. . . and not in a good way. Is the press release announcing Patriarch Kirill’s opposition to Photoshop, or to Photoshopping Breguet wristwatches but forgetting to touch up their reflection in the polished table surface, or making the Patriarch look like a monk who has finessed his vow of poverty? Read and decide! Or maybe this version, which claims the photograph is a collage?
Every time I teach Gothic (and the abbey of St-Denis) I tell my students that one reason Abbot Suger was so eager to rebuild the west end entrance to the church was that he had seen people crushed to death in their rush to get inside to see the relics. They never quite believe me, I think.
Well, read about the crowds at the public viewing (propped up in a throne, no less!) of Pope Shenouda III, head of the Coptic Church. Lots of pictures (including Pope Shenouda embalmed and propped up in his throne!). That’s a relic display!
First they sell the Crystal Cathedral (sic) to the Diocese of Orange. Which they had to do because of money problems, of course.
The Crystal Cathedral’s senior pastor announced Sunday that she was leaving to start a new church, a move that appears likely to split the congregation.
“This is the last Sunday we will be worshiping in this building,” Pastor Sheila Schuller Coleman told congregants during an emotional 11 a.m. service in the 10,000-pane glass cathedral, designed by architect Phillip Johnson.
But even her parents aren’t going with her!
“We will bless her faith pursuits as we have blessed all our children, but we will not be moving with her to the new location nor are we willing, at this time, to commit to participating in worship at the Crystal Cathedral,” according to the statement. “How we will express ourselves in worship remains up in the air.”
And Obama is pretty shameless. Has to celebrate Hanukkah a little early because he’s going to be in Hawaii then. You mean there are no Temples within driving distance of whatever luxury hotel he’s going to be staying in?
I really don’t like crowds much — DI sports events, political rallies, stadium rock — and tend to avoid them. The same goes for papal mega-masses. Yesterday I didn’t resist.
I first saw John Paul II in Poland, of all places, in the summer of 1979. I was traveling with a school music group and everywhere we went our official translators (who must have been junior trainees – what kind of official translator gets stuck with a bunch of high school boys?) explained how excited all Poland was with the impending papal visit. And when we got back to Warsaw, we were lucky enough to be there for one of the great parades. I saw the John Paul from about half a block down a crowded street. I don’t think I have ever or will ever again feel such a concentrated dose of shared joy spilling over into optimism. We didn’t need translators that day.
I’ve never been up front at a papal mass, but 23 years after Warsaw, I happened to be here (here here – I was staying in the same apartment I’m in this morning) in the June of 2002. No one in Rome that month could not have known about the canonization of Padre Pio, and I had certainly read posters and figured out the schedule from newspapers. Here I was a block from the Ponte Sant’Angelo — I had to go, if only for cultural interest. That was a big crowd — and because it was all so much in the open it felt bigger than Warsaw. Latecomer as I was, I was able to walk about a third of the way down the via della Conciliazione without breaking pace and then to work my way forward until I was about half way to St Peter’s Square. Luckily, the average person with a strong devotion to Padre Pio was an Italian grandmother, so I could see clearly.
The mass itself didn’t impress me with strong memories, other than the crazy communion distributed by a cast of thousands. More impressive were the blessings from the Popemobile — the pope drove down the via della Conciliazione blessing the crowd. The crowd began to thin out and the little clutch of Americans I had found myself attached to (you know, we tall ones picked each other out in the crowd) began chatting, congratulating ourselves on the full papal experience — and he came driving back from a side street! And then again a few minutes later! Triple blessings, which I felt much more strongly than Padre Pio. By that time I had been a Catholic for about 10 years and had read a fair amount of John Paul’s less abstruse stuff, so I respected him as well as honored him as pope.
Saturday Rome filled up with pilgrims. There had been increasing crowds all week, but the backpackers got here in force on Saturday. There were churches open all night for vigils (go see my pictures from yesterday to see some people who were feeling the vigil more than the beatification), there was a carefully produced vigil-spectacle at the Circus Maximus, and everywhere I went there were groups of people following not just the usual raised umbrella of the tour guide but pilgrimage banners — not all of them red and white Polish flags, but certainly a lot of them.
Yesterday morning I didn’t leave the apartment until 9. I knew that any time I was willing to get up and go would have been too late to get into good view, but the best I could do was the intersection of via San Pio X and Borgo Santo Spirito. We didn’t have a view of a GODzillatron, but the sound was great. There was a patch of shade around the corner, to which I retreated occasionally. I would have stayed there but the sound fell off sharply, and I would have had only the Polish coverage from the radios of a group of very tired pilgrims (go back to flickr to see the folks in red cloaks).
