Monday, June 30, 2008

Evening Prayer

Clarence Gagnon 1881-1942
Evening Prayer 1928-1933
Oil on paper 19.4 x 20.6 (cm)
McMichael Canadian Art Collection. Kleinburg, Ontario

Gagnon was born in a small village north of Montreal and educated in Montreal and Paris.

He is known primarily as a painter of rural scenes (especially winter ones) and as a book illustrator.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Vespers at St Paul`s

Pope Benedict XVI and Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I arrive to lead Vespers at the St. Paul`s Basilica in Rome June 28, 2008.

At 6 pm Roman time at the Roman Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, Pope Benedict XVI, in the company of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I and representatives of other Christian denominations, arrived in procession to the atrium.

The procession continued to the presbytery of the Basilica, where Pope Benedict descended to the Apostle's tomb under the altar.

The Pope expressed his joy for the “ecumenical nature” of the opening ceremony of the Pauline year.

As reported by the Catholic News Agency, The Holy Father delivered a homily to mark the beginning of the Year:

"“Who was this Saint Paul?” asked the Pope. He described him using the saint's own words: “Teacher of the people, apostle and herald of Jesus Christ, this is how he portrays himself in a retrospective look on the course of his life. But his gaze looks not only to the past. His phrase “teacher of the people” is opento the future, to all the peoples and all generations.

“Paul is not simply a figure of the past, who we remember with veneration. He is also a teacher, apostle and herald of Jesus Christ for us as well.”

The Pope then explained that “we are therefore gathered not to reflect on a past history,” because “Paul wants to talk to us today. That is why I have desired to convoke this Pauline Year: to listen to him and to learn from him today, as our teacher, 'the faith and the truth' in which are rooted the reasons for the unity of the disciples of Christ.”

He then quoted the letter of the Apostle To the Galatians: “I live in the faith of the Son of God, who has loved me and given himself for me” (Gal 2:20).

“Everything that Paul does starts from this core. His faith is the experience of being loved by Jesus Christ in a completely personal manner. His faith is the recognition of the fact that Christ has confronted death not for someone unknown, but for love of him, Paul, and that, since He is Risen, He loves him still,” Pope Benedict explained.

The Holy Father also explained that in his life, Paul “never looked for a superficial harmony.”

“The truth was for him too great to be sacrificed for an external success. The truth he had experienced in the encounter with the Risen Christ very much deserved the struggle, the persecution, the suffering.”

“But what most deeply motivated him,” Pope Benedict continued, “was the fact of being loved by Jesus Christ and the desire to transmit to others this love. Paul was someone capable of loving, and all his laboring and suffering is explained only from this core.”

The Holy Father then explained what he said was one of Saint Paul's key words: Freedom.

“The experience of being loved to the core by Christ opened his eyes to the truth and to the way of human existence. It was an experience that totally embraced him. Paul was free as a man loved by God, a man who, by virtue of God, was capable of loving with Him. This love is now 'the law' of his life and therefore the freedom of his life.”

“Freedom and responsibility are here united in an inseparable way. Because there is responsibility in love, he is free; because he is someone who loves, he lives completely in the responsibility of this love and does not take freedom as a pretext for arbitrariness or selfishness.”

Pope Benedict then explained that, in the conversion experience of St. Paul, when God tells Paul that he is persecuting God Himself by persecuting Christians, “Jesus identifies Himself with the Church as one single object.

It is this revelation of the Risen Christ that transformed Paul's life, and in which is contained all of the teachings about the Church as the body of Christ... The Church is not an organization that wants to promote a certain cause. In her, it is not about a cause. It is about the person of Jesus Christ, who, even though He is Risen, has remained 'flesh'”

This, Pope Benedict said, “becomes today an urgent request: it brings us back together from all divisions. It is still a reality today: here is one bread, therefore we, though many, are one single body.”

Finally, the Holy Father explained that “the call to become the teacher of the people is at the same time also intrinsically a call to suffering in the communion of Christ, who has redeemed us through His Passion. In a world where falsehood is so powerful, the truth is redeemed through suffering.

Whoever wants to avoid and keep away suffering keeps away life itself and its greatness; he cannot be a servant of the truth and therefore a servant of the faith. There is no love without suffering, without the suffering of self-renunciation, transformation and purification of the self by the real truth. Wherever there is nothing worthy of suffering for, life itself loses its value.” "

A Year with St Paul

Theophanes the Greek (late 14th-early 15th century)
Icon of St. Paul c. 1405.
Tempera on wood. 211 x 121 cm.
Icon from the Deesis Range of the Iconostasis of the Annunciation Cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin,

As part of the Year of St Paul, the Bishops of England and Wales and the Westminster Diocese are preparing a number of events. Various websites have been set up with lots of material about the life and works of St Paul. The following is a selection:

The Catholic Church in England and Wales

Case Resources for The Year of St Paul

Thinking Faith

Diocese of Westminster: The Pauline Year 2008-2009

The BBC (Religion and Ethics): Life of St Paul

El Coloso

El Coloso sits in the Prado Museum. By Goya. Well, not any more, apparently The Independent on Sunday reports that the famous painting was instead painted by a pupil of Goya.

"Francisco de Goya's arresting image of a brooding giant rising above a stampede of terrified people and animals has held pride of place for decades in Madrid's Prado museum.

But in an announcement set to raise a storm in the art world, the museum said yesterday that the celebrated El Coloso was not by the Spanish master after all, and was probably painted by a pupil in his studio.

In a devastating critique, the museum's chief Goya specialist said the painting, made during Napoleon's occupation of Spain after 1808 and long seen as one of the artist's most dramatic portrayals of the horrors of war, was "a pastiche".

"Stylistically, it is completely alien to Goya," said Manuela Mena, the Prado's senior Goya specialist who has studied El Coloso and doubts over its attribution for nearly 20 years. She also revealed doubts over at least three other Goyas held by the Prado.

The admission comes two months after The Independent broke the news of the polemic surrounding the iconic painting on the eve of the Prado's blockbuster Goya exhibition.

Yesterday Ms Mena, presenting the conclusions of a meeting of international specialists in Madrid, described El Coloso as photogenic, attractive and influenced by Goya. But she said it could not have been his work.

"The person who painted the bulls in El Coloso knew nothing about the anatomy of a bull – which Goya knew everything about," Ms Mena said. "The donkey looks like a furry toy, nothing like Goya's perfectly executed donkeys of the same period. None of the details correspond to the Goya we know."

The British art historian Nigel Glendinning has long argued that Goya painted El Coloso, because of the strength of the composition, its audacious centrifugal dynamism. "I have no objection to authenticity being challenged, but we need arguments backed up by facts," Professor Glendinning said. "I look forward to studying the findings in detail." "

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Year of Paul

Mosaic and Shrine to St Paul at Veria, Greece

In a Homily delivered last year (Thursday, 28 June 2007) at St Paul Outside-the-Walls, Pope Benedict XVI set out what he envisaged of the Pauline Year just about to start:

"This evening we turn our gaze to St Paul, whose relics are preserved with deep veneration in this Basilica.

At the beginning of the Letter to the Romans, as we have just heard, St Paul greeted the community of Rome, introducing himself as "a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle" (1: 1). He uses the term "servant", in Greek, doulos, to indicate a relationship of total and unconditional belonging to the Lord Jesus; moreover, it is a translation of the
Hebrew, 'ebed, thus alluding to the great servants whom God chose and called for an important and specific mission.

Paul knew he was "called to be an apostle", that is, that he had not presented himself as a candidate, nor was his a human appointment, but solely by a divine call and election.

The Apostle to the Gentiles repeats several times in his Letters that his whole life is a fruit of God's freely given and merciful grace (cf. I Cor 15: 9-10; II Cor 4: 1; Gal 1: 15).

He was chosen to proclaim "the Gospel of God" (Rom 1: 1), to disseminate the announcement of divine Grace which in Christ reconciles man with God, himself and others.

From his Letters, we know that Paul was far from being a good speaker; on the contrary, he shared with Moses and Jeremiah a lack of oratory skill. "His bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account" (II Cor 10: 10), his adversaries said of him.

