Wednesday, June 27, 2012

El Greco: Saints Peter and Paul

Domenikos Theotokopoulos, called El Greco
 1541 - 1614
Saints Peter and Paul
1587 - 1592
Oil on canvas
121.5 cm  x  105 cm
The State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg

El Greco painted all the Apostles many times 

Many times he painted Saint Paul as well as Saint Peter

This example shows the Cretan influence on El Greco (compare and contrast it with the Cretan icon of the two saints in the post below) He did not leave his native Crete until 1567

When he was born Crete was a Venetian colony. It was to remain so after his death. 

El Greco  had no desire to be assimilated to the Spaniards. He always stressed the fact that he was a Greek,

 He used the word Greco as part of his name He signed himself in his works in Greek characters.

St Paul appears a great number of times in El Greco's works. He is depicted with remarkable consistency

It was of course St Paul`s friend and disciple Titus who was ordained first bishop of the church of the Cretans, a fact which El Greco would have been more than aware

In this work both saints together convey a different meaning from that of the icon like work in the post below

This is a more traditional work  With his keys, St Peter is shown in the fullness of his Petrine Ministry - a very important point in the Counter-Reformation, His home in Toledo was one of the great centres of the Counter-Reformation in Europe, possibly only next in importance to Rome. 

In The Acts of the Apostles, it is Peter and Paul who are shown fully developing the Apostolic Mission in the early Church

Peter and Paul quarelled. They reconciled. Here we see them reconciled and in harmony. The folds of their respective clothes and the depiction of their arms suggest a combination of the two figures.

However there is also in the painting a separation between the two figures. Separate and individual but united in a common faith and common purpose

One aspect of the traditional iconography would also hve been apparent in those times on 16th century Toledo: the combining of the Jewish and Gentile traditions  which each of the two Apostles came to represent. At that time in Toledo conversos were held in suspicion by members of the Church. \But it was from the ranks of the conversos, there flowered some of the greatest figures which the modern Catholic Church has ever known, St Teresa of Avila being only one example.

In 1568, she set up in Toledo her second Discalced Carmelite nunnery  that was almost entirely comprised of coversas, At the time Toledo was the most notoriously anti-Jewish, anti-converso, city in Spain

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Two Pillars: Peter and Paul

Anonymous painter of the Cretan school (perhaps Michail Damaskenos 1530/35-1592/93)
The Apostles Peter and Paul
Middle to second half  16th century
58 x 43 cm
Tempera and gold on wood
Musée du Louvre, Paris

It is a simple yet profound work. Saints Peter and Paul hold up the Church instituted by Christ

Peter and Paul are shown as the two pillars of the Church: without them, the edifice would fall

Peter was first among the Apostles and the first to suffer martyrdom, Paul second. But as St Augustine said, they were "as one" or as some might say "in communion"

At the time was work was complefed, the Cretan school of painting was renowned. Crete itself was under the rule of Venice from 1204 until 1669

In the Roman Catholic Church, the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul is of course a solemnity on which the Metropolitans traditionally receive the pallium from the Pope

It is also marked as a special day in the Calendar of the Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches

It is the day which celebrates their martyrdoms which occurred on different days: martyrdom for Christ, the figure in the background of the painting

The work recalls the Pauline expression the Church is the Body of Christ . The root and centre of the Church is  in the Blessed Eucharist. It is the force which unites the Church
"Really sharing in the body of the Lord in the breaking of the eucharistic bread, we are taken up into communion with him and with one another. 'Because the bread is one, we, though many, are one body, all of us who partake of the one bread' (1 Cor 10, 17)"

The image of St Peter reminds us that the unity of the Church is  rooted in the unity of the Episcopate. This is  fortified by the apostolic succession of bishops  from St Peter and the Apostles together with the primacy over the bishop sof The Bishop of Rome, the See of St Peter

Friday, June 22, 2012

St Aloysius Gonzaga

Angelo Bacchetta
(1841 - 1920), 
A Study of St Aloysius Gonzaga
Pencil on brown paper
250 mm x 330 mm
Museo Civico di Crema e del Cremasco, Crema

