Friday, May 17, 2013

Potato Pete

Potato Pete 

Norman Rockwell
Rosie the Riveter
Oil on canvas
52 x 40 in. (132.1 x 101.6 cm)
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arizona
Image courtesy of The Saturday Evening Post: May 29, 1943 (cover)

During the Second World, America had as one of its popular icons Rosie the Riveter a fascinating work by the brilliant artist Norman Rockwell  (Sadly not as venerated or known in Europe as in the USA) The pose is based on the Sistine Chapel ceiling image of the prophet Isaiah (Do check out The Norman Rockwell Museum website for more about this great artist)

In Britain during the War, we had Potato Pete

The two contrasting images in some ways illustrate the differences between the United States and the United Kingdom

These are only two of the images in the new exhibition in The British Library in London entitled Propaganda: Power and Persuasion

The exhibition  explores  international state propaganda from the 20th and 21st centuries.

The curator sums up the exhibition this way:
"Propaganda is all around us. It is used to fight wars and fight disease, build unity and create division. Whether monumental or commonplace, sincere or insidious, propaganda is often surprising, sometimes horrific and occasionally humorous. While it’s never neutral, it can be difficult to define and identify"
"[W]e decided to focus on state use of propaganda over the past 100 years. State use because most discussions of propaganda identified states as the most significant users; and past 100 years as the 20th and 21st centuries have experienced a huge increase in the volume, variety and tactics in propaganda. ... 
All of our lives are affected by propaganda on a scale that would have been unknown 100 years ago, and we all react to that propaganda in different ways, including in how we define and recognise propaganda in the world around us."

Things have moved far beyond Potato Pete. Propaganda by the State and vested interests is big business. And all pervasive

Propaganda can be good or it can be bad. It all depends on the purpose and the content. Few doubt Rockwell`s bona fides as a propagandist. The country was at war, a war of self defence. The message is positive and optimistic. It does not malign or subvert. On closer examination what seems lie a very simple image is a complex and profound study.  It has lasted. It has not faded as time progresses. And that is the test of the good over the bad.

In a recent speech to diplomats at the Vatican Pope Francis seemed to recognise the scale of the difficulty which faces him in trying to preach a message which is inherently counter cultural in the climate of today

He talked of the present economic and financial crisis. 
He said the financial crisis "makes us forget that its ultimate origin is to be found in a profound human crisis. In the denial of the primacy of human beings! We have created new idols. The worship of the golden calf of old has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly humane goal.”
“The worldwide financial and economic crisis,” the Pontiff observed, “seems to highlight their distortions and above all the gravely deficient human perspective, which reduces men and women to just one of their needs alone, namely, consumption. Worse yet, human beings themselves are nowadays considered as consumer goods which can be used and thrown away. We have started down the path of a disposable culture."
But two points stand out in the Zenit report of his speech:
"The Bishop of Rome said this tendency is at the individual and societal level, and "it is being promoted!""
"“Concealed behind this attitude,” Francis warned, “is a rejection of ethics, a rejection of God. Ethics, like solidarity, is a nuisance! It is regarded as counterproductive: as something too human, because it relativizes money and power; as a threat, because it rejects manipulation and subjection of people: because ethics leads to God, who is situated outside the categories of the market." 
The Pope said these economists and politicians consider God as dangerous because he is "unmanageable" and he "calls man to his full realization and to independence from any kind of slavery.""

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Amos Nattini and the Comedy

Amos Nattini (1892 - 1985) 
Canto XXVII of 'Inferno': The Fraudulent Advisers
112 x 80 cm
Biblioteca del Centro Studi Danteschi, Ravenna

In 1921, the Istituto nazionale dantesco in Milan  commissioned Amos Nattini (1892 - 1985) to produce the illustrations for a special commemorative edition of Dante`s La Divina Commedia

It was to commemorate the 600th anniversary of the great work by Dante

Nattini was to produce one plate per Canto illustrating the events described in that Canto. There were one hundred Imagini
For Nattini it became a major work which for twenty years consumed his attention

The third and final volume was only completed in 1941

Nattini’s work was much acclaimed in Paris, Nice, and The Hague, thanks to its innovative techniques and highly original figurative approach. Instead of  black-and-white drawings, colour  (watercolour and oil) was used.  

His paintings were minute and delicate, and betrayed a divisionist influence

A relatively unknown and regrettably undervalued work especially outside Italy

The image illustrates the Eighth Circle of Hell in the morning of Holy Saturday. 

In that circle are the advisers who offer advice "full of fraud": either in what they say to their hearers or by inciting or assisting others in fraud

The main figure whom Dante meets in this Canto is Guido da Montefeltro (1223 – September 29, 1298). 

He  was an Italian military strategist and lord of Urbino. He gave up his temporalities and  became a monk late in life

As a Franciscan monk he is called to advise the then Pope Boniface VIII, the arch-enemy of Dante

Boniface wished to crush the Colonna family.They had opposed his election of the Papacy after the abdication of Celestine V. Their stronghold was the fortified town of Palestrina

Boniface wants to know what he has to do to take the city. He promises absolution to Guido if he does

Tempted, Guido succumbs and advises Boniface to promise the Colonna safety and then when they have surrendered to slay them and capture the city

Boniface does as suggested and captures the city

A great scandal: Christians defrauding other Christians to their death

Thinking that he has been promised absolution, Guido does not repent before death. On death he is thrown to Hell not withstanding the mighty intervention of the great St Francis himself

Dante points out the invalidity of Boniface`s promise, since absolution requires contrition, and a man cannot be contrite for a sin at the same time that he is intending to commit it

In other words, the Pope conned the conman as well as the Colonna
"The crowned prince of the new Pharisees — 
Going to war close to the Lateran 
And not against the Saracens or Jews 
"(Since every enemy of his was Christian 
And not one of them had gone to conquer Acre 
90 Or been a trader in the Sultan’s country) — 
"Ignored the high office and holy orders 
Belonging to him and ignored the cincture 
Which once made men — like me — who wore it leaner: 
"But just as Constantine sought out Sylvester 
95 On Mount Soracte to heal his leprosy, 
So he sought me to act as his physician 
"To help heal him of the fever of his pride. 
He asked me for my counsel — I kept quiet 
Because his words seemed from a drunken stupor. 
100 "Then he said, ‘Your heart need not mistrust: 
I absolve you in advance and you instruct me 
How to knock Penestrino to the ground.  
" ‘I have the power to lock and unlock heaven, 
You know that, because I keep the two keys 
105 For which my predecessor took no care.’ 
"His weighty arguments so pressured me then 
That silence seemed the worse course, and I said, 
‘Father, since you cleanse me of that sin 
" ‘Into which I now must fall — remember: 
110 An ample promise with a small repayment 
Shall bring you triumph on the lofty throne.’  
"Francis — the moment that I died — came then 
For me, but one of the black cherubim 
Called to him, ‘Don’t take him! don’t cheat me! 
115 " ‘He must come down to join my hirelings 
Because he offered counsel full of fraud, 
And ever since I’ve been after his scalp!  
" ‘For you can’t pardon one who won’t repent, 
And one cannot repent what one wills also: 
120 The contradiction cannot be allowed.’ 
"O miserable me! how shaken I was 
When he grabbed hold of me and cried, ‘Perhaps 
You didn’t realize I was a logician!’  
"He carried me off to Minos who twisted 
125 His tail eight times around his hardened back, 
Then bit it in gigantic rage and blared, 
" ‘This is a sinner for the fire of thieves!’ 
So I am lost here where you see me go 
Walking in this robe and in my rancor."  
130 When he had finished speaking in this fashion, 
The lamenting flame went away in sorrow, 
Turning and tossing its sharp-pointed horn. 

Pope Francis said recently:
"Oftentimes we think that going to confession is like going to the dry cleaners to get out a stain, but it isn’t. It’s an encounter with Jesus who waits for us to forgive us and offer salvation” 
One of the many allegations being thrown about by the press about the Church in Scotland concerns confession:
"Lenny recalls being a young priest, accompanying an older priest who would rise to great heights in the church. The older man was drunk and was ranting about men who left the priesthood. Why leave to have sex? Why didn't they just visit a sauna and go to confession in the morning?"
Hopefully this is only a fabrication.

