Saturday, June 09, 2012

La Gloria, Charity and Matthew 5:8

Vecellio di Gregorio Tiziano
(active about 1506; died 1576)
La Gloria (sometimes known as The Trinity in Glory)
1551 - 1554
Oil on canvas
346 cm x 240 cm
Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

The subject of the painting is sometimes described as The Trinity. Titian at various times called the picture both La Trinità  and Il Paradiso . Charles V in his last will and testament referrred to the painting as The Last Judgment. 

The Last Judgment is probably more apt. It represents the time when time comes to an end and eternity begins. The Son is about to hand over the Kingdom to God  to the Father. The Son will fully reveal the Form of God. The justified (or Elect ?) will finally see the face of God and know Him

The work is dominated by the Trinity: God the Father and Son, with the Holy Ghost in the form of a dove, are seen at the top of the work. All eyes are towards Him, them, It

Below are the Virgin and  Saint John the Baptist

A special place of honour at the right hand of God is reserved for the Virgin

Further below are Ezekiel (on an eagle), Moses with the tablets, Noah with the Ark, possibly  Mary Magdalene and King David, from left to right

The painting was commissioned by the Imperial Emperor Charles V for the purpose of private devotion and it was sent from Venice to the Emperor in 1554. 

That explains the presence of the Emperor and the main members of his Court (as well as Titian and his friend Aretino) among the other members of the Elect in the image

In his will  the Emperor ordered that a high altar should be erected containing this painting. 

However one does not need to obey Emperors after their deaths. The  painting later went into one of the chapter rooms in the Escorial. For many eyes the painting did seem to lack humility and appears to be over presumptious.

The work was very influential as can be seen from Tintoretto`s The Last Judgment (1560-62) in the Madonna dell'Orto in Venice, Carlo Saraceni `s Paradise (1598) in The Metropolitan Museum in New York

Who are these Elect pictured by Titian? The people who are being allowed to gaze on the Trinity on the Last Day ? Those of the pure of heart, according to Scripture.

Christ said:
"8 Beati mundo corde, quoniam ipsi deum uidebunt
8 Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God
Matthew 5:8 is cited five times in the great treatise by St Augustine on the Trinity: De Trinitate

For Augustine, the sole aim of man`s existence on earth: is to see the face of God, to contemplate and to know God

The presence of the Old Testament prophets and patriarchs in the painting is significant but not surprising. These people are regarded as saints by the Catholic Church and we read of them in the Liturgy  in the Scripture readings as well as the Canon of the Mass

For Augustine, their experiences with God were theophanies, encounters with the form and power of God.

The theophanies of God in the Old Testament did not reveal the substance of God, for that can not be seen by the human eye. St Augustine in paragraph 18 of the Third Tractate on the Gospel of John writes:

"18. But know this, that all those things which were seen in bodily form were not that substance of God. For we saw those things with the eyes of the flesh: how is the substance of God seen? Interrogate the Gospel: Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God. Matthew 5:8  
There have been men who, deceived by the vanity of their hearts, have said, The Father is invisible, but the Son is visible. How visible? If on account of His flesh, because He took flesh, the matter is manifest. For of those who saw the flesh of Christ, some believed, some crucified; and those who believed doubted when He was crucified; and unless they had touched the flesh after the resurrection, their faith would not have been recalled.  
If, then, on account of His flesh the Son was visible, that we also grant, and it is the Catholic faith; but if before He took flesh, as they say, that is, before He became incarnate, they are greatly deluded, and grievously.  
For those visible and bodily appearances took place though the creature, in which a type might be exhibited: not in any fashion was the substance itself shown and made manifest.  
Give heed, beloved brethren, to this easy proof.  
The wisdom of God cannot be beheld by the eyes. Brethren, if Christ is the Wisdom of God and the Power of God; 1 Corinthians 1:24 if Christ is the Word of God, and if the word of man is not seen with the eyes, can the Word of God be so seen?"

The search to see the face of God runs throughout The Old Testament.

But did  not Moses while alive  see the face of God ? Not according to St Augustine. In Tractate 3 on the Gospel of John, he writes:

"What did Moses see? 
 Moses saw a cloud, he saw an angel, he saw a fire. All that is the creature: it bore the type of its Lord, but did not manifest the presence of the Lord Himself.  
For you have it plainly stated in the law: And Moses spoke with the Lord face to face, as a friend with his friend. Following the same scripture, you find Moses saying: If I have found grace in Your sight, show me Yourself plainly, that I may see You.  
And it is little that he said this: he received the reply, You can not see my face.  
An angel then spoke with Moses, my brethren, bearing the type of the Lord; and all those things which were done by the angel promised that future grace and truth."

The divine theophanies of the patriarchs and prophets in the Old Testament radically changed them. Their appearances became luminous (Moses` shining face).They  are given new names (Abram-Abraham, Jacob-Israel, Saul-Paul). They are entrusted with divine missions. Their encounter with the holy changes them radically.  But they do not yet see the face of God

And so of King David  in the Old Testament we read of his groaning to see the face of God:
"2 As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God. 
3  My being thirsts for God, the living God. When can I go and see the face of God? 
4 My tears have been my food day and night, as they ask daily,"Where is your God?" "
Titian has painted a Johannine vision of Revelation and The Trinity.

In John 1:15-18 , we have the prophetic words of St John the Baptist, the great forerunner:

"15 John testified to him and cried out, saying, "This was he of whom I said, 'The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.'"  
16 From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace 
17 because while the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  
18 No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God,  who is at the Father's side, has revealed him."
John 1:15-18

But Man`s quest to see the face of God did not finish on Mount Sinai. Or on Mount Tabor.

After John the Baptist, there had to follow the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, the Ascension and Pentecost.

Titian and the Emperor would have been familiar with two authorities.

“If you see Charity, you see the Trinity”, wrote Saint Augustine (De Trinitate, VIII, 8, 12: CCL 50, 287)

And  Chapter 4 of The First Letter of John 

"7 Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. 
8 Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.  
9 In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him. 
10 In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins. 
11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another.  
12 No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us. 
13  This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us, that he has given us of his Spirit 
14 Moreover, we have seen and testify that the Father sent his Son as saviour of the world. 
15 Whoever acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God remains in him and he in God.  
16 We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us. God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him. 
17 In this is love brought to perfection among us, that we have confidence on the day of judgment because as he is, so are we in this world. 
18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.  
19 We love because he first loved us. 
20 If anyone says, "I love God," but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God  whom he has not seen. 
21 This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother."