Monday, August 20, 2012

The Year of Faith: «Tu es Christus, Filius Dei vivi»

Giovanni di Tommas (known as Masaccio) (1401-1428)
Predella  of an altarpiece called The Pisa Altarpiece: The Martyrdom of Saint Peter 
Oil on poplar wood
0.210 m. x 0.610 m
Gemäldegalerie (SMPK), Berlin

Masaccio painted this work for an altarpiece commissioned for Santa Maria del Carmine, the Carmelite church in Pisa

It was executed for the chapel  of Saint Julian for a wealthy notary, Giuliano di Colino degli Scarsi in 1426

The price was the sum of 80 florins

Ser Guiliano was also  a member of the Opera (OPA -still in existence today), the organisation in charge of the care and maintenance of Pisa Cathedral

In 1428, in the Florentine catatasto (tax assessment), he declared a net worth of 497 florins. 

Therefore on the face of it one sixth of the notary`s wealth went to this painting.

However one should bear in mind that tax avoidance in Italy is not a new phenomenon

There were strong links between the Carmelite convent in Pisa and the mother house in Florence where Masaccio painted his famous work for the Brancacci Chapel in Santa Maria del Carmine

The main fresco cycle was The Life of St Peter which he painted including a Crucifixion of St Peter which was destroyed when alterations were made in connection with the reconsecration of the chapel to the Madonna del Popolo

The Pisa Predella is perhaps the only evidence what it may have looked like

The present Crucifixion of St Peter in the Brancacci Chapel is by Filippino Lippi (1457 -. 1504) below. On the left the first figure is probably a self portrait of Lippi. On the right the figure looking toward the viewer is probably Sandro Botticelli 

Filippino Lippi (1457 -. 1504) 
Crucifixion of Peter 
Fresco, 230 x 598 cm
Cappella Brancacci, Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence

The Crucifixion of St Peter is one of the most important and powerful images in Catholic iconography. One recalls the frescoes of Michelangelo in The Pauline Chapel in the Vatican. It recalls the preservation of True Faith and its handing down ("traditio") from the Apostles and through Peter and his successors

When Pope John Paul I became Pope the first thing he did was to enter the private Chapel of the Pontifical Household. He noticed that his predecessor the late Pope Paul VI had had a mosaic made: the Crucifixion of St Peter

Under the mosaic were engraved  the words of Christ: 
"I will pray for you, Peter, that your faith may never fail." (Luke 22:32)
In his Apostolic Letter of 11 October 2011, Porta fidei, Pope Benedict XVI declared a Year of Faith

It commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council,  (11 October 1962), and the twentieth anniversary of the promulgation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (11 October 1992). 

One of the fruits of the Council has been the frequent convocation of  the Synod of Bishops, first by  Paul VI, in 1965

The next General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, to be held in October 2012, will have as its theme: The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith

Benedict also recalled  the first Year of Faith in 1968 called by Pope Paul VI. 

That year was to commemorate the 1900th anniversary of the martyrdoms of Saints Peter and Paul

It ended with the promulgation of The Credo of the People of God

In the last months of his life in 1978 (what he called "il tramonto" - the sunset), Pope Paul`s mind again returned to the importance of Faith. It is a pity that these homilies and addresses are only in French, Italian and Spanish. There are no translations on the Vatican website into English or German. 

These speeches are very moving. It was almost as if he knew he was dying and he wanted to render his final accounts of his stewardship

His last homily was on 29th June 1978. It was the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul and was also the 15th anniversary of his election as Pontiff. It also discussed at length The Second Vatican Council and the measures he had enacted to put into effect what the Council required and also those measures to put down that which threatened the deposit of faith. 

Of the Credo of The People of God, he said that he considered it to be one of the most important acts of his Pontificate. Its purpose was to:
"per ricordare, per riaffermare, per ribadire i punti capitali della fede della Chiesa stessa, proclamata dai più importanti Concili Ecumenici, in un momento in cui facili sperimentalismi dottrinali sembravano scuotere la certezza di tanti sacerdoti e fedeli, e richiedevano un ritorno alle sorgenti."

He explained what is meant by Fides - The Faith and in doing so referred to the inscription underneath the mosaic of The Crucifixion of St Peter which he had installed for his private chapel and which was noticed almost immediately by Pope John Paul I:

"Faith is not the result of human speculation (cf 2 Peter 1, 16) but the "deposit" received from the Apostles, those men who had heard it spoken by Christ whom they had "seen, contemplated and listened to" (1 John 1, 1-3). 
This is the faith of the Church, the apostolic faith 
The teaching received from Christ remained intact in the Church through the presence within it of the Holy Spirit and by the special mission entrusted to Peter, for whom Christ had prayed: «Ego rogavi pro te ut non deficiat fides tua» (Luke 22, 32) and to the College of Apostles in communion with him: «qui vos audit me audit» (Ibid. 10, 16). ... 
And the nucleus of this faith is Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, confessed by Peter in this way: «Tu es Christus, Filius Dei vivi» (Matth. 16, 16). "