Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

Jesus vs. Superman

Monday, October 28th, 2013

Jesus vs SupermanI have often thought, however unintentional and coincidental, that the image of the super hero caught between daily and heroic garb, such as Klark Kent revealing Superman, has striking similarities to the image of Jesus exposing His Sacred Heart. In both images we see the true passion of the man beneath a veiled exterior. Both images use color, light and symbols to express the depth of their subjects inner passion.

Superman-Origin-BannerFor Klark the true man is a pairing of journalist and other-world-ness. He is one person with two identities. The mild mannered Klark, often overlooked, must be pulled aside to show us the secret truth, seldom seen, of the bold impervious man from another planet in the heavens. Even the colors of his super uniform reveal something of his identity. He bears a blood red S on his chest superimposing a background as golden as the fiery sun that gives him strength, and enveloped in cool sky blue much like his new home planet Earth. The S we have taken to mean Super but are told in the versions of the story that it means peace.

the-sacred-heart-french-school (1)For Jesus the true man is a union of human and divine. He is one person with two natures. The humble and meek carpenter, teacher, healer and prophet must not be pulled aside but rather remains in full view while His Heart is revealed to show us the secret truth, seldom appreciated, of His burning divine passion for us. The colors in this image of Christ are the primary colors of the painting palette, perhaps intentionally to show the primacy of the Word made flesh who was in the beginning before all things; prime.

Sacred Heart of JesusIn some images of the Sacred Heart of Jesus His blood red heart is illuminated with divine light that is more radiant than the pure white of his tunic, and rages with the fire of an eternal lamp that, like the bush through which God called to Moses, burns but is not consumed. His Heart is crowned with the thorns of mockery reminding us of the wounds He endured for love of us.

The image of Jesus’ Sacred Heart has been recreated many, many times as devotion matures from age to age. Sometimes the colors used are remarkably similar to the pop icons of Superman from comics and movies. Take for instance the image two paragraphs above where Jesus’ tunic is blue.

Google search results of Sacred Heart

Google search results of Sacred Heart

These similarities are an unintentional result of artists working at similar themes of revealing identity, nature and secret passion yet comic and film artists have, on other occasions, intentionally drawn upon preceding Christian masterworks… but that is a topic for another blog.

Indiana Jones and a Catholic’s Perspective

Saturday, November 5th, 2011

Indiana Jones Hat and Bullwhip

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Indy movies are about fun. They are not intended to catechize but a good catechist will make use of any pop culture experience to explain the faith. Jesus did this with parables, using archetypes of people from various vocations; vineyard owners and workers, Samaritans and priests, fathers and children, women and men, etc. Saints have done the same; Saint Patrick explained the trinity by the three leaves of a clover that are one bloom, Saint Therese of Avila explained prayer life as a series of mansions.

Pop culture belongs to the world and as such it reflects worldly ideas and opinions. It’s easy to identify ideals that contrast or contradict Catholic teaching in almost any movie and the Indy series is no exception. While it’s good to point this out, a positive approach will be best received. So, rather than focus on the negative let’s see what good we can find in the two arguably most memorable Indy films; Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Raiders of the Lost Ark
&#9679 Indy is the embodiment of hope in this story, in that sense he is an archetype of the messiah: the Jewish hope. He is the chosen archeologist just as the Jews are the chosen people – he’s different, set apart, he’s the one that’s going to succeed even though he’s failed before.

&#9679 The Ark is set apart, sanctified like Gods people; the character Markus Brody explains to Indy, “it’s unlike anything you’ve gone after before.”

&#9679 When arguing with the U.S. government men to have the Ark researched Indy insists, “The ark is a source of unspeakable power…”

&#9679 Even the people with evil intentions recognize the greatness of the Ark just as the demons recognize Jesus as the Christ (Matthew 8:29, Mark 1:24, Mark 5:7, Luke 8:28, James 2:19). Belloq explains to Indy, “Do you realize what the Ark is? It’s a transmitter. A radio for talking to God!…” Belloq sought not after God but after power and because of his impure ambition, Belloq’s end came as torment.

&#9679 The ark ends up hidden away from the world’s view. In a manner of speaking, it is in the world but does not belong to it, much like the disciples (Romans 12:2 John 17:15-16).

&#9679 A parallel is apparent between all heroes and the saints. What a worldly action hero does is like what a spiritual hero believes. That is, the actions of heroes are like the faith of saints inasmuch as they often transcend the realm of the ordinary. Even though Indy is triumphant he receives no glory for himself.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
&#9679 The grail is the Cup of Christ, a true relic of the last supper, not some psychobabble-ic pseudo-myth.