Still, on the level of mere emotionality, this mass moved me in a way that the mass for Padre Pio didn’t, and it moved me twice. The first time was early on, at the formal proclamation of blessedness. In the applause and cheers and flag waving I felt something I don’t feel in cheers and flag-waving at sporting events or political gatherings — I felt the Sense of the Faithful. Maybe it’s because I’m one of them — but it was there, that oceanic feeling. We agree.
The ordinary of the mass was in Latin (the few English readings were in Australian, which was a bit of a shock!). The Lord’s Prayer was really something. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised with the self-selected crowd, but out of the million (or million and a half – estimates have been rising since I last looked), many if not most of the people in that out-of-sight intersection said the prayer together in Latin. And that was something — not cheering our assent but praying in one voice.
And for someone who doesn’t like crowds, that makes it worthwhile, for once.
Now if may strike you as odd that St Joseph is not old in this panel showing the Holy Family in his workshop in Nazareth. It’s an outlier, but there is certainly opinion to support it (and nothing but extra-scriptural texts to suggest that he was old). St Josemaria used the younger St Joseph somewhere to explain the Holy Family as a more realistic model for modern families than the Old Man / Virgin pairing of so much religious art, where the iconographical tradition of the melancholic St Joseph sitting in the background would not have appealed to St Josemaria.
That’s all well and good – but why are they working on metal vessels instead of carpentry? THAT I’ve never heard of. On the other hand, if they are repairing things, I can read them as TINKERS. I.e., do the classic relate-yourself-to-the-narrative thing.
Today I took a LONG bus ride…. If you ride the 716 for 45 stops from Teatro Marcello you get to the front gate of the Church of Saint Josemaria Escriva, founder of Opus Dei. The church was built after his 1992 beatification, and dedicated in 1996. It’s a simple, modern building – clean lines on the exterior and interior. It’s set in a 1980s-90s office park and residential area (high rises), so recent that the bus passed a couple of big working olive groves. You know, I could be in Gwinett County, Georgia — there are any number of post-1985 Catholic churches there like this – minus the palm tree in front. What the parish web page refers to as a style of romanità might be semplicità. Or, to be a little more harsh, banalità. This is not very inspiring, and the scale difference between the church and surrounding buildings is rather the reverse of the city of Rome, where most little parish churches are about the same scale as their surroundings and the basilicas dominate everything. Welcome to the 20th Century.
The interior is very plain, with the exception of the altar area. There are relics of St Josemaria under the glass-fronted altar. The altarpiece, by a Spanish artist named Armando Pareja, is a little odd. Scenes from the life of Christ concentrating on the life in Nazareth — very Opus Dei, that, with the interest in Joseph. Click to see the whole thing. One odd choice – St Joseph and Jesus are shown working on metal vessels, not doing carpentry. I have NO idea what that’s about. See the next entry for detail.
Then in the center is the tabernacle – visible through a cut-out. According to the parish website this is a normal arrangement for Renaissance Spain.
The top center panel shows St Josemaria enjoying the Beatific Vision. I need some interpretation from my more specialized friends – he’s wearing a cope — but what is he wearing underneath it?
Parrochia San Josemaria.
On my way back I took a long walk in EUR! Pictures and discussion to follow.
This over life-sized sculpture group in the church of San Salvatore in Lauro is one of the strangest pieces of religious art that I have ever seen. Our Lord looks a little surprised to be getting some help with His cross just then. Simon of Cyrene, perhaps.
Of course I understand that this is part of a long tradition of inserting mystic-saints into weird situations with Jesus. I was looking at a lurid painting of St Liutgard just the other day — something about Jesus looking for somewhere to plant the end of his cross (as though the Roman soldiers didn’t do that for him!) and St Liutgard offering her heart?
I was in Rome (in fact, staying in this very apartment) in the summer of 2002 and happened to attend the canonization mass for Padre Pio. The crowd was very impressive. Click on this picture and go see my photos from Saturday of a procession organized by the Padre Pio Prayer Circles of Lazio on the occasion of the 5th Anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul II.
That’s the date set for the beatification of John Paul II – and the church of Sta Maria del Popolo has already taken delivery of its painting!
I was there last Friday looking at the Cerasi Chapel again and saw something leaning against the wall in the chapel of St Rita of Cascia. I walked over to find this. The late pope is floating a little bit with the piazza of St Peter’s below him in the background. Hmm.
Friday, for the first time ever, I got to go into the House of the Vestals (click to see a picture on my flickr stream of me standing in front of the courtyard). They opened the House AFTER I took my class to the Forum! I think I have to take them back . . . .
Really, it was a splendid day in the Forum and on the Palantine. A friend is visiting from Rochester, and his enthusiasm helped me get over the tiredness generated by the cold I’m fighting and go go go.