The extraordinary apostolic results that he was able to achieve cannot, therefore, be attributed to brilliant rhetoric or refined apologetic and missionary strategies.

The success of his apostolate depended above all on his personal involvement in proclaiming the Gospel with total dedication to Christ; a dedication that feared neither risk, difficulty nor persecution.

"Neither death, nor life", he wrote to the Romans, "nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (8: 38-39).

From this we can draw a particularly important lesson for every Christian. The Church's action is credible and effective only to the extent to which those who belong to her are prepared to pay in person for their fidelity to Christ in every circumstance.

When this readiness is lacking, the crucial argument of truth on which the Church herself depends is also absent.

Dear brothers and sisters, as in early times, today too Christ needs apostles ready to sacrifice themselves. He needs witnesses and martyrs like St Paul. Paul, a former violent persecutor of Christians, when he fell to the ground dazzled by the divine light on the road to Damascus, did not hesitate to change sides to the Crucified One and followed him without second thoughts. He lived and worked for Christ, for him he suffered and died. How timely his example is today!

And for this very reason I am pleased to announce officially that we shall be dedicating a special Jubilee Year to the Apostle Paul from 28 June 2008 to 29 June 2009, on the occasion of the bimillennium of his birth, which historians have placed between the years 7 and 10 A.D.

It will be possible to celebrate this "Pauline Year" in a privileged way in Rome where the sarcophagus which, by the unanimous opinion of experts and an undisputed tradition, preserves the remains of the Apostle Paul, has been preserved beneath the Papal Altar of this Basilica for 20 centuries.

It will thus be possible to have a series of liturgical, cultural and ecumenical events taking place at the Papal Basilica and at the adjacent Benedictine Abbey, as well as various pastoral and social initiatives, all inspired by Pauline spirituality.

In addition, special attention will be given to penitential pilgrimages that will be organized to the Apostle's tomb to find in it spiritual benefit. Study conventions and special publications on Pauline texts will also be promoted in order to make ever more widely known the immense wealth of the teaching they contain, a true patrimony of humanity redeemed by Christ.

Furthermore, in every part of the world, similar initiatives will be implemented in the dioceses, shrines and places of worship, by Religious and by the educational institutions and social-assistance centres which are named after St Paul or inspired by him and his teaching.

Lastly, there is one particular aspect to which special attention must be paid during the celebration of the various moments of the 2,000th Pauline anniversary: I am referring to the ecumenical dimension.

The Apostle to the Gentiles, who was especially committed to taking the Good News to all peoples, left no stones unturned for unity and harmony among all Christians.

May he deign to guide and protect us in this bimillenial celebration, helping us to progress in the humble and sincere search for the full unity of all the members of Christ's Mystical Body. Amen."

The Beginning of the Pauline Year

Caravaggio, (Michelangelo Merisi) (b. 1571, Caravaggio, d. 1610, Porto Ercole)
The Conversion on the Way to Damascus
Oil on canvas, 230 x 175 cm
Cerasi Chapel, Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome

The Basilica of St Paul outwith the Walls is hosting a special website to mark the beginning of The Pauline Year.

The Year long celebration marks the 2000th anniversary of the birth of the "Apostle to the Gentiles"

The Basilica is the last resting place of St Paul the Apostle`s remains.

On 30th June 2008, Pope Benedict XVI will be at the Basilica to mark the beginning of the Pauline Year.

For more about the Abbey of St Paul outwith the Walls and its history, you may wish to visit the Abbey website

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Miserere mei, Deus

"Miserere mei, Deus, secundum misericordiam tuam.

These words which I pronounced at the moment in which with trepidation I accepted election as Supreme Pontiff, I now repeat at a time in which knowledge of the deficiencies, of the failures, of the sins committed during so long a pontificate and in so grave an epoch has made more clear to my mind my insufficiency and unworthiness . . .

I pray those whose affair it is not to bother to erect any monuments to my memory: sufficient it is that my poor mortal remains should be laid simply in a sacred place . .."

Pope Pius XII (1876-1958): Last Will and Testament

The Times reported that the Vatican has launched initiatives to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Pius XII.

"Monsignor Salvatore Fisichella, rector of the Lateran University, which is co-hosting the commemorations, said the aim was to "clarify the complexity" of his career. Monsignor Fisichella, who replaced Monsignor Elio Sgreccia as head of the Pontifical Academy for Life and was promoted to archbishop, said the image of Pius XII as indifferent to Jewish persecution by the Nazis persisted "depite the evidence" because of "collective inertia".

Monsignor Walter Brandmuller, head of the pontifical historical committee, said Pius XII's career was "too often seen in terms of politics rather than his Petrine ministry".

Giovanni Maria Vian, editor of L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, said he hoped a "more rounded" picture of Pius XII would emerge.

The Pius XII conference in November, organised by the Lateran and Gregorian Pontifical Universities, will focus on the pontiff's 43 encyclicals and his spiritual and doctrinal teachings, or Magisterium, rather than his wartime role.

Vatican officials said that the emphasis will be on the "continuity" between his thought and the reforms of the Second Vatican Council convened by his successor, Pope John XXII."

The Coronation of the Virgiin

Jean Fouquet or Jehan Fouquet (1420 - 1481)
The Coronation of the Virgin 1461
From The Heures d'Étienne Chevalier
Musée Condé, Chantilly, Oise

At morn- at noon- at twilight dim-
Maria! thou hast heard my hymn!
In joy and woe- in good and ill-
Mother of God, be with me still!

When the hours flew brightly by,
And not a cloud obscured the sky,
My soul, lest it should truant be,
Thy grace did guide to thine and thee.

Now, when storms of Fate o'ercast
Darkly my Present and my Past,
Let my Future radiant shine
With sweet hopes of thee and thine!

Edgar Allan Poe (January 19, 1809 – October 7, 1849)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Second World War in Italy

Prato, North of Florence, 1945

Michael Howard reviews two books in The Times Literary Supplement about the Italian campaign in the Second World War. He asks the question: was it worth it.

"During the Italian campaign in the Second World War the Allied forces lost over 300,000 men, the Germans perhaps half a million.

Probably over a million Italians were killed or wounded, to say nothing of the destruction inflicted on virtually every town and village between Sicily and the Po Valley.

No battlefield could have been worse chosen. For nearly two years the Allied armies had to fight for mountain after mountain, hill after hill, in a theatre that might have been specifically designed for defensive war.

The decision to invade the Italian mainland was taken at only six weeks’ notice, and had to be carried out by armies neither equipped nor trained for the mountain warfare that lay ahead of them.

Likewise, the decision to defend the peninsula was made only after the campaign had begun, when the German commander on the spot, Albert Kesselring, persuaded Hitler to abandon the original intention to pull back to the Apennines and allow him to defend the mountains south of Rome.

The result was two years of fighting in a theatre at best secondary, and one in which the Allies always found themselves at a disadvantage. Was it worth it? ...

James Holland’s ["ITALY’S SORROW: A year of war, 1944–1945"] gives full value to the Italian dimension of the campaign, and as his title suggests, this was not a happy one.

In parallel with the conflict between the Allied and German armies that was ravaging their country, the Italians were fighting their own civil war.

South of Rome they could do little but keep their heads down and survive as best they could – survival at a very marginal level, and, in Naples, in an environment of ruin, starvation, criminality and disease. But further north a Fascist government of a kind survived, if only as a mask for German Occupation – and a government often supported, as Holland makes clear, by many Italians who thought it dishonourable to betray their allies. But there also existed a resistance movement that grew in strength as the Allies advanced further north and as German conscription of labour drove more young men into the maquis.

It was a movement that the Allies supported inadequately and tentatively, and the Germans suppressed with an efficient brutality learned on the Eastern Front. Holland is very fair also to the Germans: apart from explicit orders emanating from Hitler, which they disobeyed at their peril, they could hardly fight while their communications were being harassed by francs-tireurs.