&#9679 The Brothers of the Cruciform Sword like the Templar Knights risk their lives to protect the grail. Like a typical character of grail lore, one of these knights poses the apex question to Indy, “Ask yourself, why do you seek the Cup of Christ? Is it for His glory, or for yours?” Indy replies,” I didn’t come for the Cup of Christ. I came to find my father.” In this film Indiana is not seeking an artifact so much as a person and he is in need of reconciliation to his father. Reconciliation to The Father in heaven is the true destiny of Christian pilgrims; The Son (Jesus) redeems us to bring us to His Father. Just as the only way to The Father in heaven is through Christ (John 14:6), so too the only way for Indy to reach his father is through the Cup of Christ.

&#9679 Indiana is like the knights of the grail, risking his life not for the grail but to save his father’s life. In this sense can we consider Indiana to be Christ-like? Indiana was never made out to be a priest (Belloq tried) a prophet or a king (Kali anyone?) but in self giving at risk of losing his life, Indiana is just this side of sacrificial. Is Dr. Jones Sr. a sacrifice? Not willingly, but he might have been a martyr had he died, since he was shot while on a mission to protect the grail, knowing it to be a relic of Christ’s[1].

&#9679 The grail has true healing powers and offers everlasting life by virtue of Christ. Of course, we Catholics do not attribute such power to the Cup of Christ but rather to Christ Himself; to the Eucharist. For Jesus said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” ~ John 6:51

&#9679 The three challenges are reminiscent of scripture, Tradition and philosophic commentary:

1. Breath of God – Only the penitent shall pass
Dr. Jones Sr. is dying when he recites this challenge – shouldn’t penance be on the mind of a dying man? In this challenge the breath of God is a wind that blows through the caverns just before rotating blades gruesomely behead those who fail to kneel. According to Genesis, God breathed life into man (Genesis 2:7). It is the penitent man whose prayers are heard (Luke 18:9-14) and the penitent thief to whom Jesus promises heaven (Luke 23:39-43).

2. Word of God – Only in the footsteps of God will he proceed
This may be a reference to Jesus since He is the Word of God (John 1:1) and cannot stumble upon Himself[2] Scripture tells us lean not on your own understanding but on every word of God (Proverbs 3:5), and Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path (Psalm 119:105). This segues nicely into the next challenge.

3. Path of God – Only in the leap from the lion’s head will he prove his worth.

— “prove his worth”; emphasis seems to be on merit or works – man is justified by works and faith ~ James 2:24

— “Lion’s head” – Christ is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah ~ Revelation 5:5

— Leap of faith – neither scripture nor Tradition. This phrase is attributed to philosopher Kierkegaard, who reasoned that since the fall of man is a leap from sinlessness to sinfulness, the return would also be a leap.

The button they put on this movie was disappointing but it does ask us to make up our minds about our own journey. To the question, “what did you get out of this adventure?” Henry Jones Sr. responds, “Enlightenment.” In this case the question is as poignant here at the end of the journey as the one posed to Jones Jr. in the middle “Ask yourself, why do you seek the Cup of Christ?” The former question is the quintessential question we are all to answer for ourselves. As for me, the answer is easier to see in the first movie; it’s something like Belloq’s revelation that the Ark is for speaking to God, only without the prideful ambition. What I get out of the adventure of seeking Christ through His Cup and from each cup at every Catholic Mass, is communion with God.