Following a tradition

Mario Cucinella (MCA), Chiesa di S. Maria Goretti in Mormanno (Cassano all’Jonio – Cosenza)

Benedetta Tagliabue, Parrocchia di S. Giacomo apostolo in Ferrara (Ferrara – Comacchio)

Fides et Forma highlights the latest winning designs for three proposed new churches in Italy

The designs for two are above

The Italian Bishops Conference appears to be highly delighted with the winning entries

Unfortunately the learned author of the blog does not appear to appreciate these great designs and suggests that they are in fact  more akin to constructions for an alien species such as ET. 

He also suggests that in a time of financial austerity,  the Church should not waste millions of euros in constructing  buildings which ignore all rules of aesthetic beauty and liturgical norms

In Roman times, the early Roman basilicas were of course based on the public buildings of ancient Rome. These winning  designs merely follow in that tradition as can be seen from below

The guiding principle is functionality: to accommodate members of the public at certain defined times and on certain defined days in meetings whose form is prescribed by the managers of such institutions; and to look good and to blend in with the surrounds for the edification and sensibilities of people driving past as they go to other places

Monday, May 06, 2013

Tales of Otranto

The Martyrs of Otranto
c. 1640 - 1660
Oil on panel
99.0 x 146.0 cm
Diocesi di Altamura - Gravina - Acquaviva delle Fonti, Puglia, Italy

Phillip Hackert (1737 - 1807)
The Bay and Port of Otranto
Oil on canvas
143 x 218 cm
Pinacoteca, sala dei porti di Puglia, Reggia di Caserta

If one mentions the town of Otranto in Southern Italy, most would simply assume a reference to the popular eighteenth century novel by Horace Walpole The Castle of Otranto which began a new literary genre, the Gothic novel

Set in the time of the Crusades, it involves castles, monks, ghosts, battles and murder: absurd, fluffy, Romantic fiction

If one visits the Cathedral in the town of Otranto, one would see an altar which on the face of it is high Gothic. The altar is surrounded by the dismembered skeletons of townsfolk who died in 1480 as the result of an invasion and siege: the Martyrs of Otranto

The Chapel of the Otranto Martyrs
Source: Flickr

They will be canonised by Pope Francis later this week

Mathew Bunson`s article How the 800 Martyrs of Otranto Saved Rome in Catholic Answers is probably the best account of the tragedy

The comments section to the article in The Catholic Herald and Alfredo Mantovano`s article in Il Foglio indicate that for some although this event happened more than 500 years ago, passions can get heated by the subject and people can lapse into polemic

However, in a letter published in December 2012, Archbishop Donato Negro of Otranto said that the martydom of the townsfolk must represent a 
“purification of the memory of the Catholic Church and a rooting out of every possible lingering resentment, rancor, resentful policies, every eventual temptation toward hatred and violence, and every presumptuous attitude of religious superiority, religious arrogance, moral and cultural pride.” 
Remembering Christian martyrs is an occasion to examine one’s own life and make sure it corresponds with the Gospel call to love and forgive, he added

Blessed Pope John Paul II visited the city in 1980 and delivered five speeches including one homily. Not once did he mention Islam

The theme of his visit was faith and what it meant to be  a martyr to the faith. In this Year of Faith it is quite apposite to go back to it

He quoted the words of the martyrs. First the leader Blessed Antonio Pezzulla. Ironically his profession was miller and baker  and seller of bread, In response to the call to give up the faith or be killed he said:
  “Noi crediamo in Gesù Cristo, Figlio di Dio; e per Gesù Cristo, siamo pronti a morire!”
The others took up the call and cried:
“Moriamo per Gesù Cristo, tutti; moriamo volentieri, per non rinnegare la sua santa fede!”
It is perhaps not surprising that in his speech at the airport his theme was that of the First Letter of Peter perhaps written during the persecutions of the Emperor Domitian

The receivers of the letter were undergoing “various trials” (1 Peter 1:6), being “tested by fire” (1:7), maligned “as evildoers” (2:12) and suffering “for doing good” (3:17). 