But the methods they used turned Italian dislike into detestation, while the failure of the Allies to provide more help resulted in an abiding mistrust that the Communist Parties were able effectively to exploit after the war."

In any discussion about the role of Pope Pius XII in the Second World War and after, it is perhaps too easy to forget the historical context of the decisions taken by him. The background was Italy. He was in Rome. He was Bishop of Rome.

The war in Italy led to nearly 2 million casualties and ravaged the whole peninsula as it became the battleground of rival forces over a number of years.

After the War, there was civil war. When peace was established, it was touch and go as to whether Italy would go Communist.

Pius XII remains an enigmatic figure. One awaits a biography of the man that would do justice to the man and the history of his times.


Cardinal Angelo Scola, the Patriarch of Venice, has called on the Islamic world to allow individual Muslims "the freedom to convert" to Christianity, arguing that this does not threaten Islamic identity.

The Times reports that:

"At an inter-faith meeting in religious freedom organised in Amman, the capital of Jordan, by the Venice-based Oasis Centre, Cardinal Angelo Scola, the Patriarch of Venice said that no-one, "not even Muslims", had the right to impose "the identity of community" to the point where it "violates the human freedom of the individual, included the freedom to convert".

Oasis was founded by Cardinal Scola five years ago to create an international network promoting inter-faith dialogue.

Speaking at the conference, attended by over 80 delegates from 20 countries, he said that "in our globalised society, tension between religious freedom and the traditional identity of a people is becoming more and more troubling."

This was not in itself new, as "the rich history of Venice and its millenial relationships with the Muslim Levant" showed. ...

Vatican officials said that Cardinal Scola had met Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad of Jordan during the conference to pave the way for the first Catholic-Muslim Forum, convened by Pope Benedict and to be held in October in Rome.

Hasan Abû Ni'mah, head of the Jordanian Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies, said that dialogue between the world's great faiths based on common moral and human values was the only alternative to a "clash of civilisations" involving "war, death, violence and terrorism". "

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Patriarch of Alexandria

Icon of Sts Athanasius the Great and Cyril of Alexandria ,
Early 14th century
Possibly from Byzantium, Athos (?).
Tempera on panel. 43.5 x 34 x 2.5 cm
State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

Pope Pius XII published an Encyclical on St Cyril of Alexandria. It was called ORIENTALIS ECCLESIAE.

It was published on 9th April 1944 (Easter Sunday), while the Second World War was still in progress

"1. St. Cyril, Patriarch of Alexandria, glory of the Eastern Church and celebrated champion of the Virgin Mother of God, has always been held by the Church in the highest esteem, and We welcome the opportunity of recalling his merits in this brief Letter, now that fifteen centuries have passed since he happily exchanged this earthly exile for his heavenly home.

2. Our Predecessor St. Celestine I hailed him as 'good defender of the Catholic faith, 'as 'excellent priest,' as 'apostolic man.' The ecumenical Council of Chalcedon not only used his doctrine for the detecting and refuting of the latest errors, but went so far as to compare it with the learning of St. Leo the Great; and in fact the latter praised and commended the writings of this great Doctor because of their perfect agreement with the faith of the holy Fathers.

The fifth ecumenical Council, held at Constantinople, treated St. Cyril's authority with similar reverence and many years later, during the controversy about the two wills in Christ, his teaching was rightly and triumphantly vindicated, both in the first Lateran Council and in the sixth ecumenical Council, against the false charge of being tainted with the error of Monothelitism. He was, as Our saintly Predecessor Agatho proclaimed, 'a defender of the truth' and 'a consistent teacher of the orthodox faith.' ...

6. The faithful of the Eastern rite not only count St. Cyril among the 'ecumenical Fathers,' but also honor him with the deepest veneration in their liturgical prayers. Thus the Greeks chant in the Menaia of the 9th June:

Enlightened in mind by the flames of the Holy Spirit, thou hast uttered oracles even as the sun sends forth its rays. To the ends of the earth and to all the faithful thy teaching has gone forth, O most blessed Saint, illuminating all sorts and conditions of men, and dispelling darkness of heresy by the power and strength of that Light who was born of the Virgin.

7. And the sons of the Eastern Church have every right to rejoice and take pride in this holy Father as one who is peculiarly and especially their own.

For he is above all pre-eminent in those three qualities which have so greatly distinguished the other Fathers of the East:

an outstanding sanctity of life, marked by a specially ardent devotion to the august Mother of God;

exceptional learning, such that the Sacred Congregation of Rites, by a decree of the 28th July, 1882, declared him a Doctor of the Universal Church;

and finally an energetic zeal in fearlessly repelling the attacks of heretics, in asserting the Catholic faith, and in defending and spreading the Gospel to the full extent of his power .

8. But our great joy in the deep veneration which all the Christian peoples of the East have for St. Cyril is mingled with an equal regret that not all of them have come together into that desired unity of which he was the ardent lover and promoter.

And especially do We deplore that this should be so at the present time, when it is above all necessary that all Christ's faithful ones should labor together in heart and endeavor for union in the one Church of Jesus Christ, so that they may present a common, serried, united, and unyielding front to the daily growing attacks of the enemies of religion.

9. For this to be brought about it is absolutely necessary that all should take St. Cyril as their model in striving for a true harmony of souls, a harmony established by that triple bond which Christ Jesus, the Founder of the Church, willed to be the supernatural and unbreakable link provided by Him for binding and holding together:

the bond of one faith, of one charity towards God and all men, and of one obedience and rightful submission to the hierarchy established by the Divine Redeemer Himself.

As you know full well, Venerable Brethren, these three bonds are so necessary that, if any one of them be lacking, true unity and harmony in the Church of Christ is unthinkable.

10. Throughout the troubled times of his life on earth the Patriarch of Alexandria taught all men, both by word and by conspicuous example, how this true harmony is to be achieved and steadfastly maintained - and We would have him do this also today."

Saint Cyril of Alexandria

Ignaz Franz Platzer 1717 -1787
Statue of Saint Cyril of Alexandria (18th cent.)
Church of Saint Nicholas in Lesser Town, Prague

In Saint Peter's Square, Rome on Wednesday, 3 October 2007, Pope Benedict XVI gave a talk on Saint Cyril of Alexandria.

Here is some of what he had to say.

" Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today too, continuing our journey following the traces left by the Fathers of the Church, we meet an important figure: St Cyril of Alexandria.

... Cyril was later defined as "the guardian of exactitude" - to be understood as guardian of the true faith - and even the "seal of the Fathers". These ancient descriptions express clearly a characteristic feature of Cyril: the Bishop of Alexandria's constant reference to earlier ecclesiastical authors (including, in particular, Athanasius), for the purpose of showing the continuity with tradition of theology itself.

He deliberately, explicitly inserted himself into the Church's tradition, which he recognized as guaranteeing continuity with the Apostles and with Christ himself.

Venerated as a Saint in both East and West, in 1882 St Cyril was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope Leo XIII, who at the same time also attributed this title to another important exponent of Greek Patristics, St Cyril of Jerusalem.

...In the second of Cyril's letters to Nestorius (PG 77, 44-49), written in February 430, we read a clear affirmation of the duty of Pastors to preserve the faith of the People of God.

This was his criterion, moreover, still valid today: the faith of the People of God is an expression of tradition, it is a guarantee of sound doctrine.

This is what he wrote to Nestorius:

"It is essential to explain the teaching and interpretation of the faith to the people in the most irreproachable way, and to remember that those who cause scandal even to only one of the little ones who believe in Christ will be subjected to an unbearable punishment".

...Cyril's writings - truly numerous and already widely disseminated in various Latin and Eastern translations in his own lifetime, attested to by their instant success - are of the utmost importance for the history of Christianity.

His commentaries on many of the New and Old Testament Books are important, including those on the entire Pentateuch, Isaiah, the Psalms and the Gospels of John and Luke. Also important are his many doctrinal works, in which the defence of the Trinitarian faith against the Arian and Nestorian theses recurs.

