Saturday, September 29, 2012

Angels, Saints and Nations Sing

Hubert van Eyck (c. 1385–90 – 18 September 1426) and Jan van Eyck (c. 1395 – before c. 9 July 1441)
The Ghent Altarpiece or The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb
(1) Overview
(2) The Face of God
(3) Angels: Singers Left hand panel
(4) Angels: Musicians, right hand panel
Tempera and oil on panel
11' 5" x 15' (open panels), 
Cathedral of Saint Bavo, Ghent, Belgium

The Ghent Altarpiece recently underwent much-needed emergency conservation 

The altarpiece was scrutinised and professionally photographed at extremely high resolution in both regular and infrared light. The photographs were then digitally stitched together 

The result is that in the comfort of one`s home one can examine the work in 100 billion pixels on the website: Closer to Van Eyck: Rediscovering the Ghent Altarpiece

The new website is part of the Getty’s Panel Paintings Initiative.

The Metropolitan Museum in New York has on its website an erudite essay on the whole altarpiece:
Susan Jones  "The Ghent Altarpiece". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–.

The Web Gallery of Art also devotes a large section to this important work

In essence the theme of the painting can be summed up in the words of the traditional Catholic hymn Hail Redeemer, King Divine

Often derided by the cognoscenti but still extremely popular among Catholic and other Christian  parishoners
"Angels, saints and nations sing : 
"Praise be Jesus Christ our King"

The words of the hymn are by a Redemptorist who passed away in 1952:  Patrick Brennan (1877 - 1952).  The music  is by Charles Rigby (1901- 1962)

Christ is shown as Lamb and as King. In his Encyclical Quas Primas, (1925) Pope Pius XI explained the theological basis when he established the feast of Christ The King:

"13. The foundation of this power and dignity of Our Lord is rightly indicated by Cyril of Alexandria. "Christ," he says, "has dominion over all creatures, a dominion not seized by violence nor usurped, but his by essence and by nature."[20] 
His kingship is founded upon the ineffable hypostatic union. From this it follows not only that Christ is to be adored by angels and men, but that to him as man angels and men are subject, and must recognize his empire; by reason of the hypostatic union Christ has power over all creatures.  
But a thought that must give us even greater joy and consolation is this that Christ is our King by acquired, as well as by natural right, for he is our Redeemer.  
Would that they who forget what they have cost their Savior might recall the words: 
"You were not redeemed with corruptible things, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb unspotted and undefiled."[21] 
We are no longer our own property, for Christ has purchased us "with a great price";[22] our very bodies are the "members of Christ."[23]  

20. In huc. x.
21. I Pet. i, 18-19.
22. 1 Cor. vi, 20.
23. I Cor. vi, 15. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Jesuits` Final Exam

Stephen Bodio's Querencia has given an indication why the Jesuits are having difficulties in vocations.

He has reprinted part of the Jesuit`s Final Examination

INSTRUCTIONS: Read each question carefully. Answer all questions. Time limit: four hours. Begin immediately.

HISTORY: Describe the history of the papacy from its origins to the present day, concentrating especially, but not exclusively, on its social, political, economic, religious, and philosophical impact on Europe, Asia, America, and Africa. Be brief, concise, and specific.

MEDICINE: You have been provided with a razor blade, a piece of gauze, and a bottle of Scotch. Remove your appendix. Do not suture until your work has been inspected. You have fifteen minutes.

PUBLIC SPEAKING: Storming the classroom are 2500 riot-crazed aborigines. Calm them. You may use any ancient language except Latin or Greek.

BIOLOGY: Create life. Estimate the differences in subsequent human culture if this form of life had developed 500 million years earlier, with special attention to its probable effect on the English parliamentary system. Prove your thesis.

MUSIC: Write a piano concerto. Orchestrate and perform it with flute and drum. (You will find a piano under your seat).

PSYCHOLOGY: Estimate the sociological problems which might accompany the end of the world. Construct an experiment to test your theory.

ENGINEERING: The disassembled parts of a high-powered rifle have been placed in a box on your desk. You will also find an instruction manual, printed in Swahili. In ten minutes a hungry Bengal tiger will be admitted to the room. Take whatever action you feel appropriate. Be prepared to justify your decision.

ECONOMICS: Develop a realistic plan for refinancing the national debt. Trace the possible effects of your plan in the following areas: cubism, the Donatist controversy, the wave theory of light. Outline a method for preventing these effects. Criticize this method from all possible points of view, as demonstrated in your answer to the last question.

POLITICAL SCIENCE: There is a red telephone on the desk beside you. Start World War III. Report at length on its socio-political effects, if any.

EPISTEMOLOGY: Take a position for or against the truth. Prove the validity of your position.

PHYSICS: Explain the nature of matter. Include in your answer an evaluation of the impact of the development of mathematics on science.

