Legend, an anthology of saints’ lives collected by the Bishop of Genoa, Jacobus de Voragine in the 1260s

Saint Vincent was born at Saragossa. Under the direction of Valerius, Bishop of Sargossa, Vincent made great progress in his studies.

He was ordained deacon and commissioned to do the preaching in the diocese, the bishop having an impediment of speech.

By order of the Governor Dacian he and his bishop were dragged in chains to Valencia and kept in prison for a long time.

Then Valerius was banished, but Vincent was subjected to many cruel torments, the rack, the gridiron, and scourgings. He was again imprisoned, in a cell strewn with potsherds. He was next placed in a soft and luxurious bed, to shake his constancy, but here he expired.

The monks of Saint-Germain-des-Prés held a special devotion for Vincent—their abbey had been founded to receive a relic of the saint's tunic, which had been transported from Spain by the Merovingian king Childebert I.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Borradaile Triptych



The Borradaile Triptych
Three hinged ivory panels depicting the Crucifixion of Christ and saints
Byzantine, 10th century AD
Height: 270.000 mm (centre panel)
Width: 157.000 mm (centre panel)
Height: 270.000 mm (centre panel)
Width: 157.000 mm (centre panel)
Thickness: 10.000 mm (leaves)
The British Museum, London



The Borradaile Triptych is named after Charles Borradaile, who purchased it in 1905/6and later bequeathed it to The British Museum.

It was said to have come from a convent in Rheims, northern France

The centrepiece is Christ on the Cross, who is flanked by the Virgin Mary and St John the Evangelist.

Other saints and angels include: Archangels Michael and Gabriel, Saints George, Theodore Stratilates and Eustathius

Most Byzantine ivories were gilded and coloured but only scant traces survived of their surface colouring. It seems that ivory carving declined or totally disappeared in Byzantium after the 12th century.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Pope Benedict XVI to get his own Google channel ?



Richard Owen from Rome reports that the Vatican is to announce details at the end of this week for a joint venture with Google to give Pope Benedict XVI his own channel

The Vatican said texts and video footage of the Pope's speeches supplied by Vatican radio and television would be posted directly onto the channel.

"However the Jesuit magazine, Civilta Cattolica, warned that the web holds dangers as well as benefits, noting that Internet social networking sites such as Facebook were no substitute for human contact.

Writing in the magazine Father Antonio Spadaro, who belongs to Facebook, said the site "incarnates a utopia: that of always staying close to those people we care about in one way or another, and of getting to know others who are compatible with us".

"Like every Internet reality that directly involves human life, desires, tensions and relationships, Facebook is also a place where faith and religiosity are expressed and have their relevance," he said.

The presence of priests on Facebook was "not irrelevant," and Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, the Archbishop of Naples, had swiftly accumulated Facebook's maximum of 5,000 friends.

But there was a serious risk of people being isolated at their computers for hours on end, Father Spadaro warned. People were tempted to "collect" friends."

I wonder if a Papal blog cannot be far off ? Perhaps called Papal Blessings ?

The quest for a perfect embroyo



The Sunday Times has an interesting piece on the the future of prenatal testing based on the announcement in the British Journal of Psychology that high levels of testosterone in the womb were linked to babies having a higher risk of developing autistic traits.

"The news last week that prenatal testing for autism might be on the cards was rather spun out of shape: we are not on the verge of a test — not right now, anyway – but work by the Autism Research Centre at Cambridge University shows we are heading that way.

The team found that babies exposed to high levels of testosterone in the womb had a higher risk of developing autistic traits. Previous research had shown that high levels of testosterone were associated with less eye contact by a child’s first birthday, slower language development by their second birthday, more peer difficulties by their fourth birthday and more difficulties with empathy by their sixth birthday.

The new study, reported in an article for the British Journal of Psychology, links testosterone to poor social skills and imagination and good attention to, and memory for, detail, as well as a love of repetition. The findings all seem to be heading towards one conclusion, which is (to paraphrase and condense wildly) that autism is a sort of extreme form of the “male brain”.