...The Christian faith is first and foremost the encounter with Jesus, "a Person, which gives life a new horizon" (Deus Caritas Est, n. 1). St Cyril of Alexandria was an unflagging, staunch witness of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word of God, emphasizing above all his unity, as he repeats in 433 in his first letter (PG 77, 228-237) to Bishop Succensus:

"Only one is the Son, only one the Lord Jesus Christ, both before the Incarnation and after the Incarnation. Indeed, the Logos born of God the Father was not one Son and the one born of the Blessed Virgin another; but we believe that the very One who was born before the ages was also born according to the flesh and of a woman".

Over and above its doctrinal meaning, this assertion shows that faith in Jesus the Logos born of the Father is firmly rooted in history because, as St Cyril affirms, this same Jesus came in time with his birth from Mary, the Theotò-kos, and in accordance with his promise will always be with us.

And this is important: God is eternal, he is born of a woman, and he stays with us every day. In this trust we live, in this trust we find the way for our life. "

Mordecai Ardon

Mordecai Ardon 1896-1992
Ein Karem 1944.
Oil on canvas.
The Israel Museum. Jerusalem. Israel.

Mordecai Ardon 1896-1992
Stones of the Ancient Wall 1962.
Oil on canvas.
Collection Mrs. Audrey Sacher. London. England and Caesarea. Israel

Mordecai Ardon (July 13, 1896 - June 18, 1992), is considered one of Israel's greatest painters.

Ardon was born in Tuchow, Galicia (then Austria-Hungary, now Poland), and immigrated to Palestine in 1933

For more about the life and work of Mordecai Ardon, see Menachem Wecker: Mordecai Ardon - Symbols without significance and the Mordecai Ardon Official website

Monday, June 23, 2008

Romanesque Architecture and Sculpture

I received a very kind comment from Juliana Lees, the webmaster of a fascinating site on Romanesque Architecture and Sculpture. The site is called The Green Man of Cercles

The site obviously is the product of the great deal of work and effort which Mrs Lees and her husband have expended on this subject. If one didn`t know much about the subject before visiting the site, one will not have the same problem afterwards.

The pictures in picasweb could probably be used profitably on a university course on the subject, and knowing the net, probably will.

Perhaps some might be put off by the references in Romanesque art to pagan sources. One should not. Christian artists simply employed the art and symbols of their day and "Christianised" them.

I hope you enjoy the site as much as I did.

P.S. I would have sent a private note to Mrs Lees, but unfortunately she did not give me her e-mail address and there does not appear to be a way to contact her via her website.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Master's degree on Architecture, Sacred Art and Liturgy at the European University of Rome

Design for St. Agnes Church, Manhattan, New York by Architects Dino Marcantonio and Riccardo Vicenzino see marcantonio website

In an interview with Father Uwe Lang, a member of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, Zenit reports on a new Master's degree on Architecture, Sacred Art and Liturgy at the European University of Rome

Father Lang is the Director of the new program.

""Today more than ever, the Church needs to proclaim to the world the beauty of God that shines in the works of art that the faith has generated," Father Lang affirmed.

"Great masterpieces of sacred art and music have been born in the Church, which have the power to raise our hearts and lead us beyond ourselves to God, who is beauty itself."

Father Lang, who authored "Turning Towards the Lord: Orientation in Liturgical Prayer" (Ignatius Press, 2005), said, "Sacred art is directed to the praise and glory of God and, at the same time, is popular, because it must and can be understood and touch the hearts of the faithful, also of the simple faithful."

Referring to the importance that the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church gives to sacred art and to the use of the many works of art as a vehicle of the mysteries of the faith, Father Lang stressed that "today more than ever, in the civilization of image, the sacred image can express much more than the word itself, given that its dynamism of communication and transmission of the Gospel message is exceedingly effective."

However, Father Lang lamented, sacred art is in crisis: "a crisis of the deepest roots, a crisis that has swept away, even before art, beauty itself, of which it should be the bearer. The very concept of 'fine arts,' of which the conciliar Constitution on Sacred Liturgy speaks, is debated."

Quoting Hans Urs von Balthasar, Father Lang stressed that "together with the loss of the beautiful, the good and the true have also been lost."

"On one hand," he said, "there is a false kind of beauty that does not raise us to God and his Kingdom, but instead drags us down and awakens disordered desires." And on the other there is a need to oppose what Remo Bodei has called "the apotheosis of the ugly," which affirms that "everything that is beautiful is deceitful and that only the representation of what is raw is the truth."

"This cult to the ugly does no less damage to the Catholic faith than false beauty," Father Lang observed.

Recalling the words of Fyodor Dostoevsky, according to whom "the world will be saved by beauty," the priest specified that the author did not refer to just any beauty but instead to "the redeeming beauty of Christ."

St. John the Baptist by Leonardo

Leonardo da Vinci, (April 15, 1452 – May 2, 1519)
St. John the Baptist 1513-1516
Oil on walnut wood
69 × 57 cm, 27.2 × 22.4 in
Musée du Louvre, Paris

Completed from 1513 to 1516, when the High Renaissance was metamorphosing into Mannerism, it is believed to be Leonardo`s last painting.

Ein Kerem

By tradition, the village of Ein Kerem is the birthplace of St John the Baptist. It is five miles from Jerusalem.

The area of Ein Kerem, (known to the ancient Hebrews as Beit Kerem), was renamed Arene (the mountainous) by the Romans. The Crusaders called it Montana, because it stands hidden in the highest Judean Hills.

Ein Kerem is firmly identified with the City of Judah, where John the Baptist was born to Elizabeth and Zechariah.

See The My Holy Land Website

Friday, June 20, 2008

English Apocalypse

Unfinished Miniature Representing The Commentary On Revelation 12:17-18, in 'The Abingdon Apocalypse' Manuscript MS 42555, f.38r
Language: Latin and French
The British Library, London

Unfinished Miniature Representing The Commentary On Revelation, in 'The Abingdon Apocalypse' Manuscript MS 42555,
Language: Latin and French
The British Library, London

The Second Horseman Of The Apocalypse, In A Glossed Apocalypse
MS 35166, f.7v
Language: Latin
Ink, pigments, and gold on vellum, 28.5x21.5 centimetres
The British Library, London

The Fourth Horseman Of The Apocalypse, In A Glossed Apocalypse
MS 35166, f.8v
Language: Latin
Ink, pigments, and gold on vellum, 28.5x21.5 centimetres
The British Library, London

Apocalypses along with Books of Hours, Psalters and Bestiaries were amongst the most popular manuscripts used both by the clergy and the laity throughout the Middle Ages.

As a distinctive ‘genre of medieval art production and consumption’, the Apocalypse manuscripts were a strong political and social investment by the elite that also ‘functioned as powerfully active voices in shaping culture and participating in the formation of thirteenth century ideology.’ (Lewis, Suzanne. Reading images: narrative discourse and reception in the thirteenth century illuminated Apocalypse. Cambridge, 1995).

Inspired in large part by the prophetic writings of a Cistercian abbot who died in 1202, much of Europe believed that the end of the world would occur during the 13th century. One of the most widely anticipated dates was the year 1260 (subsequently amended to 1284, and then to 1290). Many surviving Apocalypse manuscripts date from the 1250s and 1260s.

Above are examples of the Anglo-Norman school of Apocalypse manuscripts referred to by Émile Mâle in the posts below.

'The Abingdon Apocalypse' takes its name from two added inscriptions: one states that it was given to the Benedictine abbey of St. Mary, Abingdon, by a bishop of Salisbury. The other records that it was lent by the abbot and convent of Abingdon in 1362 to Joan, wife of King David II of Scotland.