PHILOSOPHY: Sketch the development of human thought; estimate its significance. Compare with the development of any other kind of thought. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Saints Cosmas and Damian: gifts of the Spirit

Fra Giovanni Angelico da Fiesole (c 1395-1455)
The Crucifixion of Saints Cosmas and Damian and the stoning of the brothers
Oil on poplar wood
0.381 m.  : x 0.46 m
Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen,  Munich,

Blessed Fra  Angelico (c 1440- 55)
The Martyrdom of Saints Cosmas and Damian
c 1440
Oil on poplar wood
0.370 m. x 460 m
Musée du Louvre, Paris

The Initial "S" showing Saints Cosmas and Damian
Fragment of a liturgical manuscript
c. 1440 from Tuscany
inv. 6988 
Musée hist. et arch. Orléans

Saints Cosmas and Damian in the initial "P"
From a Roman Breviary
c. 1482
Ms. 0069 f. 558v 
BM   Clermont-Ferrand 

The stories of Cosmas and Damian are narrated in The Golden Legend or Lives Of The Saints compiled by Jacobus de Voragine, Archbishop of Genoa, 1275 

What is martyrdom ?

Pope Benedict XVI addressed the question in a letter to the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints 

"Martyrdom: a gift of the Spirit  
The third subject reflected upon at the Plenary Meeting concerns martyrdom, a gift of the Spirit and an attribute of the Church in every epoch (cf. Lumen Gentium, n. 42). 
The Venerable Pontiff John Paul II, in his Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente, noted that since the Church has once again become the Church of Martyrs, "as far as possible, their witness should not be lost" (n. 37).  
The martyrs of the past and those of our time gave and give life (effusio sanguinis) freely and consciously in a supreme act of love, witnessing to their faithfulness to Christ, to the Gospel and to the Church.  
If the motive that impels them to martyrdom remains unchanged, since Christ is their source and their model, then what has changed are the cultural contexts of martyrdom and the strategies "ex parte persecutoris" that more and more seldom explicitly show their aversion to the Christian faith or to a form of conduct connected with the Christian virtues, but simulate different reasons, for example, of a political or social nature.  
It is of course necessary to find irrefutable proof of readiness for martyrdom, such as the outpouring of blood and of its acceptance by the victim.  
It is likewise necessary, directly or indirectly but always in a morally certain way, to ascertain the "odium Fidei" [hatred of the faith] of the persecutor. If this element is lacking there would be no true martyrdom according to the perennial theological and juridical doctrine of the Church.  
The concept of "martyrdom" as applied to the Saints and Blessed martyrs should be understood, in conformity with Benedict XIV's teaching, as "voluntaria mortis perpessio sive tolerantia propter Fidem Christi, vel alium virtutis actum in Deum relatum" (De Servorum Dei beatificatione et Beatorum canonizatione, Prato 1839-1841, Book III, chap. 11, 1). This is the constant teaching of the Church."

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Water Carrier

Annibale Carracci 1560 - 1609
The Samaritan Woman at the Well c. 1595
Oil on canvas, 
170 x 225 cm

In the New Testament there are three important meetings of Christ with women: the meeting with the Samaritan woman at the well; the meeting of Christ with the woman caight in adultery; and the meeting of Christ with the woman from Canaan who wanted her daughter cured

Annibale Carracci painted at least two versions of the meeting with the Samaritan woman at the well

His contemporaries regarded him as the new Raphael and as a poet

But on the surface he was not prepossessing. He  was described in this way:
"Neither clean nor well dressed, with his collar askew, his hat jammed on any old way and his unkempt beard… [he] seemed to be like an ancient philosopher, absent-minded and alone"
His work often challenged the conventions and norms of Counter-Reformation and Baroque art in
the treatment of religious images.

About 1605 Annibale painted another version of the same theme (in the Kunsthistoriches, Vienna) where there is a change in conception, an increase in spirituality and less of the humanistic 'conversation piece.' Less intellectual, less Mannerist, more classical

Annibale Carracci 1560 - 1609
Christ and The Samaritan Woman at the Well c. 1605
Oil on canvas, 
60,5 x 146 cm
Gemäldegalerie Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna

Both paintings in their entirety exemplify the scope and message of the event which they depict.

It takes up almost the whole of one chapter of St John`s Gospel: John 4

It is worthwhile reading the chapter in full. In the Lectionary they cut bits out

The event is also known as "The Water of Life Discourse".

 It is the complement of "The Bread of Life Discourse" (John 6:26–58)

Together they show ""Christ as the Life"

The two discourses are two  of the seven discourses in John which teach important truths about who Jesus is and what He does for mankind. They focus on Christology—revealing something of the person and the work of Jesus as the Messiah, the  Anointed One.

The other five are The New Birth (3:1–36), The Divine Son (5:17–47),  The Life-Giving Spirit (7:16–52), The Light of the World (8:12–59), and The Good Shepherd (10:1–18)

Chapter 3 of John ends with John the Baptist`s disciples of the Baptist asking about this man Jesus going about the countryside baptising and attracting many followers.

Chapter 4 of John continues the image of  Living Water

The Chapter starts rather curiously in a few verses that are usually missed out in the Lectionary before the scene is set
"1 Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John  2 (although Jesus himself was not baptizing, just his disciples), 3 he left Judea and returned to Galilee. 4 He had to pass through Samaria 
5 So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there. Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well. It was about noon."
(John 4: 1 - 6)
John goes out of his way to make it clear that Jesus does not baptise. It is his disciples.

This was a detour through Samaria which Christ had to make: to the semi-Jews but a people and land hostile to Jews and the feeling was more than amply reciprocated

The well is still there. At present it is still deep - about 125 feet.

