High Mass at a Fishing Village on the Zuyder Zee by George Clausen
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We like this image, because it captures an all too relevant theme for many Catholics. Many have been at a crowded Mass. Perhaps we think that it would be nice to have some more breathing room, or maybe that the person’s children two rows back should have been physically removed twenty minutes ago. On the flip side though, isn’t a crowded Mass a good sign of devotion? Something to be thankful for?
The central woman in the painting shows us the determination of a devout
soul to stay focused during Mass. Being the farthest removed participant, she
probably can’t even hear or see what’s going on in the Mass. She stands
and kneels when she sees those in front of her change positions. And,
probably because she can’t see or hear the Mass, she prays her rosary
to stay focused and devout. A small child leans up against her, gazing off
into space—much like many at her age seem to do.
This image can provide excellent inspiration for those relating to the over-
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The Blessed Virgin tenderly eyes the beholder with a smile for the Redemption her Son has won, but with the sorrow of the price He paid. In the center, the youthful looking Virgin clutches a brown coat. Due to her young appearance, it is probable that this portrait of the Mother Mary was meant to be well before the Passion of Jesus Christ—perhaps after she had just made the seamless tunic, which she knew would eventually suffer with her Son.
The Sacred Coat, which Our Lady holds in the painting, is referred to in Scripture:
"The soldiers therefore, when they had crucified him, took his garments, (and they made four parts, to every soldier a part,) and also his coat. Now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. They said then one to another: Let us not cut it, but let us cast lots for it, whose it shall be; that the scripture might be fulfilled, saying: They have parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture they have cast lots." John 19:23-24
The artist (Charles Bosseron Chambers) is said to have painted many of his religious subjects purely from imagination. He painted this rendition of the Madonna as an altar piece for Saint Ignatius Church, Chicago, where it still resides today.
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The innocence of a child’s prayer is captured in the life-like drama of Bouguereau’s exquisite style.
Some speculate that this particular rendition was meant, by the artist, to be the Blessed Virgin Mary as a child. Yet, since there is not even the faintest hint of a halo around the young woman’s head, it remains mere speculation as the Virgin is traditionally depicted with some form of a halo.
Regardless, this painting remains a classic manifestation of the physical beauty of Bouguereau’s subject and the metaphysical splendor of the theme:
Transcendence of the soul to God through prayer.
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The Merciful Knight
by Edward Burne-Jones
Decked out in battle array, ready to fight to the death against all foes and cast with the fortitude of iron, the iconic knight kneels for his most gentle and humble King —Christ on the Cross. We notice an uncertainty, even a meekness of spirit, in the face of the knight. Is he feeling remorse for his sins? Is he truly terrified of the fight he will soon enter? Are these going to be his last moments of breath? Does the title Merciful Knight indicate that he has already shown mercy, or is the knight asking for the grace to show mercy to his foes at the proper time?
If we can interpret the look on his face as an act of charitable contrition and a plea for strength, then we can derive that the Knight will achieve his physical and spiritual goals. Jesus, coming down from the Crucifix in this wayside shrine, provides us with an artistic testament that His grace (working through us) will conquer all.
“And the God of peace crush Satan under your feet speedily.The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” Romans 16:20
Analysis of Antonio Ciseri’s Painting Ecce Homo
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We’ve found this image (Ecce Homo – Behold the Man) to be helpful for meditation on the Passion. One of the reasons it is such an aid is because it leaves much for the imagination. Specifically, we don’t see the faces of Jesus or Pilate from the front (as is usually the case in art). Instead, we have a view from the rear of the scene, as if from the view of a roman servant in waiting.
What pulls the eye in right away, of course, is the central scene of Pilate displaying Jesus to the Jews and saying ‘Behold the Man.’ Even if the title of this painting wasn’t “Ecce Homo,” it’s still simple to derive that this is indeed the moment the artwork captures. Notice the motion of Pilate’s arm, pointing towards Christ, the crown of thorns barely visible on Christ’s head, and the exposed back indicating the recent flagellation.
When the eye wanders more through the painting, it will notice the most visible face in the entire image: that of the woman on the right. The look of anguish on her face, her outstretched arm embracing her friend (or servant perhaps) for emotional support—all indicate that this figure would be none other than the wife of Pontius Pilate.