Bacchetta was a noted painter of historical scenes and had many ecclesiastical commissions in the north of Italy in or around the area of Crema, near the area of Mantua where the family of St Aloysius Gonzaga came from and where there was and still is a strong devotion to the saint

Girolamo Tomasi  (1751 - 1795)
St Aloysius Gonzaga in meditation
OIl on canvas
41 x 55 cm
Galleria Tadini, Lovere

Again in this work from Lombardy from whence the saint hailed we see a convincing and life like picture of the saint devout and in prayer. It is an image of a real young man full of character and not that of a plaster saint we often see in the images of the saint in the United Kingdom. there is not a lily in sight unlike the paintings and sculptures of the saint which often grace British churches and which often remind one of someone who has just attended a 19th century meeting of Oxford aesthetes chaired by William Pater or Aubrey Vincent Beardsley

Innocenzo Migliavacca (1785 -1855)  Carlo Maria Viganoni (1786 - 1839),
Saint Aloysius Gonzaga
c 1849
Lithograph Print
32,8 x 39 cm 
Musei Civici di Lecco, Lecco

Again another realistic work from  Italy which expresses the adamantine nature of  the aith held by a young man of exceptional courage

Saint Aloysius was born of the noble Gonzaga family which was of Spanish origin. he was born in the small town of Castiglione delle Stiviere near Mantua in Northern Italy

It is in this small town that a Church was erected to honour the saint. The Church has a sanctuary in honour of him and the Church was made a Basilica in the twentieth century

The saint was originally buried in Rome but after canonisation the head was removed and has been placed in the sanctuary. See below

Relic of Saint Aloysius in Santuario basilica di San Luigi Gonzaga,  Castiglione delle Stiviere

Above the relic is the work of Balestra (below)

It depicts the devotion of the Saint to the Blessed Mother, a devotion traditionally promoted vigorously by the Jesuit order. St Aloysius would have been no different

Balestra was born in Verona and worked in Verona as well as Venice. He has in receipt of many commissions from the Jesuit order. His work is perhaps too staid, Baroque  and classical for modern tastes

Antonio Balestra (1666 - 1740) 
San Luigi Gonzaga in preghiera davanti alla Vergine / St Aloysius Gonaga in prayer before the Virgin (1734),
Oil on canvas
Santuario basilica di San Luigi Gonzaga,  Castiglione delle Stiviere

Antonio Balestra (1666 - 1740) 
Study for San Luigi Gonzaga in preghiera davanti alla Vergine / St Aloysius Gonaga in prayer before the Virgin (1745), now in the  Santuario basilica di San Luigi Gonzaga, Castiglione delle Stiviere
Black chalk, pen and brown ink, grey wash in an inscribed arch 
290 x 174 mm
Private collection

The sanctuary of St Aloysius is in the Diocese which was recently badly hit by an earthquake. The website of the sanctuary is here  and is attached to the Diocese of Mantua website  If he was still here, no doubt St Aloysius would have been one of the helpers in the earthquake zone.

Monday, June 18, 2012

St Thomas More and the Duty of Conscience

Giuseppe Bezzuoli 1784 – 13 September 1855
Saint Thomas More hears his death sentence 
(Inscription: Tommaso Moro mentre riceve la sentenza di morte da Enrico VIII/ Per non avere aderito al ripudio di Caterina sua moglie. Margherita sua figlia fu con lui sina alla morte)
Private collection, Florence

Bezzuoli was a distinguished Italian Historical painter of the Romantic school. His works can be seen in such places as the Pitti Palace in Florence (The Entry of Charles VIII into Florence, Alessandro il Macedone nello studio di Apelle and others)

He received commissions from Leopold, the Grand Duke of Tuscany

He was Professor of Drawing (from 1816) and of Painting (from 1844) at the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno in Florence until his death

Many of his finest works have an Italian theme especially relating to Florence where he lived worked and died

They celebrate freedom and liberty. But not licence and civil disorder

The movement of which he was a progenitor became known as   i macchiaioli. Some of his works are shown in the Galleria d'Arte Moderna

His style is said to ressemble in part that of Ingres whom he may have met and known quite well

The villa where he lived in Fiesole is still there. It is still called Villa Bezzuoli

But here we see a scene utterly divorced from Italian history but a scene which had great resonance throughout Europe at the time which it represents and thereafter.