The well is fed by underground springs and the water is cool and flowing not stagnant as in some cisterns. The water was good and it was called "living water" by the people of the time

It was the water which gave life to the parched countryside and the people who lived there

The encounter takes place at high noon, in the heat of the mid-day sun. 

A request for a drink of water prompts a revelation, an epiphany when Christ says to the woman:
“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink', you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.... Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (Jn 4:10, 13-14)
The water which Christ speaks of is the Holy Spirit.

This is made even more clear in John 7 when Christ says:
"37  On the last and greatest day of the feast [the Jewish feast of Tabernacles], Jesus stood up and exclaimed, "Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. 
38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture says: 'Rivers of living water  will flow from within him.'" 
39 He said this in reference to the Spirit that those who came to believe in him were to receive. There was, of course, no Spirit yet,  because Jesus had not yet been glorified."
(John 7: 37 - 39)

(The last day of Tabernacles was the Great Day of Judgement and the verdict for water and for rain as well as for the Messiah)

The imagery of "living water" can be subject to misinterpretation and false manipulation.

In the modern age we are used to New Age religions and philosophies  some of which have seized on New Age as an alternative to the Judaeo-Christian heritage. The Age of Aquarius is conceived as one which will replace the predominantly Christian Age of Pisces.

In Jesus Christ, the bearer of the Water of Life: A Christian reflection on the New Age, the Pontifical Council for Culture published a report into New Age movements after a six year study
Gnosticism and Spiritual narcissism are the general characteristics of such movements. They use Christian motifs including a false kind of mysticism to perpetrate a false message to those who seek the Truth

Interestingly the Council  in its Report offers a detailed and insightful commentary on the meeting of Christ with the woman from Samaria: which in view of the forthcoming Year of Faith  is perhaps worthwhile re-reading

"But one episode that speaks really clearly about what he offers us is the story of his encounter with the Samaritan woman by Jacob's well in the fourth chapter of John's Gospel; it has even been described as “a paradigm for our engagement with truth”. 
The experience of meeting the stranger who offers us the water of life is a key to the way Christians can and should engage in dialogue with anyone who does not know Jesus. 
One of the attractive elements of John's account of this meeting is that it takes the woman a while even to glimpse what Jesus means by the water 'of life', or 'living' water (verse 11). Even so, she is fascinated – not only by the stranger himself, but also by his message – and this makes her listen.  
After her initial shock at realising what Jesus knew about her (“You are right in saying 'I have no husband': for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband; this you said truly”, verses 17- 18), she was quite open to his word: “I see you are a prophet, Sir” (verse 19).  
The dialogue about the adoration of God begins: “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews” (verse 22). 
Jesus touched her heart and so prepared her to listen to what He had to say about Himself as the Messiah: “I who am speaking to you – I am he” (verse 26), prepared her to open her heart to the true adoration in Spirit and the self-revelation of Jesus as God's Anointed.  
The woman “put down her water jar and hurried back to the town to tell the people” all about the man (verse 28).  
The remarkable effect on the woman of her encounter with the stranger made them so curious that they, too, “started walking towards him” (verse 30). 
They soon accepted the truth of his identity: “Now we no longer believe because of what you told us; we have heard him ourselves and we know that he really is the saviour of the world” (verse 42).  
They move from hearing about Jesus to knowing him personally, then understanding the universal significance of his identity. This all happens because their minds, their hearts and more are engaged.  
The fact that the story takes place by a well is significant.  
Jesus offers the woman “a spring... welling up to eternal life” (verse 14).  
The gracious way in which Jesus deals with the woman is a model for pastoral effectiveness, helping others to be truthful without suffering in the challenging process of self-recognition (“he told me every thing I have done“, verse 39).  
This approach could yield a rich harvest in terms of people who may have been attracted to the water-carrier (Aquarius) but who are genuinely still seeking the truth. They should be invited to listen to Jesus, who offers us not simply something that will quench our thirst today, but the hidden spiritual depths of “living water”. It is important to acknowledge the sincerity of people searching for the truth; there is no question of deceit or of self-deception. 
 It is also important to be patient, as any good educator knows. A person embraced by the truth is suddenly energised by a completely new sense of freedom, especially from past failures and fears, and “the one who strives for self-knowledge, like the woman at the well, will affect others with a desire to know the truth that can free them too”. 
An invitation to meet Jesus Christ, the bearer of the water of life, will carry more weight if it is made by someone who has clearly been profoundly affected by his or her own encounter with Jesus, because it is made not by someone who has simply heard about him, but by someone who can be sure “that he really is the saviour of the world” (verse 42).  
It is a matter of letting people react in their own way, at their own pace, and letting God do the rest."

In English literature, the Water of Life Discourse has been very significant

Take one example. Chaucer`s The Wife of Bath Alisoun is similar to Photine in having had five husbands 

But in her Prologue to her Tale in The Canterbury Tales, Alisoun affects not to quite understand the Discourse of the Water of Life and is inaccurate in her re-elling of it:
"That by the same ensample, taughte he me, 
That I ne sholde wedded be but ones. 
Herkne eek, lo, which a sharpe word for the nones, 
15 Biside a welle Jhesus, God and Man,
 Spak in repreeve of the Samaritan.  
"Thou hast yhad fyve housbondes," quod he,
 "And thilke man the which that hath now thee 
Is noght thyn housbonde;" thus seyde he certeyn. 
20 What that he mente ther by, I kan nat seyn; 
But that I axe, why that the fifthe man 
Was noon housbonde to the Samaritan? 
 How manye myghte she have in mariage? 
Yet herde I nevere tellen in myn age 
25 Upon this nombre diffinicioun. 
Men may devyne, and glosen up and doun,
 But wel I woot, expres, withoute lye, 
God bad us for to wexe and multiplye; 
That gentil text kan I wel understonde."

Critics have said of The Wife of Bath that she  disregards the spirit of the Scriptures in favor of experience and is therefore enslaved by the Old Law

Not for nothing is she "'somdel deef' She is also on pilgrimage from the Diocese of Bath and Wells

Like her, her Tale is of the joys of sensuality and the flesh

John A. Alford, "The Wife of Bath Versus the Clerk of Oxford: What Their Rivalry Means." Chaucer Review 21 (1986): 121-22, 124. writes:
"". . . Chaucer makes the very incarnation of eloquence 'somdel deef'! /121/ Could any other physical trait stand as a more damaging criticism of her art, or at least of the way in which she practices it? Her performance will confirm that she cannot hear, as we do, what she is saying. Her speech is oddly deficient--full of eloquence but lacking in wisdom, rich in invention but poor in judgment." /122/ "The Wife's tendency to digress (for example, D 585-86, 952-82) . . . is the verbal corollary of her 'wandrynge by the weye' . . . ." "The answer to the Wife's riddle [in her Tale] is also the fundamental motive of rhetorical discourse--power. To achieve 'the maistre,' to manipulate other people into believing or behaving according to one's own wishes is 'what orators most desire.'" 

She desires power and authority not love. Unlike the Samaritan woman, she has never been touched by the Word and Chaucer makes the point for all her quoting from Scripture, she cannot and will not (or ever) understand the Discourse

Chaucer delivers his devastating verdict on the Wife of Bath to the end of her tale when she proclaims (unknowingly) her guilt to the assembled pilgrims:
"And thus they lyve unto hir lyves ende
In parfit joye;-and Jesu Crist us sende
1265 Housbondes meeke, yonge, fressh abedde,
And grace t'overbyde hem that we wedde;
And eek I praye Jesu shorte hir lyves
That nat wol be governed by hir wyves;
And olde and angry nygardes of dispence,
1270 God sende hem soone verray pestilence!"
But what Chaucer does illustrate is that what passes for New Age is often not new and very old indeed

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Preaching about Angels Men and Demons

Giotto di Bondone 1267 - 1337
Legend of St Francis: 10. Exorcism of the Demons at Arezzo
Fresco, 270 x 230 cm
Upper Church, San Francesco, Assisi

Benozzo Gozzoli 
ca. 1420 -  1497
Scene from the Life of St Francis (Scene 6, north wall)
Inscription: QUANDO BS.F. EXPULIT DEMO(N)ES DE CIVITATE ARETII DIVINA POTENTIA ET PACIFICAVIT TOTU(M) POPULU(M) - How St Francis used divine power to drive the devils out of the city of Arezzo and brought peace to the entire population
Fresco, 270 x 220 cm
Apsidal chapel, San Francesco, Montefalco

As part of the preaching tour of Italy in the early 1220s, St Francis apparently went to the city of Arezzo in Tuscany

Like  Bologna, Arezzo was wracked by civil strife

St. Francis saw demons over the city. He called upon a brother of his order, Sylvester,  to drive them out

Sylvester was the first priest in the order. He is one of the four companions buried next to St Francis in the Basilica in Assisi

Through his prayers and preaching, the demons fled the city  leaving peace and harmony.

From a city filled with Angels, Men and Demons, Arezzo became a city of Men and Angels.

It was Pope Pius XI who in Rite expiatis (30th April 1926)  commented on this aspect of the mission of St Francis and the early Franciscans:
"He [St Francis] then began a visit to the cities of Italy announcing, either personally or through the first disciples who had come to him, the foundation of his two Orders, preaching penance to the people in few but fiery words, gathering by this ministry and by his words and example almost unbelievable fruits.  
In all the places where he went to perform the functions of his apostolic ministry the people and clergy came out in procession to meet Francis, and there was much ringing of bells, singing of popular songs, and waving of olive branches.  
Persons of every age, sex, and condition flocked to him and, by day or night, surrounded the house where he lived so that they might have a chance of seeing him when he went out, of touching him, speaking to him, or listening to his words.  
No one, even if he were grown gray in habits of vice and sin, could resist the preaching of the Saint. Very many people, even some of mature age, vied with one another in giving up all their earthly goods for love of the evangelical life. 
Entire cities of Italy, reborn to a new moral life, placed themselves under the direction of Francis. The number of his sons grew beyond reckoning.  
Such was the enthusiasm which filled all to follow in his footsteps that the Seraphic Patriarch himself was often obliged to dissuade many and turn aside from the proposal to leave the world both men and women who were willing and ready to give up their conjugal rights and the joys of domestic life. 
33. Meanwhile the principal desire which filled these new preachers of penance was to help bring back peace not only to individuals but to families, cities, and even nations, torn by interminable wars and steeped in blood.  
If at Assisi, Arezzo, Bologna, and in many other cities and towns it was possible to bring about a general era of peace, at times confirmed even by solemn treaties, this was due altogether to the superhuman power of the eloquence of these rough men."