Matthew 8:29
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
29And behold they cried out, saying: What have we to do with thee, Jesus Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time?
Mark 1:24
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
24Saying: What have we to do with thee, Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know who thou art, the Holy One of God.
Mark 5:7
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
7And crying with a loud voice, he said: What have I to do with thee, Jesus the Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God that thou torment me not.
Luke 8:28
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
28And when he saw Jesus, he fell down before him; and crying out with a loud voice, he said: What have I to do with thee, Jesus, Son of the most high God? I beseech thee, do not torment me.
James 2:19
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
19Thou believest that there is one God. Thou dost well: the devils also believe and tremble.
Romans 12:2
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
2And be not conformed to this world; but be reformed in the newness of your mind, that you may prove what is the good, and the acceptable, and the perfect will of God.
John 17:15-16
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
15I pray not that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from evil.
16They are not of the world, as I also am not of the world.
John 14:6
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
6Jesus saith to him: I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man cometh to the Father, but by me.
John 6:51
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
51I am the living bread which came down from heaven.
Genesis 2:7
View in: NAB Vulg Hebrew
7And the Lord God formed man of the slime of the earth: and breathed into his face the breath of life, and man became a living soul.
Luke 18:9-14
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
9And to some who trusted in themselves as just, and despised others, he spoke also this parable:
10Two men went up into the temple to pray: the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
11The Pharisee standing, prayed thus with himself: O God, I give thee thanks that I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, as also is this publican.
12I fast twice in a week: I give tithes of all that I possess.
13And the publican, standing afar off, would not so much as lift up his eyes towards heaven; but struck his breast, saying: O god, be merciful to me a sinner.
14I say to you, this man went down into his house justified rather that the other: because every one that exalteth himself, shall be humbled: and he that humbleth himself, shall be exalted.
Luke 23:39-43
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
39And one of those robbers who were hanged, blasphemed him, saying: If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.
40But the other answering, rebuked him, saying: Neither dost thou fear God, seeing thou art condemned under the same condemnation?
41And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this man hath done no evil.
42And he said to Jesus: Lord, remember me when thou shalt come into thy kingdom.
43And Jesus said to him: Amen I say to thee, this day thou shalt be with me in paradise.
John 1:1
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Luke 20:16-19
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
16He will come, and will destroy these husbandmen, and will give the vineyard to others. Which they hearing, said to him: God forbid.
17But he looking on them, said: What is this then that is written, The stone, which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner?
18Whosoever shall fall upon that stone, shall be bruised: and upon whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.
19And the chief priests and the scribes sought to lay hands on him the same hour: but they feared the people, for they knew that he spoke this parable to them.
Acts 4:11
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
11This is the stone which was rejected by you the builders, which is become the head of the corner.
Luke 4:9-13
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
9And he brought him to Jerusalem, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple, and he said to him: If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself from hence.
10For it is written, that He hath given his angels charge over thee, that they keep thee.
11And that in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest perhaps thou dash thy foot against a stone.
12And Jesus answering, said to him: It is said: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.
13And all the temptation being ended, the devil departed from him for a time.
Matthew 4:8-11
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
8Again the devil took him up into a very high mountain, and shewed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them,
9And said to him: All these will I give thee, if falling down thou wilt adore me.
10Then Jesus saith to him: Begone, Satan: for it is written, The Lord thy God shalt thou adore, and him only shalt thou serve.
11Then the devil left him; and behold angels came and ministered to him.
Psalm 91:11-12
View in: NAB Vulg Hebrew
11For he hath given his angels charge over thee; to keep thee in all thy ways.
12In their hands they shall bear thee up: lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.
Proverbs 3:5
View in: NAB Vulg Hebrew
5Have confidence in the Lord with all thy heart, and lean not upon thy own prudence.
Psalm 119:105
View in: NAB Vulg Hebrew
105NUN. Thy word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my paths.
James 2:24
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
24Do you see that by works a man is justified; and not by faith only?
Revelation 5:5
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
5And one of the ancients said to me: Weep not; behold the lion of the tribe of Juda, the root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.
  1. Saint Laurence was roasted on a gridiron because he would not surrender the holy relics of the church to the Roman Emperor Valerian. []
  2. that is Jesus is the stone which the builders rejected Luke 20:16-19, Acts 4:11, and to the builders He is a stumbling block 1Cor 1:23 The devil tempted Jesus to throw Himself upon the rocks Luke 4:9-13, Matthew 4:8-11, Psalm 91:11-12 []

Interview: Tim Bartel – Catholic Writer’s Guild

Friday, February 25th, 2011
Dream of the Great Ship - by Tim Bartel

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“Indeed, ‘interpretation’ can apply whether the story is a dream from God or a parable of Bosco’s invention… He enjoyed creating mystery, which kept people involved and aided them to contemplate holy things, conjecturing what they mean and how best to live out their morals, and simply filled them with wonder. “


The following is an excerpt from the February 2011 Catholic Writer’s Guild interview with Tim Bartel, author of Dream of the Great Ship – Interpretations of Saint John Bosco’s Dream of the Two Columns. The complete interview is available to guild members.

Maria Tim, I’m so glad I ran into you in the CWG Sunday chat! Your book sounds so interesting, but first, tell us, how did you come to CWG, a wild Google search, or did someone lead you to CWG?