Father and daughter are supporting and comforting each other while the  sentence of death is formally pronounced on the father. His wife has indicated that she has disapproved of his lonely decision to abide by the dictates of conscience rather than other considerations. She is not present.

There is a Lear-like quality to the work. 

We do not see the handsome and vigorous More of the paintings of Holbein the Younger
We see a man who has been in confinement in the Tower to wear him down over a very long period. The authorities played "Cat and Mouse" to wear down his resolve and resolution. 

They intended to break him. The King`s will was to be done. The monarch was quite convinced of his correctness and rectitude. He would not brook any disobedience.

More stands alone in defence of his conscience. Outwardly you might think that by his appearance and surroundings the convicted man appears vanquished. Outwardly the King appears to have triumphed over his supposed opponent.

From Bezzuoli`s composition, we do not see the political ideologue buoyed by a sense of self-righteousness. we see a man who must have repeated often the words of Scripture during his ordeal:
"My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will."
In the end he persevered and More has obeyed his conscience and saved his Soul

Why did  Bezzuoli not make the work into a painting ? Perhaps in his day the subject would have been too controversial and subject to misinterpretation.

The Bonapartes were dethroned from the Grand Duchy adter the Congress of Vienna in 1815. The old regine was re installed. Italian Unification was in the ascendant. Cavour, Mazzini, Garibaldi, the anti-clericals Liberals and the other mixed assortments were members of the broad Coalition which favoured Unification.

What the Church and other religious authorities meant by "Conscience" was entirely different from what "Conscience" meant when used in philosophical and political circles. 

The confusion is still very much apparent today.

It was left to Blessed John Henry Newman to fully expound the true Christian meaning of "conscience" and how it was distinguished from other and what he called false notions of "conscience"

For Newman "conscience is the “Voice of the Lawgiver”. Following one`s conscience means "following the voice of God"  

He cited with approval the statement of Cardinal Gousset who said:
"The Divine Law ... is the supreme rule of actions; our thoughts, desires, words, acts, all that man is, is subject to the domain of the law of God; and this law is the rule of our conduct by means of our conscience. 
Hence it is never lawful to go against our conscience; as the fourth Lateran Council says, 'Quidquid fit contra conscientiam, ædificat ad gehennam.'"

Newman wrote:
"This [Divine] law, as apprehended in the minds of individual men, is called "conscience;" and though it may suffer refraction in passing into the intellectual medium of each, it is not therefore so affected as to lose its character of being the Divine Law, but still has, as such, the prerogative of commanding obedience. ... 
This view of conscience, I know, is very different from that ordinarily taken of it, both by the science and literature, and by the public opinion, of this day. It is founded on the doctrine that conscience is the voice of God, whereas it is fashionable on all hands now to consider it in one way or another a creation of man ... 
When Anglicans, Wesleyans, the various Presbyterian sects in Scotland, and other denominations among us, speak of conscience, they mean what we mean, the voice of God in the nature and heart of man, as distinct from the voice of Revelation. They speak of a principle planted within us, before we have had any training, although training and experience are necessary for its strength, growth, and due formation. They consider it a constituent element of the mind, as our perception of other ideas may be, as our powers of reasoning, as our sense of order and the beautiful, and our other intellectual endowments. They consider it, as Catholics consider it, to be the internal witness of both the existence and the law of God. They think it holds of God, and not of man, as an Angel walking on the earth would be no citizen or dependent of the Civil Power. ... 
When men advocate the rights of conscience, they in no sense mean the rights of the Creator, nor the duty to Him, in thought and deed, of the creature; but the right of thinking, speaking, writing, and acting, according to their judgment or their humour, without any thought of God at all.  
They do not even pretend to go by any moral rule, but they demand, what they think is an Englishman's prerogative, for each to be his own master in all things, and to profess what he pleases, asking no one's leave, and accounting priest or preacher, speaker or writer, unutterably impertinent, who dares to say a word against his going to perdition, if he like it, in his own way.  
Conscience has rights because it has duties; but in this age, with a large portion of the public, it is the very right and freedom of conscience to dispense with conscience, to ignore a Lawgiver and Judge, to be independent of unseen obligations.  
It becomes a licence to take up any or no religion, to take up this or that and let it go again, to go to church, to go to chapel, to boast of being above all religions and to be an impartial critic of each of them.  
Conscience is a stern monitor, but in this century it has been superseded by a counterfeit, which the eighteen centuries prior to it never heard of, and could not have mistaken for it, if they had. It is the right of self-will." 
(Blessed John Henry Newman, Letter to the Duke of Norfolk (1875) (Section 5)