For a modern up to date historical treatment of the martyrs you may wish to consult extracts of a book (alas in Italian) entitled I Beati 800 Martiri di Otranto by Quintino Gianfreda

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Regensburg Revisited

Manuel II Palaeologus
From theodori despotae laudatio funebris (Manuel’s funeral oration for his brother Theodore)
First quarter 15th century
Supplément grec 309, Folio VI
Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris

Front cover: Scenes from The Passion I
Manuscript of St Denis the Areopagite
A gift of Manuel II Palaeologus in Constantinople to l'abbaye de Saint-Denis, Paris 
Made 1503 - 05
Sent 1408
Outside covers: elephant ivory, enamelled and engraved silver, precious stones
Inside: Illuminated parchment
Musée du Louvre, Paris

Scenes from The Passion 2
Manuscript of St Denis the Areopagite
A gift of Manuel II Palaeologus in Constantinople to l'abbaye de Saint-Denis, Paris 
Made 1503 - 05
Sent 1408
Outside covers: elephant ivory, enamelled and engraved silver, precious stones
Inside: Illuminated parchment
Musée du Louvre, Paris

St Denis the Areopagite
Manuscript of St Denis the Areopagite
A gift of Manuel II Palaeologus in Constantinople to l'abbaye de Saint-Denis, Paris 
Made 1503 - 05
Sent 1408
Outside covers: elephant ivory, enamelled and engraved silver, precious stones
Inside: Illuminated parchment
Musée du Louvre, Paris

Manuel II Palaeologus accompanied by his wife Helen and their three sons under the protection of The Blessed Virgin Mary and Child Jesus
Manuscript of St Denis the Areopagite
A gift of Manuel II Palaeologus in Constantinople to l'abbaye de Saint-Denis, Paris 
Made 1503 - 05
Sent 1408
Outside covers: elephant ivory, enamelled and engraved silver, precious stones
Inside: Illuminated parchment
Musée du Louvre, Paris

London has played host to many visitors of state over two thousand years or so.

The Roman Emperor, the successor of Augustus, was paying a visit to the king of England. They met at Blackheath and spent Christmas at Eltham Palace in Kent.

He stayed two months then left for France

The Chronicler Adam of Usk described the visit:
"The Greek emperor visited London during the feast day of Saint Thomas the Apostle to seek aid against the Saracens and was received honourably by the king of England with whom he spent two months to his expense though he was compensated in return with great gifts. 
The emperor was constantly dressed in long robes like tabards in a single colour, namely white, with his retinue finding fault with the many fashions and distinctions in dress of the English asserting that it signified fickleness and changeable temper. No razor touched the heads or beards of his chaplains. The Greeks were most devout in their church services, in which both soldiers and priests joined indifferently in singing in their native tongue. 
I thought within myself what a grievous thing it was that this great Christian prince from the East should be driven here to the far western isles by the infidels to seek aid against them. 
Oh, God! What is become of the former glory of Rome? Gone is today the glory of your emperor; truly might the words of Jeremiah be spoken unto you, “Princess among the provinces, how she is become tributary! 
Who would ever believe that you could sink to such a depth of misery, that, although once seated on a magisterial throne lord of all the world, now you have no power to bring succour to the Christian faith? 
The king kept Christmas with the emperor at Eltham."
Adam of Usk. Chronicon (ed. and trans. by Edward Thompson). London, 1904 English trans. 219-220

Another chronicler in 1471 described the visit thus:
"This same yeer cam the emperour of Constantinople in to Englonde, to axe helpe and socour of the kyng ayens the Turkis, and broughte with him a pardon fro the Pope, be the whiche he gadrid moche money, and was longe in this lond on the kyngis cost, and thanne the kyng yaf him iiij m l. li.; and so he wente hoom ayen" 
From An English chronicle of the reigns of Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V, and Henry VI written before the year 1471; with an appendix, containing the 18th and 19th years of Richard II and the Parliament at Bury St. Edmund's, 25th Henry VI and supplementary additions from the Cotton. ms. chronicle called "Eulogium." Edited by John Silvester Davies. Davies, John Silvester, ed. 1829 or 30-1909,

Henry entertained the Emperor splendidly, and gave him three thousand marks at his departure, but could not give him military help against the Turks.