Tim I owe my gratitude for the discovery of CWG to our Blessed Mother. I am honored to be part of a group of friends in southern California who several years ago journeyed to Mexico to purchase a hand crafted statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe. This statue became a pilgrim statue, traveling from home to home with each family daily praying the Holy Rosary for one or two weeks at a time. In this way the Rosary is perpetuated by a growing community joined by common devotion. Thanks to my wife Becca’s planning, my family has had the statue numerous times and thanks to God’s providence, the last visit came from writer and CWG member Connie C., whom I met for the first time and who recommended CWG. I had for a long time been seeking to initiate a sort of Inklings group, a trusted place to creatively brainstorm with other like minded Catholics. I am certainly blessed to have found it in Catholic Writer’s Guild.

Maria Well, we are delighted to have you. Back to your book: Dream of the Great Ship. The book shows the interpretation of one of St. John Bosco’s most revealing dreams. How, or what inspired you to write about such an interesting topic?

Tim Shortly after my conversion to Catholicism about fifteen years ago, when the World Wide Web was experiencing an extraordinary boom, I happened to surf across a post of the dream and upon reading it I immediately saw myself on the great ship of the Church amid storms and sieges, its members defending and battling their way to safety between the steadfast pillars of the Eucharist and Mary. This was precisely the experience I had gone through in conversion as I was confronted on all sides by opposition. So Saint John Bosco’s story struck a chord with me and I began to contemplate the depth of it while on my daily commute home from work. I quickly began to see more than myself in this plot; I began to see Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, the first and second Vatican Councils, wars in Europe, intellectual and philosophical upheaval and much, much more. As my mind began to expand with these new connections my heart began to fill up with gratitude and I felt that writing about it would do me good and perhaps the Lord might make some use of my book for His own purposes.

Maria How long did you have to research to provide the reader with such a complete interpretation?

Tim First let me address this word ‘interpretation’ which you aptly applied from the subtitle of my book, and which sometimes gives people pause. Indeed, ‘interpretation’ can apply whether the story is a dream from God or a parable of Bosco’s invention, and the Saint encouraged students and the priests who were their teachers to explain the stories, often without expressing from which category they sprung. He enjoyed creating mystery, which kept people involved and aided them to contemplate holy things, conjecturing what they mean and how best to live out their morals, and simply filled them with wonder. Instead of interpretation we might just as well call it reflection or contemplation, for the affect of all these on the intellect, the heart and the soul, as I understand and experience it, is equally profitable when the subject under consideration is holy. This is why, during what I like to call the incubation period of book writing, I consider reflection and contemplation a form of research; because it prepares me and helps me to identify areas needing more information and development.

Research for Dream of the Great Ship never seems to end even after the book is in print. I am constantly finding new facts like the one I just posted on my blog ) describing architectural structures that may have inspired Saint John Bosco (aka Don Bosco) to compose this parable. But the hours I put in for research were far more extensive and intensive than I had anticipated. I was expecting maybe a few months of dedicated time but it actually went on for more than a year before the first print. It took another year after that for me to officially put research to rest and to publish a revision. I am always grateful when authors post their sources so that I can read further if the topic interests me and so that I can verify that quotes are given in context when I have questions; so in my own writings I work at stuffing footnotes, bibliographies and parenthetical thoughts full to the brim and overflowing the page at times.

Maria This book is written for those who know Don Bosco, and those who’ve never heard of him. What has been your reception among those who don’t know Don Bosco.

Tim Once while flying on a plane I sat next to a worldly man who made a cursory review of my book and ironically pronounced it pithy. I can only hope that he later gave the book a more serious read. The very fact that Don Bosco came up with these themes before history proved them true ought to legitimize Don Bosco in the eyes of any rational, open minded and fair hearted person. His work with the youth, apart from this dream/parable makes him a champion to those concerned with social justice in Italy regardless of one’s position religiously. Often I find that fellow Catholics who have not heard of Don Bosco are excited to hear his stories. There are some fantastic and inspiring tales associated with Don Bosco, rich enough, deep enough and sensational enough to satisfy demanding contemporary minds. He is said to have multiplied Eucharistic Hosts and breakfast rolls, raised a boy from the dead to save his soul, touched the wall of Hell and returned. He was known to read consciences such that he knew what his students needed to confess; a feat that sometimes compelled boys to shield their heads as he walked by.

Maria I was so intrigued by all the information in your website, your blog entries are very informative. I was truly blown away by the aerial picture of the Piazza di Spagna in Rome showing the visual of the ship between two columns. How did you come about this information?