See also: Blessed John Henry Newman, Chapter 5. Apprehension and Assent in the matter of Religion in An Essay in aid of a Grammar of Assent (1870) 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Saint Thomas More: the Saint for all times

John Rogers Herbert (1810 – 17 March 1890)
Sir Thomas More and his Daughter 1844
Oil on canvas
851 x 1105 mm
Tate Britain, London

While in the Tower, More was visited by his daughter Margaret Roper. 

Looking out of his window, More saw a group of monks being led away for execution for refusing to take the oath of supremacy. 

In all humility, More instantly drew a comparison between their situation, going to their deaths happily following a life of religious devotion, and his own: for his life had been spent in 'pleasure and ease'.

Herbert was a precursor of the pre-Raphaelites

He was a painter of portraits, historical genre and landscapes

During the 1830s he made contact with the Nazarenes. They apper to have had an effect on his thought as well as painting technique

A close friend of Pugin, Herbert converted to Catholicism about 1840

His frescoes in the Westminster Houses of Parliament are renowned.

In the ensuing decades after his conversion  Herbert concentrated on religious subjects

This subject matter would have appealed to a public artist who had carried out public commissions for Parliament. The same Parliament in which More had presided as Lord Chancellor.

Blessed Pope John Paul II summed it up in his Apostolic Letter for the Motu Proprio establishing St Thomas More the Patron of Statesmen and Politicians of 1st October 2000:
"The life of Saint Thomas More clearly illustrates a fundamental truth of political ethics. 
The defence of the Church’s freedom from unwarranted interference by the State is at the same time a defence, in the name of the primacy of conscience, of the individual’s freedom vis-à-vis political power.  
Here we find the basic principle of every civil order consonant with human nature."

Recently Benedict XVI addressed that same Parliament and asked:
"And yet the fundamental questions at stake in Thomas More’s trial continue to present themselves in ever-changing terms as new social conditions emerge.  
Each generation, as it seeks to advance the common good, must ask anew: what are the requirements that governments may reasonably impose upon citizens, and how far do they extend? By appeal to what authority can moral dilemmas be resolved?  
These questions take us directly to the ethical foundations of civil discourse. If the moral principles underpinning the democratic process are themselves determined by nothing more solid than social consensus, then the fragility of the process becomes all too evident - herein lies the real challenge for democracy."

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Misuse of Creation

Christoro de Predis (ff 1486)
Codice Varia 124; The Torments of Hell for the Gluttinous, the Lazy and the Lotus Eaters
c. 1480
Illustrated manuscript
Biblioteca Reale, Turin

Jacob de Backer (c 1540- c. 1600)
Gluttony: part of the series on the Seven Deadly Sins
Oil on canvas
1.180 m.  x  1.560 m.
Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples

Nicolas Poussin 
1594 - 1665
Detail of The Nurture of Bacchus
about 1628
Oil on canvas
80.9 x 97.7 cm
The National Gallery, London

Gluttony is one of the seven Deadly Sins not often talked about these days

People seem to prefer to talk about sex and lust

St Thomas Aquinas (whose girth appears to suggest an excessive predeliction for pickled herring) said that the sin could be committed by consuming food or drink
"Prae-propere, laute, nimis, ardenter, studiose" ("too soon, too expensively, too much, too eagerly, too daintily")
If he were writing today,  he would probably add drugs.