Discussing the findings, Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, director of the centre, said: “It is important to note that this research does not demonstrate that elevated foetal testosterone is associated with a clinical diagnosis of autism or Asperger’s syndrome; to do that would need a sample size of thousands, not hundreds. Our ongoing collaboration with the Biobank in Denmark will enable us to test that link in the future.”

This last sentence was used to suggest that pregnant women will soon be able to undergo tests that detect autism in their unborn child, just as embryos can be tested for Down’s syndrome. But autism is not straightforward, by which I mean it doesn’t boil down to a single gene doing odd things, or duplicating itself, or having bits of material slide off it. "

Friday, January 16, 2009

One setting: different pictures

Fleury-François Richard (b. 1777, Lyon, d. 1852, Ecully)
La Chartreuse de St Bruno 1822
Oil on canvas 47.5,x. 34 cm
Musée de Grenoble, Grenoble


Fleury-François Richard (b. 1777, Lyon, d. 1852, Ecully)
Death of the Prince de Talmont
1823
Oil on canvas, 82 x 56 cm
Private collection


Fleury François Richard was a painter of the École de Lyon. A student of Jacques-Louis David, Fleury-Richard and his friend Pierre Révoil were precursors of the Troubador style

He was passionate about history and fascinated by medieval chivalry and the Renaissance

However one setting could be used for illustrating different themes or compositions.

The painting Death of the Prince de Talmont depicts the death of Charles de la Trémoille, Prince of Talmont and Mortagne after the battle of Marignano in 1515.

The scene is a fictional account of the event, the setting being the Saint Martin d’Ainay, the oldest surviving church in Lyons.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Example of St Anthony

Martin Schongauer, (1435-1491)
The Temptation of St Anthony (The saint tormented by devils), 1470s
Copperplate engraving
312mm x 230mm
The British Museum, London


The Life of St Anthony the Abbot is known through the biography of Athanasius of Alexandria written about 356 to 362

Athanasius`s book in translation can be accessed here.


The stories have inspired great works of art and literature.

This interpretation by Schongauer was renowned and copied endlessly by contemporaries and beyond.

Michelangelo as a boy was said to have copied it in colour, and Dürer re-used the figure of the devil with a club above Anthony in one of his greatest engravings, Knight, Death and the Devil.

In about 1512, Antonite monks at the hospital in nearby Isenheim commissioned their great altarpiece of the Crucifixion by Matthias Grünewald which includes a panel of the same scene.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

From the Comfort of Your Own Home



Rogier van der Weyden (1399/1400 – June 18, 1464)
Descent of Christ from the Cross c. 1435
Oil on oak panel 220 x 262 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid


Fourteen of the Prado's most famous paintings, including Diego Velazquez's "Las Meninas," Francisco de Goya's "Third of May" and Peter Paul Rubens' "The Three Graces." can now be seen with greater clarity and greater detail all from the comfort of your own home.

The Prado has teamed up with Google Earth so that one can now examine the masterpiecs in the most minute detail.

A Google spokesman said: "The paintings have been photographed in very high resolution and contain as many as 14,000 million pixels (14 gigapixels).

"With this high level resolution you are able to see fine details such as the tiny bee on a flower in The Three Graces (by Rubens), delicate tears on the faces of the figures in The Descent from the Cross (by Rogier van der Weyden) and complex figures in The Garden of Earthly Delights (by Bosch)."

She added of what Google Earth is calling the "Prado layer": "The Google Earth Prado layer also includes 3D models which allow you to fly around the Prado buildings to experience the museum as if you were actually there."

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Paris Mitre









Bishop`s mitre 14th century
Silk, gold leaf, silver leaf, pearls
Paris made
0.73m x 0.30m
Collection Alexandre Lenoir
Musée national du Moyen Âge, Paris


This beautiful mitre was probably made in Paris in the 14th century.

The work and materials in the making of this symbol of office underlines the importance of the office at the time.