Tim The Piazza di Spagna is one of those ongoing research items that just fell into place. My discovery of it was a coincidence that I must credit to the Holy Spirit, a God-incidence if you will. I read a Vatican News Service bulletin announcing that on the Solemnity of Immaculate Conception Pope Benedict XVI had continued a tradition of visiting the statue of the Immaculate Conception, which rests atop a column in the Piazza di Spagna. Knowing that the Immaculate Conception was one of Don Bosco’s personal devotions, along with Mary Help of Christians, and seeing that this statue was on a column in public view, I began to search online for information about the piazza. Imagine my surprise when I found that the Church of the Most Holy Trinity, which the article had said the Pope visited just prior to the statue of Mary, turned out to be landmarked by another column topped by a cross. It seemed too much to expect there to be a boat there too but in fact the Fontana della Barcaccia was placed there before the second column. I have been to Rome twice and both times I have missed this conglomeration of architectural inspiration that may very well have provided Saint John Bosco with the essential images to contemplate what we now call the Dream of the Two Columns.

Maria Would you consider yourself a dream expert or a Don Bosco expert? In your opinion why are so many people into dream interpretations, yet when it comes to dreams such as Don Bosco’s so few people even think about it as foretelling?

Tim I am not a dream expert, nor am I an expert on all things Don Bosco, but about this one particular dream or parable of the Two Columns I have done considerable research and reflection. We are fortunate that Don Bosco is a relatively new saint in that there is extensive record keeping of his life and ministry. He died in 1888 and was canonized less than fifty years later in 1934, which means that while I was in high school there were still people alive who might have personally known him and remembered his canonization ceremony. I have never met any of them but I am fortunate enough to have spoken with some Salesian priests who are involved with the archiving of his records.

If a great number of people find dream interpretation compelling it’s probably because a great number of people dream: If only a small number of people find Don Bosco’s dreams and stories foretelling it’s probably because only a small number of people dream foretelling dreams. These kinds of dreams are not common but they have a prevalent role in salvation history. For instance, Genesis occupies us with more than a handful of dreams over several chapters while relating the story of Joseph’s meteoric plummet and star-like rise to the highest position next to Pharaoh. Incidentally, Joseph provides with a very useful quote in Genesis 40:8, “Surely, interpretation [of dreams] comes from God.” Daniel shares a similar story of interpreting dreams for King Nebuchadnezzar. Matthew tells us how twice during dreams an angel confirmed and instructed Joseph to receive and protect Mary and Jesus.

Maria Your book reminded me of the interpretation of the Apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe, all that can be seen in the reflection of her eyes. Do you have an interest in any other hidden vision or prophecies of the Catholic Church?

Tim This kind of reading fascinates me and the Catholic Church is rich with it. I consider myself fortunate and blessed that there is an abundance of approved visions, canonized saints and flat out miracles to provide me with more material than I could thoroughly assimilate in my lifetime much less write about. Because I have developed a vocabulary of images through considering Saint John Bosco’s dreams, my next project will be to collage and paint these image-words together in a novel of hybrid historical fantasy fiction about a ‘hidden’ relic. This genre still requires research but there’s more latitude and creativity in expressing truths through signs in narrative form, so I relish the thought.

Maria Who is your favorite saint? Do you have a ‘writing patron’?

Tim My most favorite saint is unequivocally Mary, then John Bosco (he would want it that way). After Mary and Bosco, Thomas Aquinas and Therese of Avila rank pretty highly as do Joseph and the Archangel Michael. If John Paul II were canonized I imagine he would place somewhere around here. The same goes for Fulton Sheen. Then there is also Augustine, Ignatius, Padre Pio, Maximilian Kolbe, Martin, Lawrence, Francis… soon the orchestra will play over this acknowledgment speech and ushers will escort me off stage… Gertrude, Bridget, Therese of Lisieux, Faustina, Thomas More…

Maria That’s funny. And lastly, what does Tim Bartel do in his free time?

Tim I write books and blogs in my spare time since they do not yet pay the bills. What I do while I’m not writing, or rather for work is graphics and web design. Presently I’m learning ASP.Net

Maria Thank you so much for taking the time! I’m looking forward to ordering your book and reading it.

Tim I so enjoyed this interview! Happy belated feast day of Saint John Bosco (Jan 31)!!!