There was another first at the Forum – I’ll post that soon!
In April 2008, [Obama] was joined by Hillary Clinton, then his rival for the Democratic nomination and now his Secretary of State, in calling on George W Bush to boycott the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony in protest at the bloody repression of a popular uprising in Tibet.
Canto IV ended with the pair of pilgrims heading “out of the quiet, into the trembling air–/Into a place where nothing ever shines” (4.150-151). In Canto V we are assaulted by the shouting and grunting of Minos — who is very rude for a king and judge. I suppose that Minos also presents the first horrible body of Hell, as he whips his tail around his torso, with the number of loops representing the circle of Hell to which the soul is sent. I’ve never quite understood the monstrous conflation of Minos and the Minotaur – I wonder where Dante would have learned Greek myths other than Ovid? He certainly knew the Metamorphoses, but would he have known the Heroides? I’m not at all sure. It’s been so long since i’ve read the Ariadne and Theseus section of the Heroides that I don’t remember how much topical detail about Minos it carries. I’ve always wondered if Dante was running together Minos and Midas – specifically the Midas-judging-Apollo-and-Pan story.
Canto V begins with a quick explanation of the structural principle of Hell, narrowing from the top as one descends:
So I descended from the outer ring
down to the next, which belts less space about
but stings the souls to greater agony. (5.1-3)
and Minos’s body provides a weird echo:
Discerns what place in Hell is fit for him:
belts himself with his tail as many times
as there are grades the sinner must descend. (5.10-12)
The hardest Canto for big-R and little-r Romantics to deal with is probably Canto V, where Courtly Love comes in for some hard knocks. I’m not in the mood to blog about Paolo and Francesca except to say that luckily I will be team teaching with a friend who regularly teaches troubador material and has no illusions about chaste ladies and ideal knights, even if she does want to believe that Arthur existed.
Click here for all the Danteblogging and none of my other ramblings.
Canto III ends with Dante falling into unconsciousness, and IV begins with a boom that shakes him awake. Not every pair of Cantos carries action across the break so smoothly (or jarringly, as in this case), but the transitions are always worth checking. Dante was a thorough craftsman. There is certainly lots of debate about the making of the poem – he started it in exile, probably in 1304, he seems to have published Inferno in 1314. That gives a lot of time for polishing.
I think the urge to see Dante as a poet who begins uncertainly is an example of the (Romantic?) failure to separate maker from creation – to assume that Dante (in this example) is speaking authentically as Dante, that he is afraid, that he does not know where he is, that he is learning from Virgil as he goes along. I’m calling the Pilgrim “Dante” out of laziness and convention more than anything. I don’t believe this is Dante Alighieri speaking to us from the heart – this is a finely constructed object of art. It certainly has stress fractures and may even have some bad lines (I’m not enough of a judge of the Italian to say – though this effort will surely help that), but the Commedia makes much more sense as a unity. If there’s ever a poem that repays formalist analysis it’s this one.
In Canto IV we enter Limbo – and Dante asks Virgil one of those hard questions – did no one leave here before the Resurrection? What about those unbaptized infants?Is this fair??
Well, if ‘fair’ means playing by the rules, this is fair. It’s also hard lines on the virtuous pagans. Dante suggests, though he lists only big name Jewish Patriarchs and Matriarchs, that virtuous Jews from before the Incarnation were saved at the Harrowing of Hell, when Christ descended. What happens to later Jews we will consider later.
Dante is more interested at this point in showing us that there is a hierarchy in Limbo, a hierarchy not of happiness or contentment but honor. There is honor in limbo for the greatest souls.
I’ve always thought that the appearance of the first epic list of names here is hardly an accident. Dante is not only giving us a long list of virtuous unbelievers – among whom he includes 2 or 3 Muslims – because he’s in a castle full of them but also because, in Virgil’s company, he has just met Homer, Ovid, and Lucan. I think because he is accepted into their circle as a poet, he demonstrates his mastery of the genre. If we don’t believe that we have to take refuge in believing the narrative and think that a person, Dante, is walking all around the only castle in Hell with decent lighting looking at nametags.
The Canto ends with the pair leaving this Castle with clear light, headed into darkness. Dante does it with a LOT of words ending in -a.
La sesta compagnia in due si scema:
per altra via mi mena il savio duca
fuor de la queta, ne l’aura che trema.
E vegno in parte ove non è che luca.
Esolen gives us:
The company of six is cut by two,
and my wise guide leads me another way,
out of the quiet, into the trembling air –
Into a place where nothing ever shines
“Trembling air” sounds lovely, but when we turn the page we will find out what makes it tremble.
Click here for all the Danteblogging and none of my other ramblings.