Pope Saint Gregory the Great said (Moral. xxx, 18) that 
'unless we first tame the enemy dwelling within us, namely our gluttonous appetite, we have not even stood up to engage in the spiritual combat.' 

"For we did not get eyes to serve our evil desires, and the tongue for speaking evil, and ears to listen to evil speech, and the throat to commit gluttony, and the belly to be gluttony's ally, and the genitals for unchaste excesses, and hands for violent deeds, and the feet for idling around; or was the soul placed in the body to become a factory of snares, and fraud, and injustice ? 
I do not think so ; for if God, who demands innocence, hates everything like evildoing - if He completely hates such plotting of evil, it is clear beyond a doubt, that, of all things He created , He has made none to lead to deeds which He condemns, even though these same deeds may be performed by things He made; for, in fact, the one ground of condemnation consists of the creature’s misuse of creation"

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Saint Francis in Rieti

Margarito d'Arezzo  (fl. c. 1250-1290)
St Francis / San Francesco 
Tempera on wood
Museo Statale d'Arte Medievale e Moderna, Arezzo 

Alessandro Magnasco (1667 – 1749)
Cristo crocifisso con San Francesco d'Assisi / Christ crucified with Saint Francis of Assisi (1720-1724) 
Oil on canvas 
Galleria di Palazzo Franzoni, Genova

Adolfo Wildt (1868 -  1931)
San Francesco D'Assisi (1927) 
Marble bust with bronze halo
Galleria W. Apolloni, Roma

One hundred years ago Umberto Beningni wrote an article on the ancient Italian town of Rieti which predates the birth of Christ. It is about 100 km north of Rome

At the time of the article the diocese of Rieti  contained "60 parishes, 142,100 inhabitants, 250 secular priests, 7 religious houses with 63 priests, 15 houses of nuns; 2 educational establishments for boys, and 4 for girls."

The situation is somewhat different now

But the diocese still thrives in today`s modern and difficult conditions and the Diocese and town have an impressive Diocesan Museum.

As befits an ancient Christian area it has the remains of all the great Christian movements which ran through the Church through all those times.

One of the great influences still apparent and which is being fostered is the connection with St Francis of Assisi. He  came for the first time around 1209 and then returned for a long stay in 1223 and again from Autumn 1225 to April 1226.

The Saint Francis Walk follows the route travelled by St Francis in and around Rieti

One highlight is the town of Greccio. Giovanni, Lord of the Castle of Greccio, helped the saint in preparing the Crèche of Greccio, the first Nativity crib

Another is the National Votive Chapel dedicated to St Francis as Patron Saint of Italy in Terminillo

The Sanctuary of Fontecolombo on Mount Rainiero is called by some the Franciscan Sinai. It is where Saint Francis wrote the Rule of the Franciscan Order.

From 16th June until 4th November, Rieti and surrounding towns are hosting an exhibition entitled "Francesco: Il Santo"

Works by Cimabue, Antoniazzo Romano, Caravaggio, Alessandro Magnasco, Francesco Podesti, Duilio Cambellotti and  Adolfo Wildt, on a Franciscan theme will all be on show

All of this is of course for a holy purpose, the same purpose which the Church has throughout the centuries endeavoured to do: to inspire people to imitate the Seraphic Father. 

In 1926, for the 700th Anniversary of the death of St Francis, Pope Pius XI issued an Encyclical on the Life and Works of St Francis. 