Matthew 8:29
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
29And behold they cried out, saying: What have we to do with thee, Jesus Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time?
Mark 1:24
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
24Saying: What have we to do with thee, Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know who thou art, the Holy One of God.
Mark 5:7
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
7And crying with a loud voice, he said: What have I to do with thee, Jesus the Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God that thou torment me not.
Luke 8:28
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
28And when he saw Jesus, he fell down before him; and crying out with a loud voice, he said: What have I to do with thee, Jesus, Son of the most high God? I beseech thee, do not torment me.
James 2:19
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
19Thou believest that there is one God. Thou dost well: the devils also believe and tremble.
Romans 12:2
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
2And be not conformed to this world; but be reformed in the newness of your mind, that you may prove what is the good, and the acceptable, and the perfect will of God.
John 17:15-16
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
15I pray not that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from evil.
16They are not of the world, as I also am not of the world.
John 14:6
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
6Jesus saith to him: I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man cometh to the Father, but by me.
John 6:51
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
51I am the living bread which came down from heaven.
Genesis 2:7
View in: NAB Vulg Hebrew
7And the Lord God formed man of the slime of the earth: and breathed into his face the breath of life, and man became a living soul.
Luke 18:9-14
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
9And to some who trusted in themselves as just, and despised others, he spoke also this parable:
10Two men went up into the temple to pray: the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
11The Pharisee standing, prayed thus with himself: O God, I give thee thanks that I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, as also is this publican.
12I fast twice in a week: I give tithes of all that I possess.
13And the publican, standing afar off, would not so much as lift up his eyes towards heaven; but struck his breast, saying: O god, be merciful to me a sinner.
14I say to you, this man went down into his house justified rather that the other: because every one that exalteth himself, shall be humbled: and he that humbleth himself, shall be exalted.
Luke 23:39-43
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
39And one of those robbers who were hanged, blasphemed him, saying: If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.
40But the other answering, rebuked him, saying: Neither dost thou fear God, seeing thou art condemned under the same condemnation?
41And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this man hath done no evil.
42And he said to Jesus: Lord, remember me when thou shalt come into thy kingdom.
43And Jesus said to him: Amen I say to thee, this day thou shalt be with me in paradise.
John 1:1
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Luke 20:16-19
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
16He will come, and will destroy these husbandmen, and will give the vineyard to others. Which they hearing, said to him: God forbid.
17But he looking on them, said: What is this then that is written, The stone, which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner?
18Whosoever shall fall upon that stone, shall be bruised: and upon whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.
19And the chief priests and the scribes sought to lay hands on him the same hour: but they feared the people, for they knew that he spoke this parable to them.
Acts 4:11
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
11This is the stone which was rejected by you the builders, which is become the head of the corner.
Luke 4:9-13
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
9And he brought him to Jerusalem, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple, and he said to him: If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself from hence.
10For it is written, that He hath given his angels charge over thee, that they keep thee.
11And that in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest perhaps thou dash thy foot against a stone.
12And Jesus answering, said to him: It is said: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.
13And all the temptation being ended, the devil departed from him for a time.
Matthew 4:8-11
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
8Again the devil took him up into a very high mountain, and shewed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them,
9And said to him: All these will I give thee, if falling down thou wilt adore me.
10Then Jesus saith to him: Begone, Satan: for it is written, The Lord thy God shalt thou adore, and him only shalt thou serve.
11Then the devil left him; and behold angels came and ministered to him.
Psalm 91:11-12
View in: NAB Vulg Hebrew
11For he hath given his angels charge over thee; to keep thee in all thy ways.
12In their hands they shall bear thee up: lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.
Proverbs 3:5
View in: NAB Vulg Hebrew
5Have confidence in the Lord with all thy heart, and lean not upon thy own prudence.
Psalm 119:105
View in: NAB Vulg Hebrew
105NUN. Thy word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my paths.
James 2:24
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
24Do you see that by works a man is justified; and not by faith only?
Revelation 5:5
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
5And one of the ancients said to me: Weep not; behold the lion of the tribe of Juda, the root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.
Genesis 40:8
View in: NAB Vulg Hebrew
8They answered: We have dreamed a dream, and there is nobody to interpret it to us. And Joseph said to them: Doth not interpretation belong to God? Tell me what you have dreamed.

Beauty in Art

Friday, February 5th, 2010

Putting the smile back on the Mona Lisa

La Gioconda AKA Mona Lisa, da Vinci 1503-1506, Cropped to bust, bevel indicates portion shown on The da Vinci Code book cover

La Gioconda AKA Mona Lisa, da Vinci 1503-1506, Cropped to bust, bevel indicates portion shown on The da Vinci Code book cover

The world needs authentic beauty and artists have the responsibility of bringing it to people through their art.” ~ Pope Benedict XVI, Vatican City, Nov. 22, 2009.