Henry IV (he of the Shakespearean play) had major political problems at home and could hardly hold onto his own throne

Perhaps overwhelmed by the learning of the Emperor`s court, in 1401- 02 Henry commissioned  a novum stadium (new study) for the Palace at Eltham which was probably the foundation for the present Royal Library. That perhaps is the only reminder left of such an important visit

It was part of a trip to Western Europe which the Emperor made after the defeat at The Battle of Nicopolis  on 25 September 1396

By their victory at Nicopolis, the Turks discouraged the formation of future European coalitions against them. They maintained their pressure on Constantinople, tightened their control over the Balkans, and became a greater threat to central Europe

The Emperor visited the two Popes. It was a time of schism. There was a Pope in Rome and another in Avignon. Apart from exhortations not much aid was forthcoming. Aid from secular sources was required

He also visited Charles V, the king of France

His great gift to the Royal Chapel of St Denis can be seen above. St Denis to whom the chapel was dedicated is of course St Denis the Areopagite

"The Byzantine emperor Manuel II Palaiologos was a remarkable expert on Islam and polemist with Muslims in the late Byzantine period.  
His treatises against Muslims are the most extensive in the history of Byzantine polemic against Islam.  
E. Trapp and T. Khoury edited a part of the emperor’s polemical legacy, while K. Förstel edited the whole series of his treatises against Islam, consisting of twenty-six dialogues with a Muslim about Christianity and Islam. Unfortunately, with the exception of one article of S. Reinert, there are no studies directly dedicated to these treatises of Manuel. 
Manuel knew well the polemical works of his predecessors and especially the treatises of his grandfather John Kantakouzenos. Through him, Manuel had access to the treatises of the Florentine Dominican monk Ricaldus de Monte-Croce. My research has also shown that as writer and polemist Manuel did not go beyond the framework of Byzantine literary and theological tradition.  
Many Byzantine polemists with Islam recognized with regret that any attempt to convert Muslims was destined to fail. Manuel Palaiologos also wrote with sorrow that Muslims did not abandon their faith even when their arguments were refuted as false. He was convinced of the senselessness of attempts to convert Muslims to Christianity. 
... In this sense, the writings of Manuel II are interesting as representing the highest level of the knowledge of Islam during the Byzantine epoch."

As the successor to Constantine, for over a thousand years the Byzantine Emperor sat in his palace, ruling over the empire as God’s regent on earth. His was the ultimate authority. 

The emperor was the font of all law, granter of titles and offices, distributor of largess, master of the Church, commander of the army, head of the bureaucracy, and supreme judge. The decisions of the individual who sat on the throne had repercussions throughout the Byzantine world and far beyond. 

He was supreme ruler in the State and in the Church

But Manuel II was a man of culture. He surrounded himself with men of letters. He himself produced many literary works as mentioned above

For most people he was forgotten. Until recently. 

For some reason Pope Benedict XVI in his Regensburg Address in 2006 decided to use one of his works to make a number of points.

It was an important address at his old University on the theme of Faith, Reason and the University Memories and Reflections

But Regensburg was not simply chosen as the venue because the Pope once taught there

In its history Regensburg had been the scene of violent religious struggle and persecution. And attempts at dialogue which failed disastrously. 

Surely everyone in the audience at the University of Regensburg would have been aware of this historical background ?

There had been persecution of the Jews and attempts at forced conversion of the Jews in the city and in other cities along the Rhine

The city became Lutheran in 1542 and the Catholic minority did not attain legal equality until the nineteenth century

During The Thirty Years War the area was devastated as were most other German states. 

It was the permanent seat of the  Imperial Diet (Reichstag) of the Holy Roman Empire from 1663 to 1806, the successor to Charlemagne, the Western equivalent of the office occupied by Manuel II Palaiologos 

Conflicts continued into the nineteenth and twentieth centuries

The whole address was forgotten about in the furure over a quotation which was widely misinterpreted, innocently and deliberately

Very few people read the lecture in its entirety. Most relied on the wrong glosses and spins reported in the press

It had a number of important themes or messages which Benedict was trying to get across which were totally lost in the furore

He recalled a time in living memory when universities (and society) worked happily and harmoniously "on the basis of a single rationality with its various aspects and sharing responsibility for the right use of reason" (emphasis added)

That harmoniousness among people of various backgrounds and beliefs was possible when the right use of reason (as properly understood) prevailed

He then dealt with the question of forcible conversion: spreading the faith through violence
"The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. "God", he says, "is not pleased by blood - and not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats... 
To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death...".

For Manuel and Benedict, forced conversion is unreasonable and contrary to God`s will and Law

Is this not damning criticism of the treatment meted out to those of Jewish faith in Europe over the centuries ? Also of the political wars in Central Europe after the Reformation where religion was the excuse for power grabs by princes ? And what of the Crusades ? Or the attempts by atheist regimes to impose ideology over religious belief after the French Revolution ?