In his Post-Synodal Exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente, the Pope made the same point as St Francis and Pope Pius XI on his apostolic journey in Lebanon.

 Without interior transformation, the quest for true peace is illusory:

"How many deaths have there been, how many lives ravaged by human blindness, how many occasions of fear and humiliation! It would seem that there is no end to the crime of Cain (cf. Gen 4:6-10 and 1 Jn 3:8- 15) among the sons of Adam and Eve created in God’s image (cf. Gen 1:27).  
Adam’s transgression, reinforced by the sin of Cain, continues to produce thorns and thistles (cf. Gen 3:18) even today. 
How sad it is to see this blessed land suffer in its children who relentlessly tear one another to pieces and die! Christians know that only Jesus, who passed through sufferings and death in order to rise again, is capable of bringing salvation and peace to all who dwell in your part of the world (cf. Acts 2:23-24, 32-33).  
Him alone, Christ, the Son of God, do we proclaim! Let us repent, then, and be converted, “that sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19-20a). 
9. For the sacred Scriptures, peace is not simply a pact or a treaty which ensures a tranquil life, nor can its definition be reduced to the mere absence of war. According to its Hebrew etymology, peace means being complete and intact, restored to wholeness.  
It is the state of those who live in harmony with God and with themselves, with others and with nature.  
Before appearing outwardly, peace is interior. It is blessing. It is the yearning for a reality. Peace is something so desirable that it has become a greeting in the Middle East (cf. Jn 20:19; 1 Pet 5:14). Peace is justice (cf.Is 32:17); Saint James in his Letter adds that “the harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (3:18).  
The struggle of the Prophets and the reflections of the Wisdom authors were inspired by the hope of eschatological peace. It is towards this authentic peace in God that Christ leads us. He alone is its gate (Jn 10:9). This is the sole gate that Christians wish to enter. 
10. Only by beginning with conversion to God, and by showing forgiveness to those close at hand and in the wider community, will the just respond to Christ’s invitation to become “children of God” (cf. Mt 5:9). Only the meek will delight in boundless peace (cf. Ps 37:11). In offering us a life of communion with God, Jesus creates true fraternity, not the fraternity marred by sin. 
Christians know that the earthly politics of peace will only be effective if justice in God and justice among men and women are its authentic basis, and if this same justice battles against the sin which is at the origin of division. 
For this reason, the Church wishes to overcome every difference of race, sex and social condition (cf. Gal 3:28 and Col 3:11) in the knowledge that all are one in Christ, who is all in all."
“For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility” (Eph 2:14).

Preaching in Bologna: Angels, People and Demons

Angelo Finelli
Pianta topografica di Bologna nella seconda cerchia
Reconstruction of Bologna in the early middle ages about 12th century
c. 1917

In art we are used to seeing St Francis preach: to Pope Honorius, the Sultan  and to the Birds

St Francis used to preach a lot - mainly to people. In 1221-1222 St Francis embarked on  a preaching tour in southern Italy

For some reason this tour is not in the standard iconography of St Francis

We have a record of one notable sermon which he preached on the Feast of the Assumption (15th August) 1222 in Bologna

It was a particularly active and turbulent  time in the life of the city

This was no mean city at the time. 

At the end of the 13th century, Bologna had between 50,000 and 60,000 inhabitants making it the fifth largest city in Europe (after Cordova, Paris, Venice, and Florence) and tied with Milan as the biggest textile industry area in Italy.

Saint Dominic de Guzmán  had died the year before in Bologna on 6 August 1221 in the Convent which he had made the headquarters of his Order the church of San Nicolò of the Vineyards. The acquisition of the land for the Church was very strongly opposed by the wealthy Loderingo degli Andlò, who owned the land 

In accordance with his wishes Saint Dominic was buried there

The new Master of the Dominicans  Blessed Jordan of Saxony, O.P.  (ca. 1190 – 1237) was appointed. He was based mainly in Bologna.

In late 1223 he helped found amongst other things the Dominican convent of Saint Agnes  in Bologna for women along with Blessed Diana degli Andalò (1201 – 10 June 1236), the sister of Loderingo degli Andlò

It was in this year 1222, when a part of the Studium of Bologna including professors and students withdrew to Padua and helped found the University there

There were many fights and feuds among the nobles and powerbrokers of Bologna. The city was wracked by power struggles The divisions between Guelph (Geremei) and Ghibelline (Lambertazzi) were strong and violent

It was into this bubbling cauldron in the height of summer that St Francis came into the city. 