In it he said:
"there is presented to Our soul, or better still We can almost see with Our very eyes, the great throngs of pilgrims who will visit Assisi and the other nearby sanctuaries of verdant Umbria, the rocky crags of Verna, the sacred hills that look out on the valley of the Rieti, all spots where Francis seems to live on teaching even now the lesson of his virtues, from which places the pious pilgrims can scarcely return home without being more and more filled with the Franciscan spirit.  
To quote Leo XIII: "Concerning the honours that are being prepared for St. Francis, it should be borne in mind that, above all, these honours will be agreeable to him to whom they are given only when they have been made fruitful by the one who actually offers them. In this then alone can We hope for lasting fruits, when those men who admire his great virtues seek to copy in some way this man, and in imitating him make themselves better." (Encyclical Auspicato, 17 Sept. 1882) "
(Pope Pius XI, Rite Expiatis 30th April 1926)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Eucharistic Adoration and Devotion

Peter Paul Rubens (1577 – 1640) and Jan Wildens (1585/6-1653), 
Acto de devoción de Rodolfo I de Habsburgo
The Act of Devotion of Rudolf von Habsburg
1618 - 1620
Oil on canvas
199 cm x 286 cm
Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid 

Rudolf of Habsburg (1218 - 15 July, 1291) was the founder of the Habsburg line and one of the great Habsburg monarchs

The work was commissioned by the Habsburg King of Spain Felipe IV 

The work illustrates the humility of the truly great Monarch. It is a demonstration of his devition and the devotion of the Habsburg line. It is an acknowledgement of however high one may be, God is yet higher.
The worship of the Eucharist and its sacredness are two elements of the Mystery of the Eucharist

It was always regarded as a defining characteristic of Catholic doctrine and practice - until recently.

The Pope spoke about this recently and again stressed the importance of Eucharistic adoration

He said:
"At the moment of adoration, we are all on the same plane, kneeling before the Sacrament of Love. The common and ministerial priesthoods are united in Eucharistic worship.... 
To be all together in prolonged silence before the Lord present in his Sacrament, is one of the most genuine experiences of our being Church, which is accompanied in a complementary way with the celebration of the Eucharist, listening to the Word of God, singing, approaching together the table of the Bread of life.  
Communion and contemplation cannot be separated, they go together.  
To really communicate with another person I must know him, I must be able to be in silence close to him, to hear him and to look at him with love. True love and true friendship always live of the reciprocity of looks, of intense, eloquent silences full of respect and veneration, so that the encounter is lived profoundly, in a personal not a superficial way. And, unfortunately, if this dimension is lacking, even sacramental communion itself can become, on our part, a superficial gesture."

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."

Monday, June 04, 2012

Trinity Sunday: an afterthought

Austrian school
The Trinity with Christ Crucified
c. 1410
Egg on silver fir 
118.1 x 114.9 cm
The National Gallery, London

Of this work, the Gallery merely comments laconically:
"Originally an altarpiece protected by two shutters (the marks of their hinges are visible in the frame). 
It represents the Trinity, with God the Father seated supporting the crucified Christ, and the Dove of the Holy Spirit between them, a type of image known as the Throne of Mercy."

God the Father is holding the Crucified Christ with His hands and between His legs. In some representations of the Trinity, the Dove of the Holy Spirit comes from the mouth of the Father towards the left ear of the Son. 

But this work was obviously in a Roman Catholic church and therefore the Holy Spirit does not come from the Father and through the Son but rather from both.

Christ is shown in a standing posture on the Cross and as meek as a lamb

The Holy Spirit is shown as given to reveal the truth and will of God.

One also perhaps remembers the imagery of the Trinity in the Book of Revelation: God the Father on his throne; the Lamb standing and bloodied; and the Spirit which blows and flows through human history. Ar first sight it appears to be a celestial vision and a rather static one at that

But as it is presently displayed the full power of the work is not be appreciated

It would have been attached to and looked down upon the priest making the sacrifice at the High Altar during Mass

The priest and the congregation would have had this image before them before and  at the words of consecration and the other most important parts of the Mass

Before the priest, the deacon, the acolytes and the congregation was the Trinity: God of the Old and New Testaments.

The High Altar was the new Altar of the Holocaust and the Altar of Incense as in Old Testament times.