Of the first image, The British Library website says:

"In the middle of this scene is a bishop at an altar, with Christ above. To one side in the Virgin and Child and the Adoration of the Magi, to the other kings are being driven into a hell-mouth. Apparently the artist responsible for the green and brown hell-mouth also coloured the dog chasing a hare in the lower margin."
Of the second image, The British Library website says:

"St. John the Evangelist stands to the left of this image, watching the seven-headed dragon gives a sceptre to another seven-headed beast. "
Of the third and fourth images, the second and the fourth of the Four Riders of the Apocalypse are represented (Revelation 6:4). Of the fourth image above, the British Library website states:

"The fourth horse and rider witnessed by St. John were 'a pale horse: and he that sat upon him, his name was Death. And hell followed him' (Revelation 6:8). The artist has depicted Hell as a monster, with tormented human souls visible in its two mouths. "

Beatus of Liébana and Saint-Sever

Detail of The Second Seal
Beatus Liebanensis, Commentarius in Apocalypsin (The Commentary on the Apocalypse of Beatus, abbot of Liebana.)(Saint-Sever)
Beatus de Saint-Sever (11th Century, before 1072)
MS Latin 8878, Folio 109
Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des Manuscrits, Division occidentale, Paris

For more about the manuscript Saint Sever Beatus in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, as well as Beatus of Liébana see

The Abbey of Saint-Sever website

The Beatus de Saint-Sever website

Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Forgotten Spanish Apocalypse

The Second Seal
Beatus Liebanensis, Commentarius in Apocalypsin (The Commentary on the Apocalypse of Beatus, abbot of Liebana.)(Saint-Sever)
Beatus de Saint-Sever (11th Century, before 1072)
MS Latin 8878, Folio 109
Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des Manuscrits, Division occidentale, Paris

incipit explanatio libri quarti de equo albo. aperto primo sigillo cum dicat se vidisse equum album et aequitem et coronam et habentem in manu arcum

Legend :
nt ap quatrième sceau

Inscriptions :
agnus hic aperit quartum sigillum / johannes / tercium animal / unum de animalibus dicit johanni veni et vide / mors / equus pallidus et qui...

The Fourth Trumpet
Beatus Liebanensis, Commentarius in Apocalypsin (The Commentary on the Apocalypse of Beatus, abbot of Liebana.)(Saint-Sever)
Beatus de Saint-Sever (11th Century, before 1072)
MS Latin 8878, Folio 141
Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des Manuscrits, Division occidentale, Paris

Rubric :
incipit explanatio suprascriptae storiae. et quartus angelus tuba cecinit et percussa est tertia pars solis et tertia pars stellarum ezt tertia mars lunae ut obscuraretur tercia pars eorum et diei pareret et noctis

Legend :
nt ap quatrième trompette

Inscriptions :
quartus angelus tuba canit / sol / luna

Satan and the dragon conquered
Beatus Liebanensis, Commentarius in Apocalypsin (The Commentary on the Apocalypse of Beatus, abbot of Liebana.)(Saint-Sever)
Beatus de Saint-Sever (11th Century, before 1072)
MS Latin 8878, Folio 202v
Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des Manuscrits, Division occidentale, Paris

Rubrique :
incipit explanatio suprascriptae storiae. et vidi alium angelum descendentem de caelo

Legend :
nt ap satan & dragon immobilisés

Inscriptions :
ubi angelus ligavit draconem id est diabolum in abissum

Émile Mâle discussed the representation of the Book of Apocalypse in Medieval times. There were two schools: the Spanish; and the Anglo-Norman. The Anglo- Norman prevailed. Here Mâle discusses the Spanish school of depicting the Apocalypse, which was essentially a reflection of the Spanish society at the time. As most Apocalyptic visions are, the Spanish school reflected the crisis in Christian Spain.

"With childlike simplicity, the early miniaturists of the west tried to give a literal interpretation to passages from the Apocalypse. Of the two schools which seem to have worked at this subject the first is the Spanish school, which from the ninth to the twelfth century illuminated with crude colours the rude drawings accompanying the Commentary on the Apocalypse of Beatus, abbot of Liebana. M. Leopold Delisle has indicated the principal manuscripts of this group (manuscripts from Silos, Girone, Urgel, La Cogalla, &c.), of which the most beautiful the Apocalypse of Saint-Sever, is in the Bibliotheque Nationale.

All these manuscripts appear to derive from one original of the eighth or ninth century. The Spanish monks of Catalonia, Aragon or Navarre may have had the honour of being pioneers in the west of the illustration of the text of the Apocalypse. There was perhaps a certain harmony between the sombre poem and the Spanish temperament.

Their work though often rough is never crude. The figures in the Apocalypse of Saint-Sever stand out against a background of red or yellow like a fiery sunset, or sometimes against a band of quiet purple like a beautiful sky at night. Here and there are pages of considerable power, as for example the illustration of the eagle which flies in the midst of the stars crying, " Woe, woe, misery, misery," or the huge serpent covered with scales which is cast by an angel into the abyss.

By sheer force of simplicity the artist reached the sublimity of his text : " And I saw when the Lamb," says St. John, "opened one of the seals, and I heard as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, ' Come and see/ I saw and beheld a horse." The Spanish monk represents the winged lion flying towards St. John, taking his hand in his paw in a friendly way, and showing him a rider on a black horse.

Another school also attempted to illustrate the Apocalypse. Though its origin is somewhat obscure it certainly had its rise in England, for in a typical work of the school the manuscript is written in a French in which various Anglo-Norman idioms are used. We are far from the many coloured Apocalypses of Spain, for these miniatures are the work of artists with no real sense of colour. The backgrounds are white, and the drawing is merely covered with a slight wash. But each passage is literally rendered ; never were miniaturists more accurate or more loyal to their text. It is true that mystery vanishes, that the illimitable takes on a definite contour, and that the gigantic shrinks to human proportions, for their work though so estimable in other respects, is lacking in any element of the arresting, the rugged, the unexpected....

The [Anglo-Norman school] artist who first conceived these vigorous scenes [of the Apocalypse] , and drew them with a nervous pencil, worked for the future, for almost all works of art of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries devoted to the Apocalypse, whether miniatures, glass, or bas-reliefs, are indebted to him in greater or less degree.

No such far-reaching influence was exerted by the Spanish school, for the illustrated Apocalypses of northern Spain hardly went beyond the Pyrenees, and never imposed their sway on the artists' imagination. The Anglo-Norman Apocalypse on the contrary, after inspiring the painters and sculptors of the Middle Ages, was a source of inspiration to the wood-engravers of the fifteenth century....

The vitality of the work of the Anglo-Norman miniaturists is remarkable. If it were within our province, we should like to point out how the old forms were perpetuated in art until the end of the fifteenth century, and how inspiration was sought in the originals up to the time when Albrecht Dürer created a new apocalyptic type."

Émile Mâle , The Gothic Image: Religious Art of the Thirteenth Century in France - A Study in Mediaeval Iconography and its Sources of Inspiration (3rd edition, publ. 1913) (translated by Dora Nussey) (1958), pages 358-360 and 363

The Commentary on the Apocalypse (Commentaria In Apocalypsin) was originally an eighth century work by the Asturian monk and theologian Beatus of Liébana. Saint Beatus of Liébana (c. 730 - c. 800) was a monk, theologian and geographer from the Kingdom of Asturias, in northern Spain, who worked and lived in the Picos de Europa mountains of the region of Liébana, in what is now Cantabria.

Twenty six illuminated copies of the Commentary have survived. Well-known copies include the Morgan, the Saint-Sever, the Osma and the Madrid (Vitr 14-1) Beatus.

The Beatus have been the subject of extensive scholarly and antiquarian enquiry.

After 711 A.D., Spanish Christians found themselves being persecuted by Muslims. They could no longer practice their religion openly. Bells and processions were forbidden. Churches and monasteries were destroyed and were unable to be reconstructed. Persecutions often led to bloody outcomes.

The Apocalypse became a support for the Christian resistance. The symbolism in it took on a whole new meaning for them. The Beast, which had previously been believed to represent the Roman empire, now became the Califate, and Babylon was no longer Rome, but Córdoba.

The Apocalypse, which before had been interpreted as a prophecy of the end of Roman persecution, became the cry for Reconquista and a promise of deliverance and punishment.

The manuscript Beatus de Saint-Sever in the Bibliothèque nationale de France was made during the time that Grégoire de Montaner was Abbot of Saint-Sever (from 1028 to 1072). One of the scribes (and perhaps one of the painters) was Stephanius Garsia. It is likely,however, that there were several scribes and painters.