We have an independent record of his visit, the sermon and its effect from someone who was a student in Bologna at the time, a Croat, Thomas the Archdeacon (or Thomas of Spalato) (c. 1200 – 8 May 1268)

In his Historia Salonitana, he records the scene:
 “In that same year (i.e. 1222.), on the Feast of the Assumption of the Madonna, when I was attending my studies in Bologna, I saw St. Francis, who was preaching on the square in front of the city palace where almost the entire city had gathered.  
And the basis of his sermons were: angels, people, demons. Namely, he explained these three orders of reason-endowed spirits so well and so rationally that many well-schooled people who heard the speech of this unlearned man were awestruck: he nonetheless did not hold an assembly, instead he preached.  
Truly the entire content of his words pertained to overcoming hostility and renewing the alliance of peace.  
His garments were simple, his personage aroused loathing, his face nondescript. But God imparted so much effect to his words that many of nobles among whom the fierce rage of old hostilities had led to much bloodshed, were thinking of peace.  
There was so much reverence and love for this man, that the men and women crowded around him in a throng, attempting to touch the hem of his garment or to tear a piece off.” 
Thomas, Historia Salonitana, 2003, 152-153; Historia Salonitana, 2006, p. 178-179.

Two other students from  the March of Ancona - one named Pellegrino and the other Rinieri. also heard the sermon and joined the Order. The events are narrated in the Fioretti Chapter 27
"St Francis coming one day to the city of Bologna, all the inhabitants went out to meet him, and the crowd was so great that it was with much difficulty he made his way to the market-place, which was filled with men, women, and scholars. And St Francis, on arriving there, stood upon an elevated spot, and began to preach that which the Holy Spirit put into his mind to say; and he preached so wonderfully that he appeared to be an angel, not a man; and his words were like sharp arrows, which pierced through the hearts of those who listened to them. And many men and women were brought to repentance through that sermon; of this number were two noble students of the March of Ancona - one named Pellegrino and the other Rinieri."
These two young men would later be beatified

In the next year 1223 St Francis promulgated his new Rule. It contained a section on preaching:
"IX. On preachers. 
The friars must not preach in the diocese of any bishop if they have been forbidden to do so by him. And no brother should dare preach to the people unless he has been examined and approved by the minister general of his brotherhood and the office of preaching has been conceded to him. 
I also admonish and exhort the brothers that in their preaching their words be studied and chaste, useful and edifying to the people, telling them about vices and virtues, punishment and glory; and they ought to be brief, because the Lord kept his words brief when he was on earth."

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Virgo dolorosa

Bernardino Poccetti 
1548 - 1612
The Lamenting Virgin (Virgo dolorosa)
Red chalk with the Virgin's figure containing a few retouches in black chalk. 
203 millimetres x 126 millimetres
The British Museum, London

Poccetti  specialised as a fresco painter. In his early career he painted palace facades in Florence, thus the nickname 'Bernardino delle facciate' or 'Bernardino delle Grottesche'

His best-known works include  the fourteen lunettes in the Chiostro Grande, Santissima Annunziata (Basilica of the Most Holy Annunciation) in Florence, the mother Church of the Servite order

The Servite order has amongst its main purposes the propagation of devotion to Mary, with special reference to her sorrows.

The drawing above is thought by The British Museum to be study for the figure of the lamenting Virgin for the vault of the Cappella delle Reliquie in the church of the Florentine Certosa (Charterhouse) at Galluzzo.

It is a work which explores the nature of Love, suffering and the pain of mourning

His work is more contemplative than contemporary artists of the Counter-Reformation

The Seven Sorrows of Mary are traditionally:
The Prophecy of Simeon. ("Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also...." Luke 2:35)
The Flight into Egypt
The Loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple
Mary Meets Jesus on the Way to Calvary.
Jesus Dies on the Cross
Mary Receives the Body of Jesus in Her Arms
The Body of Jesus Is Placed in the Tomb. 

Today is the Commemoratio angustiae et doloris Beatae Mariae Virginis

We remember the promise of Christ in the Beatitudes:

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Matthew 5:4
Blessed [are] ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh. 
Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you [from their company], and reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake. 
Rejoice in that day, and leap [for joy]: for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for in the same manner did their fathers unto the prophets. Luke 6:   21-23

Four of the Seven Sorrows are to do with the Passion and Death of our Lord. There is an overlap with the Stations of the Cross.

This is not coincidental and neither is the fact that only too recently we celebrated the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross.

"The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross which we celebrated yesterday [Saturday] is followed by the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows. Two liturgical celebrations that invite us to make a spiritual pilgrimage to Calvary. They encourage us to unite ourselves with the Virgin Mary in contemplating the mystery of the Cross"

And in his meditation on the Thirteenth Station of the Cross Jesus is taken down from the Cross and given to his Mother (Jubilee Year 2000) Pope John Paul II prayed:

"That love [of Mary for Jesus] was revealed in the cave at Bethlehem  and was tested already during the Presentation in the Temple. It grew deeper as Mary stored and pondered in her heart all that was happening (cf. Lk 2:51).  
Now this intimate bond of love must be transformed into a union which transcends the boundary between life and death.  
And thus it will be across the span of the centuries: people pause at Michelangelo’s statue of the Pietà, they kneel before the image of the loving and sorrowful Mother (Smetna Dobrodziejka) in the Church of the Franciscans in Kraków, before the Mother of the Seven Sorrows, Patroness of Slovakia, they venerate Our Lady of Sorrows in countless shrines in every part of the world.  
And so they learn the difficult love which does not flee from suffering, but surrenders trustingly to the tenderness of God, for whom nothing is impossible (cf.Lk 1:37)."

