Saturday, November 22, 2014

Ecce Homo

Hans Hausser von Ach  (1576-1612) 
Ecce Homo
c 1603
Pen and ink (brown) on paper (light buff)
26.0 cm x 34.0 cm
The Courtauld Gallery, London

Rembrandt van Rijn  (1606 - 1669) 
Christ Presented to the People (Ecce Homo)
c 1655
Drypoint, printed in black ink on cream-colored Asiatic wove paper
38.4 x 45.1 cm
The Frick Collection, New York

Christ is presented to the people who clamour for his crucifixion. 

It was Pilate and the Romans who ironically referred to Christ as "King"

"Pilate tried to release him; but the Jews cried out, “If you release him, you are not a Friend of Caesar. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” 
13 When Pilate heard these words he brought Jesus out and seated him on the judge’s bench in the place called Stone Pavement, in Hebrew, Gabbatha
14 It was preparation day for Passover, and it was about noon. And he said to the Jews, “Behold, your king!” 
15 They cried out, “Take him away, take him away! Crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your king?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” 
16 Then he handed him over to them to be crucified"
(John 19: 12 - 16)
In the New Testament, Christ is referred to as "King of the Jews" by the Magi, Pilate and the Roman soldiers. He is mocked by the Romans. 

On the Cross they affixed the plaque "INRI"  - IESVS·NAZARENVS·REX·IVDÆORVM (Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum)

In Quas Primas (1925), in instituting  the Feast of Christ the King (now called "the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe")  Pope Pius XI wrote:
"[T]his power and dignity of Our Lord [as King] 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."[In huc. x.] 
 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."[I Pet. i, 18-19
We are no longer our own property, for Christ has purchased us "with a great price"[1 Cor. vi, 20];  our very bodies are the "members of Christ."[I Cor. vi, 15] ... 
This kingdom is spiritual and is concerned with spiritual things.  ...  
On many occasions, when the Jews and even the Apostles wrongly supposed that the Messiah would restore the liberties and the kingdom of Israel, he repelled and denied such a suggestion. When the populace thronged around him in admiration and would have acclaimed him King, he shrank from the honour and sought safety in flight. Before the Roman magistrate he declared that his kingdom was not of this world.  
The gospels present this kingdom as one which men prepare to enter by penance, and cannot actually enter except by faith and by baptism, which, though an external rite, signifies and produces an interior regeneration. This kingdom is opposed to none other than to that of Satan and to the power of darkness.  
It demands of its subjects a spirit of detachment from riches and earthly things, and a spirit of gentleness. They must hunger and thirst after justice, and more than this, they must deny themselves and carry the cross."

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Guillaume de Digulleville

The Soul of the Pilgrim in the Flames of Purgatory
Miniature from Guillaume de Digulleville Pèlerinage de l'âme
14th century
Bibl. Sainte-Geneviève - ms. 1130, f. 110

Le Pèlerinage de l'Âme is a fourteenth-century poem written in Old French by Guillaume de Deguileville  (1295 - before 1358)

Guillaume de Deguileville  was a French  Cistercian 

He entered the Cistercian abbey of Chaalis in 1316, at the age of twenty-one.

He  was over 60 years old when writing the Âme. The cloistered monk had not left the monastery grounds for 40 years or more

Le Pèlerinage de l'Âme was one of three long poems which he wrote on the theme of man as a traveller, a pilgrim on the road to the Spiritual Jerusalem: Le Pèlerinage de la vie humaine (1330-31); Le Pèlerinage de l'Âme (1355-58); and Le Pèlerinage de Jésus Christ (1358)

All come to the same conclusion: to reach the Celestial Jerusalem, one must experience Death

The setting is a dream but the theme is the same: How does mortal Man save his Immortal Soul

Deguileville was followed by Chemin de vaillance by Jean de Courcy and Chemin de paradis by  Jean Germain, 

In these works the interest lies not not only in the destination itself but the voyage, the means of getting there

The interior journey

Of Purgatory Pope Benedict XVI wrote in Spe Salvi:

"For the great majority of people—we may suppose—there remains in the depths of their being an ultimate interior openness to truth, to love, to God.  
In the concrete choices of life, however, it is covered over by ever new compromises with evil—much filth covers purity, but the thirst for purity remains and it still constantly re-emerges from all that is base and remains present in the soul.  
What happens to such individuals when they appear before the Judge?  
Will all the impurity they have amassed through life suddenly cease to matter? What else might occur?  
Saint Paul, in his First Letter to the Corinthians, gives us an idea of the differing impact of God's judgement according to each person's particular circumstances. He does this using images which in some way try to express the invisible, without it being possible for us to conceptualize these images—simply because we can neither see into the world beyond death nor do we have any experience of it. 
Paul begins by saying that Christian life is built upon a common foundation: Jesus Christ. This foundation endures. If we have stood firm on this foundation and built our life upon it, we know that it cannot be taken away from us even in death.  
Then Paul continues: 
“Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each man's work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Cor 3:12-15). 
In this text, it is in any case evident that our salvation can take different forms, that some of what is built may be burned down, that in order to be saved we personally have to pass through “fire” so as to become fully open to receiving God and able to take our place at the table of the eternal marriage-feast."

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Blessed Paul - alone and exposed

In 1902, Giorgio Montini, the father of Blessed Pope Paul VI, constructed the monument to the Redeemer (above) on the top of Monte  Guglielmo near Brescia

The future Pope was only five years old when the monument was consecrated on 24 August 1902

The monument was restored and despite its age, the weather and its very exposed position it still stands, lonely and against the hostile elements

Every year in July there is a pilgrimage from Brescia to the monument

The statue to the now beatified Pope Paul VI stands beside his father`s monument (above). 

"In his humility the grandeur of Blessed Paul VI shines forth: before the advent of a secularized and hostile society, he could hold fast, with farsightedness and wisdom – and at times alone – to the helm of the barque of Peter, while never losing his joy and his trust in the Lord."

Papa Montini died in 1978. In his Audiences of that year you can detect that he knew the end was coming but he was not afraid. Unfortunately the addresses are only in French, Spanish  and Italian on the Vatican website

His last homily was on 29th June 1978 on the fifteenth anniversary of his election as Pope, on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul. It reads like a farewell address. 

He said he was in the sunset of his life and wanted to review what he had done over the last fifteen years and give an accounting of his Pontificate

He said he considered himself the last and most unworthy successor of St Peter but on the threshold of death he felt some comfort 
"by the consciousness of having tirelessly repeated in front of the Church and the world, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" ( Mt. . 16, 16); we, like Paul, we feel we can say, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith" (2 Tim. 4: 7)."
He said that he had two accomplishments: the Protection of the Faith; and the Defence of Human Life

As regards the latter, he cited Gaudium et Spes 51: 
"God is the  Lord of life and has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life!"
In this connection he said that in absolute fidelity to the teachings of the Council he had made the defence of human life in all its forms the central theme of his Pontificate

Of Humanae Vitae ,  he again repeated that the transmission of human life is a most serious role in which married people collaborate freely and responsibly with God the Creator.

He also stressed that the document had become even more urgent and relevant due to the wounds inflicted by State laws on the sanctity of the indissoluble marriage bond and the inviolability of human life from conception

The defence of human life is inextricably linked to Christian marriage: 
"Hence the repeated statements of the doctrine of the Catholic Church on the painful realities and very painful effects of divorce and abortion, which are contained in our ordinary magisterium and in particular acts of the competent Congregation. We have them expressed, moved only by the supreme responsibility of the teacher and of the universal shepherd, and for the good of mankind!"
In the popular mind, Humanae Vitae is about contraception. It is not. It is an encyclical on Christian marriage and the defence of human life in all its forms

At the heart of Humanae Vitae is the following statement:
"[Married] love is above all fully human, a compound of sense and spirit. It is not, then, merely a question of natural instinct or emotional drive. It is also, and above all, an act of the free will, whose trust is such that it is meant not only to survive the joys and sorrows of daily life, but also to grow, so that husband and wife become in a way one heart and one soul, and together attain their human fulfillment. 
It is a love which is total—that very special form of personal friendship in which husband and wife generously share everything, allowing no unreasonable exceptions and not thinking solely of their own convenience. Whoever really loves his partner loves not only for what he receives, but loves that partner for the partner's own sake, content to be able to enrich the other with the gift of himself. 
Married love is also faithful and exclusive of all other, and this until death.  
This is how husband and wife understood it on the day on which, fully aware of what they were doing, they freely vowed themselves to one another in marriage. Though this fidelity of husband and wife sometimes presents difficulties, no one has the right to assert that it is impossible; it is, on the contrary, always honourable and meritorious. The example of countless married couples proves not only that fidelity is in accord with the nature of marriage, but also that it is the source of profound and enduring happiness."