In some ways art influences the way we think and in other ways the way we think influences art. In the Renaissance age most art was Christian because the Church was such a great patron to the arts. In the twentieth century art reflected modernism and industrialism. Today art is diverse and eclectic with influences from every corner of the globe largely because of commerce and the Internet. This frenzied exchange of data is accelerating the ebb and tide between cultural expression and pop culture. Which begs the question, are TV, Movies and the Internet an accurate reflection of who we are or are the images helping to shape who we are becoming? It seems that whoever patrons the arts and the media in particular have the steering wheel of the age and of cultural identity.

One recent shift in the tide or turn of the culture wheel seems to be when our attention shifted from the Mona Lisa’s smile to her eyes. The beauty of the Mona Lisa was chiefly in her smile as many a poet has mused. Her smile leads us to wonder what she was thinking. In contrast, has anyone ever written a poem about Mona Lisa’s eyes? Nevertheless today’s graphic art has little to no concern for her smile. Instead, today’s popular art is concerned with the eyes and with appearances. In other words it’s all about superficiality. There was one image in particular that epitomized this shift. Remember the image that popularized that insipid book The da Vinci Code? It was the image of the Mona Lisa with her mouth torn away. She was robbed of the central thing that made that work famous. She was unable to speak and this is precisely what the book attempted to do in words. It presented only the details that Dan Brown wanted us to see and which he pronounced as the whole truth. The image was a dead giveaway that the masterpieces which he hijacked for his plot wouldn’t get a chance to tell the whole story. I am surprised that feminists didn’t object to the image of the Mona Lisa as a woman whose mouth had been torn, hidden or stolen away; a woman whose voice had been squelched. But then again that woman is really not the feminine mystique that feminists protect but rather the Catholic Church (reasoned by the books content not the image of the Mona Lisa).

Contrast this with the Renaissance age of art when the beauty in the master painter’s works spoke the gospel truth loud and clear. Pope Benedict XVI, addressed the artists of the world last November (Nov 22 2009 Vatican City) saying, “Christianity from its earliest days has recognized the value of the arts and has made wise use of their varied language to express her unvarying message of salvation.” It wasn’t that long ago that beauty in art still invited the observer to lift his mind and heart toward heaven. Pope Benedict continues, “What is capable of restoring enthusiasm and confidence, what can encourage the human spirit to rediscover its path, to raise its eyes to the horizon, to dream of a life worthy of its vocation – if not beauty?” And what more beautiful things are there than heaven and salvation? Indeed, Pope Benedict concludes, “Art, in all its forms, at the point where it encounters the great questions of our existence, … can take on a religious quality, thereby turning into a path of profound inner reflection and spirituality.” It’s no wonder that the Church is still the custodian of some of the world’s greatest and most renowned masterpieces including the Sistine chapel ceiling, Saint Peter’s Basilica, Notre Dame, the Thinker, The Last Supper, and the list goes on and on and on.

In architecture there are some Gothic basilicas with ornate flying buttresses that render the totality of the whole construction so visually poetic they soar beyond architecture and pierce the heart on their way toward heaven. This is what truly great art should do. It should make you gasp in awe of grandeur not in shock of obscenity. It shouldn’t just peak the interest with hidden puzzles and pseudo-religious-neo-pagan-socio-psycho-political-mind-babble. Some of that stuff can seem fun or engaging but mostly it pales in relation to the beauty in the works of the masters. The reason the masters works endure is because the subject satisfied deep desires of the soul rather than shallow desires of the flesh or the world. Here let me quote Pope Benedict XVI one more time, “Beauty, whether that of the natural universe or that expressed in art, precisely because it opens up and broadens the horizons of human awareness, pointing us beyond ourselves, bringing us face to face with the abyss of Infinity, can become a path towards the transcendent, towards the ultimate Mystery, towards God.”

Achieving the transcendent in art requires freedom not just in liberties and rights recognized by the law of a good nation but by the good choices of people unfettered by the chains of materialism and unconditioned by the cardinal rule of modernism, which may be summed up as ‘think free as long as you don’t think as the Church thinks’. Anyone can see that such a rule has not the ultimate and complete freedom that it pretends. In contrast the Church says ‘wherever the truth is, recognize it, acknowledge it, and believe it.’ I can find little or no truth in tearing off the smile of the Mona Lisa (tearing it off just smacks of truth killers and silencers like socialism and communism). But I can find truth in protecting her smile and wondering of what beautiful thing she was thinking. It’s not a question of relativity like beauty belonging to the eye of the beholder but considering that the internet is a great gallery of parading images the beholder may get the last word. It may be that the new patron of the arts is the people and that their payment is their praise. Therefore pray that soon many artists will, by their free choice, concede that their responsibility is greater than themselves and more valuable than the praise of their peers. Pray that these will realize that the pinnacle and purpose of art is not to honor creation or creativity rather it is to honor the creator.