See: Souvay, Charles. "Altars (in Scripture)." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 4 Jun. 2012
The painting would not have been visible at all times.

It would only have been made fully visible during the Mass and then probably only after the Mass of the Catuchumens and just before The Mass of the Faithful

The painting was the backdrop to the Canon of the Mass, the central part of the Mass of the Faithful which came after the Mass of the Catuchumens.The fundamental part of the Mass that comes after the Offertory and before the Communion, the Eucharistic prayer that the Eastern rites call the Anaphora

The Mass is of course a celebration of and a participation in the whole of the Paschal mystery. The painting was to be  an essential tool to the central part of the Mass

The Canon began with the prayer "Te igitur".

Of the Canon, Adrian Fortescue in  The Catholic Encyclopedia (1913) says:
"It is now a law that a picture of the Crucifixion should be placed at the beginning of the Canon. Innocent III (1198-1216) notes that in his time this was already the custom. The crucifix grew out of the adornment of the letter T with which the Canon begins. Innocent thinks that the presence of the T at that place is a special work of Divine Providence (Inn. III, De Sacro altaris myst., I, 3, c. ii, P.L., CCXVII)."

The centre of attention of the priest and people would be an image of the Crucifixion

It recalled what was being offered to God: hóstiam puram, hóstiam sanctam, hóstiam immaculátam - Christ

As the new translation has it - 
“this pure victim, this holy victim, this spotless victim, the holy Bread of eternal life and the Chalice of everlasting salvation."

Further on the Canon reminds us again of what is offered: sanctum sacrifícium, immaculátam hóstiam (“a holy sacrifice, a spotless victim”)

The position of the painting was important: above the head of the priest and the faithful. The Canon of the Mass said:
"Supra quæ propitio ac sereno vultu respicere digneris", 
Note also the face of God the Father in the painting: sereno vultu.
“Be pleased to look upon these offerings with a serene and kindly countenance.” 

God the Father is patriarchal, shall we say, the God of the Old Testament as perhaps we are accustomed to think of these days. But then the Canon in its prayers commemorates the  sacrifices in the Old Testament: Abel, Abraham, Melchisedech. 

The prayer which is the Canon is first directed towards God the Father. 

The priest, standing in persona Christi, is offering the sacrifice of the Son to the Father. The Mass itself is a re-presentation of the Sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross, whereby Jesus was both priest and victim

As the Canon has the celebrant say:
"Oráte, fratres: ut meum ac vestrum sacrifícium 
acceptábile fiat apud Deum Patrem omnipoténtem"
("Pray, brethren, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.”)
And the people respond:
"Suscípiat Dóminus sacrifícium de mánibus tuis ad laudem et glóriam nóminis sui, ad utilitátem quoque nostram totiúsque Ecclésiæ suæ sanctæ."
"May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of his name, for our good and the good of all his holy Church.” 

After the Consecration, the Canon addresses Christ directly  directly as can be seen from what used to be called  the “Memorial Acclamation,*”and now“The Mystery of Faith.”:

"Quotiescúmque manducámus panem hunc et cálicem bíbimus, mortem tuam annuntiámus, Dómine, donec vénias.
“When we eat this Bread, and drink this Cup, we proclaim your death, O Lord, until you come again”
"Salvátor mundi, salva nos, qui per crucem et resurrectiónem tuam liberásti nos."
“Save us, Savior of the world, for by your Cross and Resurrection, you have set us free.”
"Mortem tuam annuntiámus, Dómine, et tuam resurrectiónem confitémur, donec vénias." 
“We proclaim your death, O Lord, and profess your resurrection, until you come again.”

And then the conclusion: the short Doxology that comes at the end just before the Great Amen

Per ipsum, et cum ipso, et in ipso, est tibi Deo Patri omnipoténti, in unitáte Spíritus Sancti, omnis honor et glória per ómnia sǽcula sæculórum
Through him, and with him, and in him, O God, almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, for ever and ever.
God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit

And it is at the end of the Canon and this Doxology that the full extent of the painter`s Vision is on show. It is not a mere picture.