A Bishop`s Mitre









Bishop`s mitre
1350-1370
Silk and ink from China
0.35m x 0.31m
Trésor de la Sainte-Chapelle de Paris
Musée national du Moyen Âge, l'hôtel des abbés de Cluny, Paris


This mitre was part of the treasure of the Sainte-Chapelle de Paris. Fortunately it survived the pillaging of the French Revolution.

The main scene represented is that of Christ being placed in the tomb.

Other scenes include that of the Resurrection.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Hilary Term

Antonio Allegri (1489 - 1534)
Saint Hilary (first half of sixteenth century)
Drawing 20.6cm x 23.4 cm (for representation on cupola in Parma Cathedral)
Musée du Louvre département des Arts graphiques, Paris



Hilary Term is the second academic term of Oxford University's and Dublin University's academic year. It runs from January to March and is so named because the feast day of St Hilary of Poitiers, 14 January, falls during this term.

The Courts of England and Wales still divide the legal year into four terms: one of which is Hilary Term.

In a General Audience on 10th October 2007 Pope Benedict discussed the life of St Hilary of Poitiers "a great Father of the Church of the West".

"To the Arians he insisted on the truth of the names of Father and Son, and developed his entire Trinitarian theology based on the formula of Baptism given to us by the Lord himself: "In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit".

In 1851 Blessed Pius IX proclaimed him a Doctor of the universal Church.


Of him and his teaching, Pope Benedict XVI said:

"God the Father, being wholly love, is able to communicate his divinity to his Son in its fullness.

I find particularly beautiful the following formula of St Hilary:

"God knows not how to be anything other than love, he knows not how to be anyone other than the Father. Those who love are not envious and the one who is the Father is so in his totality. This name admits no compromise, as if God were father in some aspects and not in others" (De Trinitate., 9, 61).

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Baptism of Christ

Francesco di Bosio Zaganelli (b. 1470/80 - 1532)
The Baptism of Christ 1514
Oil on wood
200.7 x 190.5 cm.
The National Gallery, London


"We have just heard the account of the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan.

It was a different Baptism from that which these babies are about to receive but is deeply connected with it.

Basically, the whole mystery of Christ in the world can be summed up in this term: "baptism", which in Greek means "immersion".

The Son of God, who from eternity shares the fullness of life with the Father and the Holy Spirit, was "immersed" in our reality as sinners to make us share in his own life: he was incarnate, he was born like us, he grew up like us and, on reaching adulthood, manifested his mission which began precisely with the "baptism of conversion" administered by John the Baptist. Jesus' first public act, as we have just heard, was to go down into the Jordan, mingling among repentant sinners, in order to receive this baptism. John was naturally reluctant to baptize him, but because this was the Father's will, Jesus insisted (cf. Mt 3: 13-15).

Why, therefore, did the Father desire this? Was it because he had sent his Only-Begotten Son into the world as the Lamb to take upon himself the sins of the world (cf. Jn 1: 29)?

The Evangelist recounts that when Jesus emerged from the waters, the Holy Spirit descended upon him in the form of a dove, while the Father's voice from Heaven proclaimed him "my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased" (Mt 3: 17).

From that very moment, therefore, Jesus was revealed as the One who came to baptize humanity in the Holy Spirit: he came to give men and women life in abundance (cf. Jn 10: 10), eternal life, which brings the human being back to life and heals him entirely, in body and in spirit, restoring him to the original plan for which he was created.

The purpose of Christ's existence was precisely to give humanity God's life and his Spirit of love so that every person might be able to draw from this inexhaustible source of salvation. This is why St Paul wrote to the Romans that we were baptized into the death of Christ in order to have his same life as the Risen One (cf.Rom 6: 3-4).

For this reason Christian parents, such as you today, bring their children to the baptismal font as soon as possible, knowing that life which they have communicated calls for a fullness, a salvation that God alone can give. And parents thus become collaborators of God, transmitting to their children not only physical but also spiritual life.