Read the whole story of the popes meeting with artists as reported by the Vatican Information Service.

Sources:
VIS – Nov 23 2009
The Catholic Association

Matthew 8:29
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
29And behold they cried out, saying: What have we to do with thee, Jesus Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time?
Mark 1:24
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
24Saying: What have we to do with thee, Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know who thou art, the Holy One of God.
Mark 5:7
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7And crying with a loud voice, he said: What have I to do with thee, Jesus the Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God that thou torment me not.
Luke 8:28
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28And when he saw Jesus, he fell down before him; and crying out with a loud voice, he said: What have I to do with thee, Jesus, Son of the most high God? I beseech thee, do not torment me.
James 2:19
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19Thou believest that there is one God. Thou dost well: the devils also believe and tremble.
Romans 12:2
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2And be not conformed to this world; but be reformed in the newness of your mind, that you may prove what is the good, and the acceptable, and the perfect will of God.
John 17:15-16
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15I pray not that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from evil.
16They are not of the world, as I also am not of the world.
John 14:6
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6Jesus saith to him: I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man cometh to the Father, but by me.
John 6:51
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51I am the living bread which came down from heaven.
Genesis 2:7
View in: NAB Vulg Hebrew
7And the Lord God formed man of the slime of the earth: and breathed into his face the breath of life, and man became a living soul.
Luke 18:9-14
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
9And to some who trusted in themselves as just, and despised others, he spoke also this parable:
10Two men went up into the temple to pray: the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
11The Pharisee standing, prayed thus with himself: O God, I give thee thanks that I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, as also is this publican.
12I fast twice in a week: I give tithes of all that I possess.
13And the publican, standing afar off, would not so much as lift up his eyes towards heaven; but struck his breast, saying: O god, be merciful to me a sinner.
14I say to you, this man went down into his house justified rather that the other: because every one that exalteth himself, shall be humbled: and he that humbleth himself, shall be exalted.
Luke 23:39-43
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39And one of those robbers who were hanged, blasphemed him, saying: If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.
40But the other answering, rebuked him, saying: Neither dost thou fear God, seeing thou art condemned under the same condemnation?
41And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this man hath done no evil.
42And he said to Jesus: Lord, remember me when thou shalt come into thy kingdom.
43And Jesus said to him: Amen I say to thee, this day thou shalt be with me in paradise.
John 1:1
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1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Luke 20:16-19
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16He will come, and will destroy these husbandmen, and will give the vineyard to others. Which they hearing, said to him: God forbid.
17But he looking on them, said: What is this then that is written, The stone, which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner?
18Whosoever shall fall upon that stone, shall be bruised: and upon whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.
19And the chief priests and the scribes sought to lay hands on him the same hour: but they feared the people, for they knew that he spoke this parable to them.
Acts 4:11
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11This is the stone which was rejected by you the builders, which is become the head of the corner.
Luke 4:9-13
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9And he brought him to Jerusalem, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple, and he said to him: If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself from hence.
10For it is written, that He hath given his angels charge over thee, that they keep thee.
11And that in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest perhaps thou dash thy foot against a stone.
12And Jesus answering, said to him: It is said: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.
13And all the temptation being ended, the devil departed from him for a time.
Matthew 4:8-11
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
8Again the devil took him up into a very high mountain, and shewed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them,
9And said to him: All these will I give thee, if falling down thou wilt adore me.
10Then Jesus saith to him: Begone, Satan: for it is written, The Lord thy God shalt thou adore, and him only shalt thou serve.
11Then the devil left him; and behold angels came and ministered to him.
Psalm 91:11-12
View in: NAB Vulg Hebrew
11For he hath given his angels charge over thee; to keep thee in all thy ways.
12In their hands they shall bear thee up: lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.
Proverbs 3:5
View in: NAB Vulg Hebrew
5Have confidence in the Lord with all thy heart, and lean not upon thy own prudence.
Psalm 119:105
View in: NAB Vulg Hebrew
105NUN. Thy word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my paths.
James 2:24
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
24Do you see that by works a man is justified; and not by faith only?
Revelation 5:5
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
5And one of the ancients said to me: Weep not; behold the lion of the tribe of Juda, the root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.
Genesis 40:8
View in: NAB Vulg Hebrew
8They answered: We have dreamed a dream, and there is nobody to interpret it to us. And Joseph said to them: Doth not interpretation belong to God? Tell me what you have dreamed.