The pages measure 365 x 280 mm. The style is French Roman but some experts have seen influence also from Ireland.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Song of Songs

Gustave Moreau (born 6 April 1826 - died 18 April 1898)
The Song of Songs 1853
Oil on canvas
118 x 125 1/2 inches (300 x 319 cm)
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Dijon, Bourgogne, France

Gustave Moreau (April 6, 1826 – April 18, 1898) was a French Symbolist painter

He was an illustrator of biblical and mythological figures.

Moreau is regarded as one of the early Symbolist French painters.

In painting, Symbolism was a continuation of some mystical tendencies in the Romantic tradition. Some have seen Symbolism in painting as an outgrowth of the darker, Gothic, side of Romanticism

The Symbolist painters mined mythology and dream imagery for a visual language of the soul, seeking evocative paintings that brought to mind a static world of silence.

To try to understand what the modern Symbolists were trying to do, it is perhaps instructive to look back 700 years earlier to the Gothic Age when the medieval art of the time was dominated by symbols.

The following extract from Emile Male, The Gothic Image: Religious Art of the Thirteenth Century in France - A Study in Mediaeval Iconography and its Sources of Inspiration (3rd edition, publ. 1913) (translated by Dora Nussey) (1958), pages 22 and 29 may be helpful:

"From what has been said it is evident that mediaeval art was before all things a symbolic art, in which form is used merely as the vehicle of spiritual meaning.

Such are the general characteristics of the iconography of the Middle Ages. Art was at once a script, a calculus and a symbolic code. The result was a deep and perfect harmony. ...

Some attempt must be made to understand the mediaeval view of the world and of nature. What is the visible world ? What is the meaning of the myriad forms of life ? What did the monk dreaming in his cell, or the doctor meditating in the cathedral cloister before the hour of his lecture think of it all ? Is it merely appearance or is it reality ?

The Middle Ages were unanimous in their reply: the world is a symbol.

As the idea of his work is in the mind of the artist, so the universe was in the thought of God from the beginning. God created, but He created through His Word, that is, through His Son.

The thought of the Father was realised in the Son through whom it passed from potentiality to act, and thus the Son is the true creator. The artists of the Middle Ages, imbued with this doctrine, almost invariably represent the Creator in the likeness of Jesus Christ. The absence in the churches of any likeness of God the Father filled Didron with needless amazement and Michelet with mistaken indignation.

For, according to the theologians, God the Father created in principle, which is to say in verbo, that is by His Son.

Jesus Christ is at once Creator and Redeemer.

The world therefore may be defined as " a thought of God realised through the Word." If this be so then in each being is hidden a divine thought ; the world is a book written by the hand of God in which every creature is a word charged with meaning.

The ignorant see the forms the mysterious letters understanding nothing of their meaning, but the wise pass from the visible to the invisible, and in reading nature read the thoughts of God.

True knowledge, then, consists not in the study of things in themselves the outward forms but in penetrating to the inner meaning intended by God for our instruction, for in the words of Honorius of Autun, "every creature is a shadow of truth and life."

All being holds in its depths the reflection of the sacrifice of Christ, the image of the Church and of the virtues and vices.

The material and the spiritual worlds are one."

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Religious art

Could I recommend you go to RELIGIOUS ART by DANIEL MITSUI ?Beautiful and wonderful.

Fernand Khnopff

Fernand Khnopff (1858-1921)
The Temptation of St Anthony 1883
Oil on canvas
83 x 83 cm

Fernand Khnopff (1858-1921)
Requiem 1907,
Pencil, colored pencil, and watercolour on paper,
Hearn Family Trust

Fernand Khnopff (1858-1921)
Caritas Aeterna c.1917
Pencil on paper
8 3/4 x 3 7/8 inches (22.3 x 10 cm)
Museum of Fine Arts Ghent

Fernand Edmond Jean Marie Khnopff (September 12, 1858 in Grembergen near Dendermonde, Belgium - November 12, 1921 in Brussels, Belgium) was a Belgian symbolist painter and has long been considered the leading Belgian artist associated with symbolism.

At the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Bruxelles, his most famous fellow student was James Ensor, whom he disliked from the start.

Khnopff experimented in a variety of media.

Two years after exhibiting for the first time in 1881 in Brussels, he became a founding member of Les XX and La Libre Esthétique, two important and progressive artists’ groups.

From the 1890s on, Khnopff exhibited regularly in England, where he met Pre-Raphaelite painters William Holman Hunt, George Frederick Watts and others.

For him, art had to suggest the essential mystery behind the visible facts and facades.

Emile Verhaeren said of him: "In the end, he [Fernand Khnopff] had to arrive at the symbol, the supreme union of perception and feeling." (Emile Verhaeren, "Silhouettes d'artistes. Fernand Khnopff," L'Art moderne VI, number 37, 12 September 1886, p. 289.)

In The Temptation of St Anthony, one has to ask what is tempting St Anthony in this picture. He stands in profile. There are no demons or temptresses. He confronts a golden assymetrical light. Following Flaubert, the theme of the temptation of St Anthony was a popular theme in French art and literature at the time.

In Requiem, he used the interior of Santa Maria in Trastevere, in Rome, as a backdrop. The figure of an archangel stands guard, holding an orb and sceptre. To his right, hanging jewel-like from a chain, is a diminutive angel shimmering in a blue aura. Khnopff made it in the year his mother died.

Before and during the First World War (when Belgium was in occupation), he painted a number of explicitly religious works. Redemption through suffering is the theme of Caritas Aeterna.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Gregorian Chant

The following story from Sandro Magister`s website called "Gregorian Chant: How and Why It Was Strangled in its Own Cradle" perhaps illustrates a number of points.

1. The great difficulties which the present Pope will have in trying to re-establish Gregorian chant in Latin into the liturgy.

2. Some of the changes effected by Vatican II were "bottom up" rather than "top down". To blame everything which went wrong on Pope Paul VI is like trying to blame King Canute for not turning back the tide.

3. To effect reform, one should not jettison out the old but rather, build up on what has gone before.

4. The change effected at the time was by good people for good and honest reasons. It is only with the benefit of hindsight that we see that the implementation of the change was perhaps misguided.

The author, Fr. Guido Innocenzo Gargano, a Benedictine monk, recounts how his monastery, the Camaldolese Benedictine monastery of San Gregorio al Celio, in Rome, (which houses the marble throne of Pope Gregory the Great, the father of the liturgical chant typical of the Western Church, the one called "Gregorian") abandoned Gregorian chant in the mid-1960´s, and suddenly embraced new, improvised musical forms.

The transformation was lightning-quick, taking place practically overnight.

Fr. Guido Innocenzo Gargano, is the current prior of the monastery of San Gregorio.

"That Night, at San Gregorio...

by Guido Innocenzo Gargano

[...] The adoption of the vernacular in the celebration of the Divine Office came to the community like an explosion.

The chanting of the Divine Office in the vernacular signified an irreparable break with one of our most sacred traditions, observed for centuries by all of Western Latin monasticism: Gregorian chant. [...]

It was all insinuated into the Camaldolese community by the intense debate in the council hall between the defenders of Latin and the proponents of the vernacular. [...] The youngest monks had not only openly campaigned for the introduction of Italian into the liturgy; they were so impatient that they didn´t even want to wait until the new permissions, which had already been approved in the council hall, were confirmed through official publication. Once it was recognized that Latin was absurd, it was time to change! [...]

The young monks began to feel themselves entitled to take the first steps in the monastery´s attic, like conspirators. It was not just a matter of translating the liturgical prayers from Latin into Italian, but also of experimenting with different musical forms. And given the intimate connection between Latin and Gregorian chant, the young monks decided, without asking anyone, that the sublime Gregorian chant must also be set aside, at least for the moment.

So, unknown to the superiors, a veritable orchestra was soon installed in the attic of the monastery of San Gregorio al Celio. The musical instruments were poorly chosen, but they were good enough for the task at hand.