“And as he (Pontius Pilate) was sitting in the place of judgment, his wife sent to him, saying: Have thou nothing to do with that just man; for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.” Matt 27:19
If it was her explicit wish for her husband to have nothing to do with a just man, then her emotional pain displayed in the picture makes perfect sense. The moment Pilate begins to announce that he has tortured the Christ, her heart sinks as the realization truly sets in that her husband displayed cruelty to the just man, despite her warnings. She turns from his side and begins slowly withdrawing—the moment captured in this painting.
We can relate to the agony of Pilate’s wife by inserting how our own sins have caused the suffering of Jesus. The brilliance of the perspective of Pilate’s wife is that she, apparently, had no idea that Jesus was God or that he was dying for ours sins. If she had so much sorrow simply because she sensed that something was awry and unjust, imagine how great her sorrow could have been had she known the sublime and grim reality of what was happening before her eyes.
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After taking a look at the life of St. Cyril, it’s easy to see him as a man who always came into a situation with both barrels blazing. Seriously, Cyril took no prisoners. When he became Patriarch of Alexandria in 412, he “assembled a mob” that booted out a certain group of people who had been persecuting Christians in the area.
Before Cyril became Patriarch, he had to survive a riot that ensued due to a rivalry for the Patriarchy.
After Cyril became Patriarch of Alexandria, he went at it with the prefect of Egypt, Orestes, who thought Cyril was a rival to his authority and was also irate that Cyril kicked out of Egypt that certain group of people who had been persecuting Christians. Yes, you guessed it, a serious brawl ensued as a result of the conflict between Cyril and Orestes. 500 (yes, five hundred) monks came swinging out of the lower deserts of Egypt (Nitria) to defend Cyril. Can you imagine 500 men with big beards and worn-monastic habits storming into a fight against the Oreste’s soldiers? One word comes to mind: Fortitude. One of the monks actually beamed Orestes with a rock during the skirmish. Orestes had the stone slinging monk tortured; the monk died as a result. Cyril actually honored the remains of the rock lobbing monk for a time.
Cyril, in league with Pope Celestine I, is most known for intellectually duking it out with Nestorius, who was the Patriarch of Constantinople (present day Istanbul). At one point, the Emperor (Theodosius II) had both Nestorius and Cyril arrested. The emperor, however, cut Cyril loose after Papal Legates showed up on his doorstep saying that Pope Celestine endorsed Cyril’s condemnation of Nestorius.
So what was the big deal with Nestorius? Well, he promoted the heresy of Nestorianism, which says that “Mary was not the Mother of God since Christ was Divine and not human, and consequently she should not have the word theotokos (God-bearer) applied to her.”
Cyril was the bedrock for the third general Council of Ephesus in 431, which declared Nestorianism a Heresy. Oddly enough, a group of bishops that sided with Nestorius convened their own council after the one at Ephesus and deposed Cyril (this is the point where Cyril and Nestorius got arrested by the Emperor).
But the biggest reason why St. Cyril of Alexandria is a ‘Trooper’ is his doctrine, which has been quoted by multiple Church councils—Cyril has the title Doctor of the Church. Here is an excerpt from his book on the Divine Motherhood of Mary:
“In the third book of his work on the holy and consubstantial Trinity, our father Athanasius, of glorious memory, several times refers to the holy Virgin as “Mother of God.” I cannot resist quoting his own words: “As I have often told you, the distinctive mark of holy Scripture is that it was written to make a twofold declaration concerning our Savior; namely, that he is and has always been God, and that for our sake in these latter days he took flesh from the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and became man.”
We chose this quote because it ties Saints Cyril and Athanasius together, which are the two Saints who appear in the icon we have on our Website.
The featured image this week is called “St. John Lateran’s" by Giovanni Battista Piranesi. This particular image is a photograph of an an antique, hand-colored engraving. In this case, we wanted to leave the look of the original image intact as much as possible. This is why it still has an overall ‘brown’ look and also why you can see the plate marks around the border of the image.
The featured image this week is called ‘Refuge’ by an unknown artist. The beauty of this image is the three messages that are portrayed. The young shepherdess has sought physical refuge within the protection of the Crucifix shrine. Christ on the Cross watches over her spiritually (protecting her from the storms of life) while, at the same time, affording her physical protection from the raging storm. Finally, she clutches closely a white lamb in her arms, the lamb being a figure of the Christ referenced multiple times in the Old & New Testaments.
“I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. Blessed are they that wash their robes in the blood of the Lamb: that they may have a right to the tree of life, and may enter in by the gates into the city.” Apocalypse 22:13-14 Source