“What a gift to read a hopeful, confident passage like Isaiah 35, and to feel seen in the simple acknowledgement of those who are “cowardly.” Those who have weak hands and shaking knees are not judged or chastised for their lack of faith. Or for their lack of hope. The community around them, the prophet himself, is told to encourage those who are hope-less or even faith-less. Reassure them. Have faith on their behalf. Remind them of God’s saving power.”
Yesterday was Gaudete Sunday, traditionally a joyful interruption in the midst of an advent season otherwise characterized by somber waiting and postures of penance. Being at a non-lectionary church, we read and our pastor preached on John 1.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
Our pastor spoke of getting lost at a campground once, with utter darkness surrounding them in an unfamiliar place, and then seeing one small light in the distance, the flashlight of fellow campers. We know from multiple human experiences that the darkness cannot overshadow the smallest of lights: the brilliance of the first star peeking out as daytime turns to night; the comfort of a candle when our otherwise predictable lives are interrupted by a power outage; the difference even a small flashlight makes as we navigate dark paths. Indeed, the deeper the darkness, the more brightly such small…
The Rt. Rev. James Steptoe Johnston, Bishop of the Missionary District of Western Texas (1888–1916), desired to provide education and skill development for newly emancipated blacks in the mission field. Bishop Johnston traveled to Raleigh, North Carolina, in search of a young, black, female teacher. In 1902, Ms. Artemisia Bowden courageously accepted Bishop Johnston’s invitation and assumed leadership of the St. Philip’s Vocational Day School for Colored Children in San Antonio, Texas.
She began with less than ten students. After leading the school for 52 years, a small day school was transformed into a fully accredited junior college offering over 100 degree and certificate programs. In 2016, St. Philip’s College has an enrollment of over 11,000 students. St. Philip’s College carries the dual designation of being a Historically Black College and a Hispanic Serving Institution Bowden’s work, which began more than 110 years ago, continues to be an…
Almighty God, by the hand of Mark the evangelist you have given to your Church the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God: We thank you for this witness, and pray that we may be firmly grounded in its truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The Book of Common Prayer, 240
As God answers our prayer and we become “firmly grounded” in the truth of the Good News as told by Mark, what then? How are we to witness to the truth in our day, in our place, with our own God-given gifts? Walk with the question through the day. The opportunities for your own witness to the truth will be there (even if they are not of biblical proportions). ~Fr. Dan
Today, because many of you will not have access to this material, I quote in its entirety the description of this commemoration in Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2006. ~Fr. Dan
Paul, or Saul as he was known until he became a Christian, was a Roman citizen, born at Tarsus, in present-day Turkey. He was brought up as an orthodox Jew, studying in Jerusalem for a time under Gamaliel, the most famous rabbi of the day. Describing himself, he said, “I am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin” (Romans 11:1).
A few years after the death of Jesus, Saul came in contact with the new Christian movement, and became one of the most fanatical of those who were determined to stamp out this “dangerous heresy.” Saul witnessed the stoning of Stephen. He was on the way to Damascus to lead in…
The Li Tim-Oi Foundation was established in 1994. The Foundation funds It takes ONE woman: “It takes ONE woman sums up the story and aim of the LI TIM-OI FOUNDATION – founded in memory of the first Anglican woman priest…
Matthew 4:18,21 As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother… As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John…
Commentary by Hovak Najarian
Calling Disciples, mixed media, 2001, He Qi (b. 20th Century)
During the latter part of the nineteenth century, the industrial revolution with its engineering and technological marvels was becoming part of life and there was a sense the world had entered a modern age. Being “modern” became a self-congratulatory state of mind that continued well beyond the first half of the twentieth century. Around 1970, it was proclaimed the term “modern” no longer applied to how we perceived ourselves. We were in the “Post Modern” age. Today, “Modernism” is a designated time period that started in the mid 1930s and continued to the mid 1960s…
When we truly “seek and serve Christ in all persons,” (see the Book of Common Prayer, 305) when we behave in a way that reveals we truly “love our neighbor as ourselves,” we open ourselves to the Christ meeting us and teaching us in ways we never expected. This is a story to make that point for you and me.
Luke 23:33 “When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.”
Commentary by Hovak Najarian
The Crucifixion of Christ and the Two Thieves, c. 1522-24, Red Chalk, Michelangelo Buonarroti, 1475-1564
When early Christian artists began creating visual images of their faith they were faced with questions such as what did Jesus look like? Could or should God be portrayed – if so, how? How would the crucifixion be depicted and what would be the shape of the cross?
Although there were fervent associations with the crucifixion, it was not depicted in art for several hundred years after the event. Then, when it began to be shown, artists did not attempt to give a realistic interpretation. Instead, the crucifixion was used as a symbol. It was in the sixth century that scenes familiar to us today began to appear; in the years that followed, details of the event were reconstructed as artists followed biblical descriptions and used their imaginations. Jesus and the thieves were shown on crosses; Jesus in the center and the thieves on each side. At first, only a few people were present but as compositions became more complex, figures were added; among them were disciples, the three Marys, bystanders, and soldiers (one with a spear and others throwing dice for Christ’s cloak). Some artists placed angels above the cross of Jesus and often a skull was placed at the foot of his cross to indicate this was “the place of the skull.”
Michelangelo’s chalk drawing, “Crucifixion with Two Thieves,” was sketched possibly as a study for a painting and was not intended to be a complete or permanent work. Because chalk does not have within it a binding agent such as egg yolk or linseed oil, it can be rubbed off a surface easily. Some details in this drawing are not clear and almost lost.