After testing and retesting, among endless explosions of anger from the directors of a completely improvised choir, it was decided that, by Quinquagesima Sunday, the group would be prepared to make its debut in a semi-official liturgy complete with guitars, drums, and new songs written in Italian.

The chosen venue was the Salviati chapel, on the left side of the church. The celebrant was to be a priest studying at the Anselmianum liturgical institute, who was staying at the adjoining Hospitum Gregorianum.

It all took place with the greatest seriousness and to the satisfaction of all. But no one noticed that, during the celebration that Sunday, a man came into the chapel on a tourist visit, and came out again in a state of shock. This stranger ran straight to the vicariate and denounced the scandal.

[Angelo] Cardinal Dell´Acqua, His Holiness´ vicar for the diocese of Rome at the time, moved into action. To the unknowing [prior general] Fr. Benedetto [Calati], it came like lightning from the blue: in a single moment, he discovered both what his young monks had done and what were the consequences to be feared.

Fully riled, Fr. Benedetto convened the conventual chapter. [...] The monks received the reprimand in silence, their eyes lowered, but not at all convinced of having committed some vile misdeed. And when Fr. Benedetto compelled each of them, one by one, to take a public position on the crime committed, he was jolted in place by the determination, of each and of all, to defend the group of "scapigliati" ["bohemians"] - that´s what the rascals secretly called themselves - insinuating their fear of the
lassitude that held their superiors immobile in their chairs, preventing them from following the path already clearly signalled by the wonderful debates of the conciliar assemblies.

At this point, Fr. Benedetto abandoned everyone and holed himself up in his cell. No one moved. We were all embarrassed, silent.

That evening, not seeing him at the table, nor at Compline, they sent me as a scout to see what mediation could be made.

The response was so unexpected it didn´t seem real.

"All right," replied Fr. Benedetto, "we will do everything as you have said. Starting tomorrow, we will celebrate the Mass and the entire Office in Italian."

Then we went from words to actions. One monk suddenly discovered he was a poet, another a translator; all of us became matchless connoisseurs of songs and musical scores.

Fr. Benedetto, for his part, wanted to show everyone a great sign of his courage by permitting the altar to be removed and another constructed, facing the people. The die had been cast. [...]

[From Guido Innocenzo Gargano, The Camaldolese in 20th Century Italian Spirituality, volume II, Edizioni Dehoniane, Bologna, 2001, pages 112-115]"

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Joyful Mysteries

Ernst Fuchs b.1930
The Joyful Mysteries 1958-61
Oil on goatskin 3m x 3m
The parish church „Queen of the Holy Rosary" of Hetzendorf, Vienna

"On the left edge of the painting stands the Angel of the Annunciation. Mary, blessed with child, walks across the sickle of the moon, which has been turned upside down and which also represents the mountain range Mary has to cross on her way to Elizabeth.

With her hands in sacrificial position she offers her child to the Lord, like in the Temple.

The child she has given birth to resembles the Prague Child of Jesus - also wearing a crown - and he blesses the world. One halo envelops the divine child and his mother. They are both clothed with the sun.

From among the joyful mysteries only one is missing: the finding of Jesus in the Temple.

Instead the artist has included the vision from the 12th chapter of the Apocalypse: the hellish dragon with the symbols of his power ( the 7 heads and crowns, the 10 horns and the tail which sweeps down one third of the stars from heaven) rebels against the woman and her child.

But the Angel defeats him by thrusting an amethyst rod into his spine. The amethyst is known as an ancient cure against drunkenness, in this case against Satan’s drunken overbearance.

We must not be surprised by the angel’s three hands, they simply symbolise God’s manifold power which is revealed through his angel. In reality the angel has no hands at all.

The grave features of the Holy Virgin on a painting of the joyful mysteries can be explained by the danger which threatens her and her child at all times."

Moses and the Burning Bush

Ernst Fuchs b.1930
Moses vor dem brennenden Dornbusch/Moses and the Burning Bush 1956
Oil on Canvas18,5 x 23,2 cm
österreichische Galerie, Vienna

In 1956 Fuchs converted to Roman Catholicism (his mother had had him baptized during the war in order to save him from being sent to a concentration camp).

In 1957 he entered the Dormition Abbey on Mount Zion where he began work on his monumental Last Supper and devoted himself to producing small sized paintings on religious themes such as Moses and the Burning Bush, culminating in a commission to paint three altar paintings on parchment, the cycle of the Mysteries of the Holy Rosary (1958-61), for the Rosenkranzkirche in Hetzendorf, Vienna.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

On the Way to Church

Helene Schjerfbeck (1862-1945)
On the Way to Church ; Churchgoers ; Easter Morning, 1895-1900
Oil on canvas 70 x 95cm
Finnish National Gallery, Helsinki

Helene Schjerfbeck (10 July 1862 – 28 January 1946) was a Finnish painter. She is most commonly known for her realist works and self-portraits

In 1880 she left to live in France until the 1890s. She also travelled to Florence, St. Petersburg, Vienna, Brittany and England.

An outsider, she was plagued by ill-health her entire life. She had fallen down a flight of stairs and broken her hip at age four. Her injury mended badly, leaving her with a pronounced limp that made it impossible for her to attend school. It also impeded her mobility and kept her in fragile health for the rest of her life.

In Finland she is a national heroine, and across all of Scandinavia she has gained near-mythical status, yet in the rest of Europe she is virtually unknown.

The Life and Death of St Romuald

Pasqualino Rossi (Vicenza 1639 - Roma 1722)
Morte di San Romualdo/Death of St Romuald 1680 circa
Oil on canvas
Chiesa dei Santi Biagio e Romualdo, Fabriano

In two speeches Pope John Paul II discussed the life of St Romuald and the debt owed to him by the Church today.

"Down the centuries the [Basilica of St. Apollinaire in Classe] and its adjacent monastery became, in fact, an active centre of evangelization, thanks to the labours of authentic witnesses of Christ, including the monk St Romuald.

In April 1001 he took part in the great assembly of Bishops and dignitaries which Pope Sylvester II held precisely at this church in Classe and which was also attended by Emperor Otto III. It was at that meeting that the evangelizing mission to the Slavs was planned and organized, in continuity with all that St Adalbert had accomplished.

For this mission three of Romuald's monks were chosen, Bruno, Benedict and John. Sealing their service to the Gospel with martyrdom, they are now venerated as heavenly protectors in both Ravenna and Poland."

Pope John Paul II: Message of the Holy Father to the Archbishop of Ravenna-Cervia on the Occasion of the Celebrations of the 1450 Anniversary of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Apollinaire in Classe (23 July 1999)

"We can understand, then, how the Psalms came to be adopted from the earliest
centuries as the prayer of the People of God. If in some historical periods there was a tendency to prefer other prayers, it is to the monks' great credit that they held the Psalter's torch aloft in the Church.

One of them, St Romuald, founder of Camaldoli, at the dawn of the second Christian millennium, even maintained, as his biographer Bruno of Querfurt says, that the Psalms are the only way to experience truly deep prayer: "Una via in psalmis" (Passio sanctorum Benedicti et Johannis ac sociorum eorundem: MPH VI, 1893, 427).

With this assertion, which seems excessive at first sight, he actually remained anchored to the best tradition of the first Christian centuries, when the Psalter became the book of Church prayer par excellence. This was the winning choice in view of the heretical tendencies that continuously threatened the unity of faith and communion. "

Pope John Paul II : General Audience- Wednesday 28 March 2001

For more about St Romuald and the order he founded see the website of San Giorgio Hermitage (Bardolino, Verona)

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Vision of St Romuald

Andrea Sacchi (b. 1599, Nettuno, d. 1661, Roma)
La visione di San Romualdo/The Vision of St Romuald
c. 1631
Oil on canvas, 310 x 175 cm
Pinacoteca, Vatican

Saint Romuald (c. 951– traditionally 19 June, c. 1025/27) was the founder of the Camaldolese order and a major figure in the eleventh-century "renaissance of eremitical aesceticism".

The admonition in his rule Empty yourself completely and sit waiting places him in relation to the long Christian history of intellectual stillness and interior passivity in meditation or quietism.