 It is an icon of the Trinity

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Sixty Glorious Years

From The National Portrait Gallery exhibition in London: The Queen: Art and Image

Dorothy Wilding (1893-1976), hand-coloured by Beatrice Johnson (1906-2000). 
Queen Elizabeth II
Hand-coloured bromide print
12 1/2 in. x 9 3/4 in. (316 mm x 248 mm)
The National Portrait Gallery, London

Pietro Annigoni (1910-1988), 
Queen Elizabeth II
Oil on panel
78 in. x 70 in. (1981 mm x 1778 mm)
The National Portrait Gallery, London

Chris Levine
Lightness of Being
Private collection

Friday, June 01, 2012

The Sacred Heart of Jesus

Hippolyte-Dominique Holfeld
Le Sacré-Coeur adoré par toutes les parties du monde
The Sacred Heart Adored by all the Peoples of the World
Oil on canvas
56 x 45 cm
Musée Magnin, Dijon

Holfield was a French history painter who won the second place in the Prix de Rome  in 1832

This work was a preparatory painting for a more finished work which is in the  Chapelle du Sacré-Coeur in the Church of Saint Merry in Paris

June is the month of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Blessed John Henry Newman (1801–1890) had a prayer and meditation on the Sacred Heart of Jesus:

"1. O SACRED Heart of Jesus, I adore Thee in the oneness of the Personality of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. Whatever belongs to the Person of Jesus, belongs therefore to God, and is to be worshipped with that one and the same worship which we pay to Jesus. 
He did not take on Him His human nature, as something distinct and separate from Himself, but as simply, absolutely, eternally His, so as to be included by us in the very thought of Him. 
I worship Thee, O Heart of Jesus, as being Jesus Himself, as being that Eternal Word in human nature which He took wholly and lives in wholly, and therefore in Thee. 
Thou art the Heart of the Most High made man. 
In worshipping Thee, I worship my Incarnate God, Emmanuel. I worship Thee, as bearing a part in that Passion which is my life, for Thou didst burst and break, through agony, in the garden of Gethsemani, and Thy precious contents trickled out, through the veins and pores of the skin, upon the earth. And again, Thou hadst been drained all but dry upon the Cross; and then, after death, Thou wast pierced by the lance, and gavest out the small remains of that inestimable treasure, which is our redemption. 

2. My God, my Saviour, I adore Thy Sacred Heart, for that heart is the seat and source of all Thy  tenderest human affections for us sinners. 
It is the instrument and organ of Thy love. It did beat for us. It yearned over us. It ached for us, and for our salvation. It was on fire through zeal, that the glory of God might be manifested in and by us. It is the channel through which has come to us all Thy overflowing human affection, all Thy Divine Charity towards us. 
All Thy incomprehensible compassion for us, as God and Man, as our Creator and our Redeemer and Judge, has come to us, and comes, in one inseparably mingled stream, through that Sacred Heart. O most Sacred symbol and Sacrament of Love, divine and human, in its fulness, Thou didst save me by Thy divine strength, and Thy human affection, and then at length by that wonder-working blood, wherewith Thou didst overflow.  
3. O most Sacred, most loving Heart of Jesus, Thou art concealed in the Holy Eucharist, and Thou beatest for us still. Now as then Thou savest, Desiderio desideravi—"With desire I have desired." 
I worship Thee then with all my best love and awe, with my fervent affection, with my most subdued, most resolved will. 
O my God, when Thou dost condescend to suffer me to receive Thee, to eat and drink Thee, and Thou for a while takest up Thy abode within me, O make my heart beat with Thy Heart. Purify it of all that is earthly, all that is proud and sensual, all that is hard and cruel, of all perversity, of all disorder, of all deadness. 
So fill it with Thee, that neither the events of the day nor the circumstances of the time may have power to ruffle it, but that in Thy love and Thy fear it may have peace." 
Blessed John Henry Newman Meditations and Devotions, Part III [XVI] paragraphs 1 - . 3