Sunday, November 02, 2014

All Saints

Antonio Boselli (c 1496-1536)
Cristo e la gloria di Ognissanti
Christ and the Glory of All the Saints
Oil on panel
140 cm x 210 cm
Basilica di S. Maria Maggiore, Bergamo, Italy

In June 1449, the city Council of Bergamo entrusted the Basilica of S. Maria Maggiore in Bergamo Alto to the Congregazione della Misericordia Maggiore (The Congregation of Greater Mercy), a charitable foundation begun in 1265 and still very much in existence today

At the end of the fifteenth century, the foundation founded a College of Music with a Cappella Musica in the Basilica (Donizetti was a pupil)

Amongst  the works of art the Congregation commissioned was this work by Boselli in 1514 It still is in the Basilica

In the top centre, Christ is  seated in a mandorla surrounded by the Madonna and a host of angels and saints

With one hand he blesses. In the other he holds a book

There are thirty six saints who are depicted

On the right  among the saints depicted are: St. John the Baptist, St. Peter, St. Stephen, St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, and  St. Mark 

In the centre below Christ  are: Moses, Abraham, St. Gregory the Great and St. Jerome. 

On the left include: St. Catherine of Alexandria, St. Joseph, St. Vincent, St. Mary Magdalene, St. Alexander, San Bernardino, Blessed Guala (Dominican from Bergamo), and S. Proiettizio (a deacon martyr from Bergamo)

"The Solemnity of All Saints, which we celebrate today, invites us to raise our gaze to Heaven and to meditate on the fullness of the divine life which awaits us. “We are God's children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be” (1 Jn 3:2): with these words the Apostle John assures us of the reality of our profound relation to God, as too, of the certainty of our destiny. 
Like beloved children, therefore, we also receive the grace to support the trials of this earthly existence — the hunger and the thirst for justice, the misunderstandings, the persecutions (cf. Mt 5:3-11) — and, at the same time, we inherit what is promised in the Gospel Beatitudes: “promises resplendent with the new image of the world and of man inaugurated by Jesus” (Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, Milan 2007, p. 72). 
The holiness, imprinted in us by Christ himself, is the goal of Christian life"

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Blessed are those who mourn...

Pierre Antoine Augustin Vafflard (1777–1837)
Study for "Young and His Daughter"
c 1804
Oil on paper, laid down on canvas
27.3 x 20.6 cm
The Metropolitan Museum, New York

Edward Young (1683-1765) was an English Protestant clergyman and writer

At the height of his career and success in the Anglican Church, he married. But happiness did not last. 

His stepdaughter, her husband and finally his wife all died between 1736 and 1740.

The comparison with Job in the Old Testament is unmistakable

His major and most popular work was a nine part poem in blank verse entitled   The Complaint, or Night Thoughts on Life, Death, and Immortality (1742-45)

It consists of a number of dialogues with Lorenzo, a dissipated youth, and meditates on the deaths of Lucia, Narcissa and Philander, whom, according to most interpretations, are loosely based on Young's wife, his stepdaughter and her husband. 

In 1736 Young was traveling through France with his family when his stepdaughter, Elizabeth Temple, died at Lyons. 

Forbidden to inter her remains in the city’s Catholic cemetery because of their religion, he was obliged to seek out the Protestant burial ground in the middle of the night and bury her. This is the subject of the painting. 

It was a very popular work in the French Revolution

The Third Canto entitled Narcissa narrates the macabre story of what happened in Lyon

"And on a foreign shore, where strangers wept! 
Strangers to thee, and, more surprising still,
Strangers to kindness, wept; their eyes let fall
Inhuman tears; strange tears, that trickled down
From marble hearts! obdurate tenderness!
A tenderness that call'd them more severe, 
In spite of Nature's soft persuasion steel'd.
While Nature melted, Superstition raved:
That mourn'd the dead; and this denied a grave.
Their sighs incensed; sighs foreign to the will!
Their will, the tiger-suck'd, out-raged the storm. 
For, O the cursed ungodliness of zeal!
While sinful flesh relented, spirit nursed
In blind Infallibility's embrace,
The sainted spirit petrified the breast;
Denied the charity of dust to spread 
O'er dust! a charity their dogs enjoy.
What could I do? what succour, what resource?
With pious sacrilege a grave I stole;
With impious piety that grave I wrong'd;
Short in my duty; coward in my grief! 
More like her murderer than friend, I crept
With soft-suspended step, and, muffled deep
In midnight darkness, whisper'd my last sigh.
I whisper'd what should echo through their realms;
Nor writ her name, whose tomb should pierce the skies. 
Presumptuous fear! how durst I dread her foes,
While Nature's loudest dictates I obey'd?
(Pardon necessity, blest shade!) Of grief
And indignation rival bursts I pour'd;
Half execration mingled with my prayer; 
Kindled at man, while I his God adored;
Sore grudged the savage land her sacred dust;
Stamp'd the cursed soil; and with humanity
(Denied Narcissa) wish'd them all a grave."

The German Bishops' Conference issued a decree in 2012 warning those who opted out of paying the country's "church tax" that they would no longer be entitled to the sacraments, to a religious burial or to play any part in parish life.