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Luca della Robbia (1399/1400–1482) 
Marble, 328 x 560 cm
Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Florence

Luca della Robbia`s (1399/1400–1482) first documented commission was the Cantoria, an organ loft, or singers' gallery, (1431–1438) originally for above the door to the North Sacristy, in  the Cathedral of Florence

It now is displayed in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, adjacent to the Cathedral

It was dismantled sometime in the 17th century only to be painstakingly reassembled in the late 19th  century by Professor Luigi Del Moro (A similar fate happened to the great pulpit in Pisa Cathedral)

It is not one of the easiest works to appreciate in its present location but well worth the effort.

The theme which runs throughout the work are the words of Psalm 150, one of the Laudate psalms:
"Hallelujah!  Praise God in his holy sanctuary; give praise in the mighty dome of heaven. 
Give praise for his mighty deeds, praise him for his great majesty. 
Give praise with blasts upon the horn, praise him with harp and lyre. 
Give praise with tambourines and dance, praise him with flutes and strings. 
Give praise with crashing cymbals, praise him with sounding cymbals. 
Let everything that has breath give praise to the LORD! Hallelujah! " 
Psalm 150
laudate eum in firmamento virtutis eius.
2 Laudate eum in magnalibus eius,
laudate eum secundum multitudinem magnitudinis eius.
3 Laudate eum in sono tubae,
laudate eum in psalterio et cithara,
4 laudate eum in tympano et choro,
laudate eum in chordis et organo,
5 laudate eum in cymbalis benesonantibus,
laudate eum in cymbalis iubilationis:
omne quod spirat, laudet Dominum. ALLELUIA

The words from the Vulgate are inscribed on the Cantoria

Temple musicians and dancers are called to lead all beings on earth and in heaven in praise of God, the highest form of prayer. 

The psalm proclaims to whom praise shall be given, and where what praise shall be given, and why how praise shall be given and by whom 

It is not only human beings who are called on to sing praise but the whole of living creation: "all that have breath" *omne quod spirat"

The words of the psalm are depicted in the images on the Cantoria

With the choir singing to the organ in a liturgical ceremony all the senses of those present would be inflamed: sight, sound, touch, speech and smell (incense). The Word of God  come alive at Lauds

Here is the rendition of the Psalm by Claudio Giovanni Antonio Monteverdi (1567 (Il Battesimo ) - 1643), Laudate Dominum, Psalm 150

The Psalm calls for music

St Augustine said:
"Music, that is the science or the sense of proper modulation, is likewise given by God's generosity to mortals having rational souls in order to lead them to higher things."

Epis. 161. De origine animae hominis, 1, 2; PL XXXIII, 725
"I feel that our souls are moved to the ardour of piety by the sacred words more piously and powerfully when these words are sung than when they are not sung, and that all the affections of our soul in their variety have modes of their own in song and chant by which they are stirred up by an indescribable and secret sympathy."
St. Augustine, Confessions, Book X, chap. 33, MPL, XXXII, 799ff.

Pius XII in Mediator Dei said that music (of the proper sort) in liturgy was a necessity
""For, if they are not profane or unbecoming to the sacredness of the place and function and do not spring from a desire to achieve extraordinary and unusual effects, then our churches must admit them, since they can contribute in no small way to the splendor of the sacred ceremonies, can lift the mind to higher things, and can foster true devotion of the soul."
He later in Musicae Sacrae added this warning:
"It should hardly be necessary to add the warning that, when the means and talent available are unequal to the task, it is better to forego such attempts than to do something which would be unworthy of divine worship and sacred gatherings"
Unfortunately in many cases this warning is ignored.

Finally in Musicae Sacrae he summed up the ultimate end  of music in a liturgical setting, why people should sing, should want to sing:
"May it thus come about that the Christian people begin even on this earth to sing that song of praise it will sing forever in heaven: "To Him who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb, blessing and honour and glory and dominion forever and ever." (Apoc. 5. 13)"

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Come over to Macedonia and help us

William Pars c. 1742 – 1782
Exterior of the Gymnasium at Alexandria Troas; ruined triple archway, partially obscured by trees and fallen stones with group of figures in front
Pen and black and grey ink, watercolour, some gum Arabic
294 millimetres x 508 millimetres
The British Museum, London

William Pars c. 1742 – 1782
Interior of the Gymnasium at Alexandria Troas; rocks and shrubs amidst ruins, two foreground figures in centre
Pen and black and grey ink, watercolour, some gum Arabic
300 millimetres x 550 millimetres
The British Museum, London

Pars was the  official draughtsman to Chandler and Revett's expedition to Greece and Asia Minor, 1764-66. It was one of the earliest archaeological expeditions to rediscover the main sites of ancient Greece

Alexandria Troas ("Alexandria of the Troad") was an important  ancient Greek and Roman city situated on the Aegean Sea

It has been a ruin for several hundred years.

As a major port, as a centre of many main roads and a centre of Roman administration, Troas played a crucial role in the expansion of early Christianity.