More importantly, he said quoting Manuel:
"not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature."
He then went on to consider the question:
"Is the conviction that acting unreasonably contradicts God's nature merely a Greek idea, or is it always and intrinsically true?"
In short his conclusion was: 
"I believe that here we can see the profound harmony between what is Greek in the best sense of the word and the biblical understanding of faith in God."
A large part of the lecture is a tour de horizon discourse based on history, philosophy and Scripture to illustrate that faith (as properly understood) and reason (as properly understood) are two sides of the same coin.

Most importantly he said that the rapprochement between Greek thought and Christianity did not begin at the time of the New Testament. Rather it started many centuries before in the times of the Old Testament and is part of the Christian inheritance from the Jewish faith:
"[D]espite the bitter conflict with those Hellenistic rulers who sought to accommodate it forcibly to the customs and idolatrous cult of the Greeks, biblical faith, in the Hellenistic period, encountered the best of Greek thought at a deep level, resulting in a mutual enrichment evident especially in the later wisdom literature. 
Today we know that the Greek translation of the Old Testament produced at Alexandria - the Septuagint - is more than a simple (and in that sense really less than satisfactory) translation of the Hebrew text: it is an independent textual witness and a distinct and important step in the history of revelation, one which brought about this encounter in a way that was decisive for the birth and spread of Christianity"

It was a challenging speech and a speech designed to lay down the foundations for proper Christian dialogue. 

The speech has ramifications for:
- the dialogue between Catholics and non-Catholics
- the dialogue between Catholics and representatives of the Jewish faith
- the dialogue between Christianity and science
- the role of the State in such dialogues
- the purpose of such dialogues and how the dialogues should be conducted
It was not surely coincidental that on the same day the speech was delivered Pope Benedict then conducted an ecumenical Vespers with other Christian faiths (Orthodox Christians and Protestants) and some of the Jewish faith

It is a speech worth going back to and pondering in view of recent times. 

The Vatican’s Commission for religious relations with Muslims selected a theme for discussion over the next four years: ‘Christians and Muslims - beacons of hope’. 
A three day meeting has just finished in London about the  pastoral challenges of promoting dialogue with Islam as an integral part of the Church’s mission 

The forthcoming canonisation of the Martyrs of Otranto will be later this month

This was the last official act of the consistory when Benedict XVI announced his retirement

Perhaps we are now seeing the fruit of that lecture in Regensburg

Thursday, May 02, 2013


John Cranch 1751-1821
Monks Merrymaking circa 1804 
Oil paint on wood 
162 x 210 mm 
Tate Britain, London

"We can walk as much as we want, we can build many things, but if we do not profess Jesus Christ, things go wrong. We may become a charitable NGO, but not the Church, the Bride of the Lord. ... 
When we do not profess Jesus Christ, the saying of Léon Bloy comes to mind: "Anyone who does not pray to the Lord prays to the devil." When we do not profess Jesus Christ, we profess the worldliness of the devil, a demonic worldliness." 
(Pope Francis,  Homily at the  "Missa pro Ecclesia" with the Cardinal electors, Sistine Chapel, Thursday, 14 March 2013)

"As Saint Basil the Great teaches (cf. Regulae Fusius Tractatae VIII, PG 31, 933-941), Christian life is above all apotaghé, "renunciation" of sin, of worldliness, of idols, in order to hold fast to the one true God and Lord, Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Thes 1:9-10).  
In monasticism, this renunciation becomes radical: it is the renunciation of home, family, profession (cf. Lk 18:28-29); the renunciation, therefore, of earthly goods in the unending quest for those that are eternal (cf. Col 3:1-2); the renunciation of philautía, as Saint Maximus Confessor calls it (cf. Capita de Charitate II, 8; III, 8; III, 57 and passim, PG 90, 960-1080), that is, selfish love, in order to gain knowledge of the infinite love of God and to become capable of loving the brethren.  
Monastic mysticism is above all a path of renunciation in order to be able to hold ever faster to the Lord Jesus and to be transfigured by the power of the Holy Spirit. 
Blessed Pope John Paul II Address at the Holy Monastery of Rila, Bulgaria Saturday, 25 May 2002