MASS IN THE SISTINE CHAPEL AND ADMINISTRATION OF THE SACRAMENT OF BAPTISM: From the HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, Sunday, 13 January 2008




Francesco di Bosio Zaganelli (b. 1470/80 - 1532) also called Francesco da Cotignola studied Ferrarese painting

He shared a workshop in Cotignola with his brother Bernardino Zaganelli. Both were much influenced by the Ferrarese painter Erocole de' Roberti and the Bolognese painter Lorenzo Costa.

Francesco is documented in Ravenna from 1513, with his wife and orphaned niece, and from this period dates the Baptism (signed and dated 1514; London, National Gallery), painted for part of an altarpiece from the Laderchi chapel in S. Domenico, Faenza.

The painting is Inscribed: HIC/ EST FILIVS/ MEVS DILECTVS [This is my beloved son [in whom I am well pleased]]; and, ECCE/ AGNVS/ DEI [Behold the lamb of God].

His treatment of subjects was imaginative and could possibly be described sometimes as "eccentric". Some of the figures in the above painting are not the usual ones depicted in this theme.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Baptism of Christ

Andrea di Michele di Cione called Le Verrocchio (Florence, 1435 - 1488)
The Baptism of Christ 1472-5
Oil on wood
177 × 151 cm
Uffizi Gallery, Florence



Commissioned by the monastery church of San Salvi in Florence, where it remained until 1530, the picture was executed in the workshop of Andrea del Verrocchio, whose style is well defined by the figures of Christ and the Baptist.

The special fame of the work is due to the pupil who helped him paint it. The blond angel on the left and parts of the landscape background belong to the hand of the very young Leonardo da Vinci, who was in Verrocchio's workshop around 1470.

Some critics ascribe the second angel to another young Florentine artist, Sandro Botticelli.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

An Icon of the Renaissance



















Raffaello Sanzio
(Urbino, 1483 – Rome, 1520)
Lo sposalizio della Vergine/The Marriage of the Virgin 1504
Oil on board, cm 170x118
Pinacoteca di Brera. Scuole dell’Italia centrale e meridionale, Milano


The Brera in Milan has one of the iconic paintings of the Renaissance: The Marriage of the Virgin (Lo sposalizio della Vergine) by Raphael

The panel (signed and dated: RAPHAEL URBINAS MDIIII) was commissioned by the Albizzini family for the chapel of St Joseph in the church of S. Francesco of the Minorities at Città di Castello, in Umbria.

The painting was painted while Raphael was in Perugia. he had not yet made his residencies in Florence and Rome.

In Perugia, the cult of the relic of the holy ring was strong.The relic of the holy ring, which was stolen in 1473 from Chiusi by a German Franciscan and brought to Perugia, and it quickly became the city's prize possession.

The painting is obviously influenced by his master`s Perugino`s Marriage of the Virgin now in Caen. which was placed in the chapel dedicated to Saint Joseph in which it was placed in the Cathedral of Perugia in 1484.

Raphael's altarpiece was also for a St. Joseph chapel, and was commissioned in distinct emulation of the one in Perugia, but in Citta di Castello there was no relic of the holy ring

The circular temple is a complex echo of the unifying figure of the ring,

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Massacre of the Innocents

Léon Cogniet (Paris, 1794 - Paris, 1880)
Scène du massacre des Innocents/ Scene from the Massacre of the Innocents
1824
Oil on canvas
265 x 235 cm
Musée des beaux-arts de Rennes, Rennes


This painting was displayed in the Salon of 1824, beside Delacroix`s Massacres de Scio.

Cogniet`s treatment of the Massacre of the Innocents was original and aroused attention at the time.

He suggested the drama rather than a full depiction of the horrific scene.

In the front of the painting is the mother is huddled in the corner of an old wall with her child, her hand over the infant`s mouth trying to keep it quiet.

The horror of the drama can be seen behind not far in the distance.

The effect is one of suspense.