Near to the entrance of the Hellespont it also provided a link on the main Roman postal route from Asia to Europe via Philippi, Thessalonica and the Via Egnatia

It seems to be the place where Saints Paul and Luke first met, with Luke subsequently making a travel diary of their journeys together.

Perhaps most importantly it was the place where after the Council of Jerusalem, St Paul had his vision which led him to begin his  journey to bring the Christian gospel to Europe:

“6 They travelled through the Phrygian and Galatian territory because they had been prevented by the Holy Spirit from preaching the message in the province of Asia.  
7 When they came to Mysia, they tried to go on into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them,  
8 so they crossed through Mysia and came down to Troas.  
9 During (the) night Paul had a vision. A Macedonian stood before him and implored him with these words, "Come over to Macedonia and help us."  
10 When he had seen the vision, we sought passage to Macedonia at once, concluding that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them” 
Acts 16: 6 – 10

The late Cardinal Martini in a speech on 12th July 2002 LA PAROLA DI DIO NEL FUTURO DELL'EUROPA   "The Word of God in the Future of Europe”) described that moment thus:

“l'unico inizio della evangelizzazione dell'Europa che ci viene descritto solennemente è quello presentato qui in Atti 16,6-9. Da quel momento la parola di Dio sarà proclamata di regione in regione fino agli angoli più remoti del continente europeo e a seguito di ciò anche i libri delle Sacre Scritture entreranno fortemente nella cultura e nella mentalità dei popoli europei.” 
“The first step in the  beginning of the evangelization of Europe which is  solemnly described to us is the one presented here in Acts 16.6 to 9. From that moment, the word of God would be proclaimed from one region to the next and so on, right unto the most remote corners of the European continent and as a result the Books  of the Holy Scriptures would intrude forcefully  into the culture and minds of the peoples of Europe. "

Sunday, September 09, 2012

The prayer life of St. Dominic de Guzmán

Unidentified Artist 
Saint Dominic
c. 1265-1320 
Tempera and gold on panel with a gabled top 
including strip frame: 117 x 61.9 cm (46 1/16 x 24 3/8 in.)
Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Mass

St Dominic in Prayer
From De modo orandi
Illumination on parchment
Codex Rossianus 3
Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vatican

St Dominic Prostrating Himself
From De modo orandi
Illumination on parchment
Codex Rossianus 3
Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vatican

Vecellio Tiziano 1490 - . 1576
St Dominic
c. 1565
Oil on canvas
Galleria Borghese, Rome

El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos), 1541 -. 1614
St Dominic in Prayer
Oil on canvas, 118 x 86 cm
Private collection

El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos), 1541 -. 1614
St Dominic in Prayer
about 1605
Oil on canvas, 104.7 x 82.9 cm (41 1/4 x 32 5/8 in.)
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Luca Giordano  (1632-1705),
Saint Dominic overcoming the Human Passions
Oil on Canvas
2.330 m. x 1.860 m. 
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nantes

These representations of St Dominic all emphasise the spiritual nature of the life of St Dominic, of his mission and his work.

Historians of the period tend to concentrate on the political or ideological nature of his work. They do not look at the interior man. What was it  that impelled him to found an order of evangelists committed to spreading the Gospel ?

One of the pillars of the Dominican constitution, the means by which members of the Order fulfil their mission is the daily recitation of the Divine Office:

"The solemn recitation of the Divine Office, the Liturgy of the Hours, the third means of facilitating the preaching of the Gospel, cen­tered the worship life of the community on the word of God.  
As a Canon Regular, Dominic had known the solemn celebration of the eight hours of the Divine Office: Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline. With its patterns of hymns, psalms, Scripture readings, and prayers, the Office provided the place where a religious community daily encountered the word of God as it pro­claimed the mysteries of salvation in the unfolding of the liturgical year. 
Daily Mass and the Divine Office constituted the common prayer of the community of contemplative preachers. Gathered together for prayer in common, they experienced the lifegiving water of the word of God and the living bread of the Holy Eucharist.  
This daily nourish­ment of word and sacrament strengthened and renewed the commu­nity of contemplative preachers so that they could share the same living water and bread of life with the people to whom they preached and ministered.  
The common praise of God and the hearing of the Good News were meant to be joyous occasions of new life and empowerment for ministry, which also would be strengthened by the fourth means of facilitating the preaching mission of the Order, the life of study." 
Thomas C. McGonigle, OP. in Phyllis Zagano, Thomas C. McGonigle , The Dominican Tradition (2006)

In his recent talk on the feast day of  St. Dominic de Guzmán, the Pope spoke of prayer in the life of the great saint
"Under the Holy Spirit's guidance, he advanced along the way of Christian perfection. At each moment, prayer was the force that renewed and rendered his apostolic works increasingly fruitful."

Unlike St Teresa of Avila he left no works on prayer. 

But after his death between the year 1260 and 1288 a Dominican friar wrote a book entitled The Nine Ways of Prayer of St. Dominic

For St Dominic there were nine ways of prayer:

Bowing as a sign of humility; lying prostrate on the ground to ask forgiveness for his sins; on his knees in penance, participating in the suffering of Jesus; with open arms gazing at the Crucifix in contemplation; with his gaze to the sky feeling the draw of God; in the intimacy of personal meditation; seated, quietly listening.