The three elements of the Camaldolese charism are:

-Solitude for personal prayer and meditation
-Communal prayer and work within the monastery
-Promote contemplative spirituality in the world

According to the legend, a certain Maldolus, who had seen a vision of monks in white garments ascending into Heaven, gave St. Romuald some land, afterwards known as the Campus Maldoli, or Camaldoli.

St. Romuald built on this land five cells for hermits, which, with the monastery at Fontebuono, built two years later, became the famous mother-house of the Camaldolese Order.

Sacchi's most famous painting is the 'The Vision of St Romuald' of 1631. It was commissioned by the Camaldolese order in Rome for the high altar of their new church of San Romualdo.

S. Romualdo was in a small street between Piazza S. Marco and Piazza S. Apostoli. It was demolished in 1878 to make way for an extension of the Via Nazionale

The painting depicts the saint describing his vision of Camaldolese monks ascending a ladder to Heaven.

It was said that Romuald dreamed, like Jacob, of a ladder ascending to heaven and that the monks of his Order were going up it clad in white

He is seated with his brethren under a tree, pointing to the vision in the background.

It was after this dream Romuald declared that the Order should henceforth be dressed in white.

The painting remained in the church until 1797, when it was taken to Paris by the French occupiers. It was back in Rome by 1823 and by 1841 had entered the Pinacoteca at the Vatican.

Sacchi originally was inspired by Antiveduto Grammatica's (1571,-1626) painting of the same subject at the Camaldolesean hermitage at Frascati, probably painted c. 1620.

Sacchi became the chief exponent of the style sometimes called 'High Baroque Classicism`

Pope Gregory the Great: The Pastoral Rule

Folio 1r
MS 504: The Pastoral Rule of Pope Gregory the Great
Manuscript copied in Rome (c. AD 600)
Pithou, Collège de l'Oratoire de Troyes
Now Bibliothèque Municipale, Troyes

Folio 48v
MS 504: The Pastoral Rule of Pope Gregory the Great
Manuscript copied in Rome (c. AD 600)
Pithou, Collège de l'Oratoire de Troyes
Now Bibliothèque Municipale, Troyes

Folio 155v
MS 504: The Pastoral Rule of Pope Gregory the Great
Manuscript copied in Rome (c. AD 600)
Pithou, Collège de l'Oratoire de Troyes
Now Bibliothèque Municipale, Troyes

Recently in two of his General Audiences, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of Pope Gregory the Great.

The two audiences were on Wednesday, 28 May 2008 and Wednesday, 4 June 2008

He spoke in particular of the great works of the Great Pope, and in particular of The Pastoral Rule (also known as Liber Regulae Pastoralis or Regula Pastoralis or The Book of the Pastoral Rule, commonly known in English as "Pastoral Care", a translation of the alternative Latin title Cura Pastoralis)

"Probably the most systematic text of Gregory the Great is the Pastoral Rule, written in the first years of his Pontificate.

In it Gregory proposed to treat the figure of the ideal Bishop, the teacher and guide of his flock. To this end he illustrated the seriousness of the office of Pastor of the Church and its inherent duties.

Therefore, those who were not called to this office may not seek it with superficiality, instead those who assumed it without due reflection necessarily feel trepidation rise within their soul.

Taking up again a favourite theme, he affirmed that the Bishop is above all the "preacher" par excellence; for this reason he must be above all an example for others, so that his behaviour may be a point of reference for all.

Efficacious pastoral action requires that he know his audience and adapt his words to the situation of each person: here Gregory paused to illustrate the various categories of the faithful with acute and precise annotations, which can justify the evaluation of those who have also seen in this work a treatise on psychology.

From this one understands that he really knew his flock and spoke of all things with the people of his time and his city.

Nevertheless, the great Pontiff insisted on the Pastor's duty to recognize daily his own unworthiness in the eyes of the Supreme Judge, so that pride did not negate the good accomplished.

For this the final chapter of the Rule is dedicated to humility: "When one is pleased to have achieved many virtues, it is well to reflect on one's own inadequacies and to humble oneself: instead of considering the good accomplished, it is necessary to consider what was neglected".

All these precious indications demonstrate the lofty concept that St Gregory had for the care of souls, which he defined as the "ars artium", the art of arts. The Rule had such great, and the rather rare, good fortune to have been quickly translated into Greek and Anglo-Saxon. "

The Rule was written by Pope Gregory I around the year 590, shortly after his papal inauguration.

It became one of the most influential works on the topic ever written. The title was that used by Gregory when sending a copy to his friend Leander of Seville.

The text was addressed to John, the Exarch of Ravenna, as a response to a query from him. Gregory later revised the text somewhat.

Troyes, Bibliotheque Municipale, MS 504 is an early 7th century illuminated manuscript of the Pastoral Care

It was probably written in Rome about AD 600, whilst Gregory was still alive, and contains his final revised text.

It is written in an uncial script.

The only ornamentation in the manuscript are penwork initials in red, green and yellow, and coloured text for the first lines after them.

It is one of the oldest complete manuscript books in existence.

Of course, Pope Benedict is not the first Pope to extol Pope Gregory the Great or the work The Pastoral Rule.

In his Encyclical, Iucunda Sane, Saint Pope Pius X devoted the entire encyclical to the life of Pope Gregory the Great. (12th March 1904) He, in particular paid particular attention to the Pastoral Rule as the following extract illustrates:

"27. But, Venerable Brethren, this weapon will lose much of its efficacy or be altogether useless in the hands of men not accustomed to the interior life with Christ, not educated in the school of true and solid piety, not thoroughly inflamed with zeal for the glory of God and for the propagation of His kingdom.

So keenly did Gregory feel this necessity that he used the greatest care in creating bishops and priests animated by a great desire for the divine glory and for the true welfare of souls.

And this was the intent he had before him in his book on the Pastoral Rule, wherein are gathered together the laws regulating the formation of the clergy and the government of bishops - laws most suitable not for his times only but for our own. Like an "Argus full of light," says his biographer, "he moved all round the eyes of his pastoral solicitude through all the extent of the world" (Joann. Diac., lib ii. c. 55), to discover and correct the failings and the negligence of the clergy.

Nay, he trembled at the very thought that barbarism and immortality might obtain a footing in the life of the clergy, and he was deeply moved and gave himself no peace whenever he learned of some infraction of the disciplinary laws of the Church, and immediately administered admonition and correction, threatening canonical penalties on transgressors, sometimes immediately applying these penalties himself, and again removing the unworthy from their offices without delay and without human respect.

28. Moreover, he inculcated the maxims which we frequently find in his writings in such form as this: "In what frame of mind does one enter upon the office of mediator between God and man who is not conscious of being familiar with grace through a meritorious life?" (Reg. Past.i. 10). "U passion lives in his actions, with what presumption does he hasten to cure the wound, when he wears a scar on his very face?" (Reg. Past. i. 9). What fruit can be expected for the salvation of souls if the apostles "combat in their lives what they preach in their words?" (Reg. Past. i. 2). "Truly he cannot remove the delinquencies of others who is himself ravaged by the same" (Reg. Past. i. 11).

29. The picture of the true priest, as Gregory understands and describes him, is the man "who, dying to all passions of the flesh, already lives spiritually; who has no thought for the prosperity of the world; who has no fear of adversity; who desires only internal things; who does not permit himself to desire what belongs to others but is liberal of his own; who is all bowels of compassion and inclines to forgiveness, but in forgiveness never swerves unduly from the perfection of righteousness; who never commits unlawful actions, but deplores as though they were his own the unlawful actions of others; who with all affection of the heart compassionates the weakness of others, and rejoices in the prosperity of his neighbor as in his own profit; who in all his doings so renders himself a model for others as to have nothing whereof to be ashamed, at least, as regards his external actions; who studies so to live that he may be able to water the parched hearts of his neighbors with the waters of doctrine; who knows through the use of prayer and through his own experience that he can obtain from the Lord what he asks" (Reg. Past. i. 10)."