Michelangelo depicts the crucifixion as it is taking place. A man on the top of the central cross is making an adjustment to Jesus’ arm while a figure is on a ladder at his feet. Another person is on a ladder at the feet of the thief on the right and an additional ladder is being brought to the site; it is presumed this is to reach the feet of the thief on the left whose unsupported legs are dangling loosely. [It also may be interpreted that this ladder is being removed from the scene] Under the cross on the left are two horses (their images are very light and barely distinguishable). Below the central cross, Mary has fainted and is being assisted. Others are consumed with grief.
The familiar Latin cross has a horizontal section approximately one third down from the top but many other forms have been made. In this drawing the thieves are attached to crossbeams at the very top of the vertical posts, whereas the cross on which Christ is placed is “Y” shaped. This was not a Michelangelo innovation; the “Y” shaped cross was among the earliest depicted in scenes of the crucifixion.
Luke 20: 33 “In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her.”
Commentary by Hovak Najarian
Resurrection of the Flesh, fresco, 1499-1502, Luca Signorelli, 1441-1523
Art created in Italy during the turn of the century from the 1490s to the 1520s elicits a sense of awe in us even today. During those years, Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Leonardo painted the “Last Supper,” Raphael painted “The School of Athens,” and Luca Signorelli painted his fresco cycle in Orvieto Cathedral. Artists of the High Renaissance achieved their remarkable results because problems that dogged earlier artists for many centuries had been resolved.
The problem of creating pictorial space was resolved in the early fifteenth century but creating a convincing likeness of a human figure from any point of view was another major challenge. Figures in early paintings were depicted usually in a front or side view with little or no sense of movement; they often were ill-proportioned, stiff in appearance, and in sculpture-like poses. Signorelli’s mastery of anatomy, perspective, and foreshortening gave him the skills and freedom to paint the human form in every conceivable position. He seemed to delight in doing so.
At the Cappella Nova (the “New Chapel” – now called the Chapel of San Brizio) in the Cathedral at Orvieto, Signorelli was commissioned first to complete ceiling frescos that were begun by Fra Angelico. Signorelli’s work impressed his patrons (also, his fee was less than that of other artists and he worked faster) and this led to a commission to paint seven side walls. Among the frescos of the side walls are scenes depicting the end of time. The painting, “Resurrection of the Flesh,” illustrates the text found in the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians: “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment…. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.” (1 Cor. 15:51-52, RSV)
In this painting, two larger than life angels are in the sky. They have sounded their trumpets (with Crusader flags attached) and the dead are emerging from the earth; many have risen in full flesh. Others are only partially above the surface and are in the process of lifting themselves out. Some are still in skeleton form; here and there only a skull has popped up. In the central foreground, two men are assisting full-fleshed figures that are emerging and on the far right a man is having a conversation with a group of standing skeletons. Signorelli’s skills matched his fertile imagination and his ability to depict freely the human figure impressed and influenced many of his contemporaries; Michelangelo was among his admirers.
[Signorelli did not seem to have an interest in the accuracy of a skeleton’s form. His rendering of the pelvis is quite inaccurate.]
“If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” Luke 16:31
Commentary by Hovak Najarian
Dives and Lazarus, oil on canvas, c.1595, Leandro Bassano, 1557-1622
Dives (Dye-veez) – Latin for “rich” or “rich man” – did not deny himself anything that would bring pleasure. Leandro Bassano depicts him at dinner in fine clothes, surrounded by the people who serve him. He is having a sumptuous meal as he did everyday, and while he is dining, musicians entertain him and a prostitute sits at his side. There is not room on the table for all of the food that is served. In front of Dives are full plates of food piled on top of full plates, and more food is on its way.
In Christ’s parable (Luke 16:19-31), Lazarus is a starving man who is covered with sores. He went to the rich man’s house to lie down by the gate with the hope that something to eat would be given to him. In his painting, Bassano, using artistic license, places Lazarus inside the house and directly at the dinner scene with Dives. Lazarus, on the floor beside the rich man, is looking up and reaching out with an open hand but is being ignored; the table is overflowing with food but not even a morsel is tossed to him. Two playful spaniels have arrived at Lazarus’ feet and are licking his sores while at the same time a servant is threatening to beat him with a stick. Dives had no pity on those in need and lived his life in a heartless and self-indulgent manner. There was no empathy for those who were less fortunate.
Upon death, Lazarus was taken to heaven and the uncaring Dives was sent to hell. When Dives looked across a deep chasm that divided them he saw Lazarus in heaven in Abraham’s bosom. He called to Abraham and pleaded that Lazarus be sent with water on a finger to place on his tongue but his plea was denied. Abraham said, “Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here and you are in anguish in this flame.” (Luke 16:25)
The artist Leandro Bassano was the youngest son of a family of artists. His father, Jacopo da Ponte, studied in nearby Venice and then returned to the city of Bassano and, like many other artists, became known by the name of the city where he lived and worked. His four sons worked closely with him and it is believed some of the work attributed to the father, Jacopo, were the work of his sons. Leandro’s work is closest in style to his father’s paintings.
The story of “Dives and Lazarus” became an old English folk song and the Christmas carol, “Oh Sing a Song of Bethlehem” is sung to its melody. Anglican and Episcopal hymns also have been set to this melody and Ralph Vaughn Williams’ composition for harp and string orchestra – “Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus” – is based on this folk song as well.