“He ascended into heaven…”

Visualizing the Ascension of Jesus.

While Jesus was going and [the apostles] were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Acts 1:10-11 NRSV

Master of the Rabbula Gospels, The Ascension, 586

The Ascension of Christ, illumination on parchment, 6th century,
Master of the Rabbula Gospels.

Commentary by Hovak Najarian

During the sixth century, artists were approximately eight hundred years away from being able to create pictorial depth through linear perspective. In addition to technical limitations, artists faced decisions about how Jesus would be depicted and how angels would fly. How would a person’s inner light be represented? Creating a composition required decisions as well; how was it to be organized?

Pictorial depth in, The Ascension of Christ, an illuminated Syriac Gospel Book, is limited. The figures are standing at ground level like relief sculpture and the composition is balanced in bilateral symmetry. The right and left side of the painting balance each other equally and Mary with a halo and blue robe is at the center. Her arms are uplifted in prayer. Byzantine royalty often wore blue robes and by the sixth century, the color blue, representing heavenly grace among other symbolic associations, had been adopted as the color by which Mary, “Queen of Heaven,” would be identified. Uplifted arms while in prayer was a gesture used by early Christians and continues today in some Pentecostal and charismatic churches. Except for the angels and Mary, most of the figures are looking upward at Jesus.

As Christ was ascending, two men in white robes appeared. Each is depicted as an angel with wings and a halo. Angels in the Bible were not assigned wings but artists reasoned they would need them in order to fly. The angel on the left of Mary is looking at Paul (identified by a long dark beard and bald forehead) and is pointing upward at the ascending Jesus. Paul was not a follower of Jesus at the time of the ascension but was brought in by way of, “artist’s license.” The angel on the right is talking to the white-bearded Peter. They, and the others, are being told Jesus “…will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

In the sixth century, Christ’s ascension was depicted in various ways; one was not to have his body in the picture at all. Only his feet and the hem of his robe would be shown as he entered clouds above. Sometimes only his feet remained in the picture. In another approach, Jesus would move upward by climbing a mountain.

In his journey heavenward, Jesus is surrounded usually by a glowing light or is encompassed, as here, by a full body halo known as a mandorla. In the above depiction, two angels are holding the mandorla to assist Jesus in his ascent while two other angels are moving upward bearing crowns. Jesus is standing within the mandorla with his hand raised in a final blessing to those who have gathered below. The biblical account of Ezekiel ascending to heaven on a chariot was familiar to people at this time and, as seen here, a depiction of the ascension in early Christian art often included chariot wheels beneath the mandorla.

Hovak Najarian © 2017

Hail to the Lord’s Anointed, great David’s greater Son!

The changeless Name of Love.

Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. 1 Peter 3:13-15 NRSV

Hail to the Lord’s Anointed! (Hymn 616 in Hymnal 1982)

In Sunday’s Epistle (5/21/17), Peter writes that it is noble “to suffer for doing good.” At St. Hugh’s we were emboldened to go out as those protected by the One who “comes with succor speedy to those who suffer wrong” (s. 2)—for “O’er every foe victorious …his Name shall stand for ever, his changeless Name of Love.” We seek to always dwell in that Love.

1
Hail to the Lord’s Anointed, great David’s greater Son!
Hail, in the time appointed, his reign on earth begun!
He comes to break oppression, to set the captive free;
to take away transgression, and rule in equity.

2
He comes with succor speedy to those who suffer wrong,
to help the poor and needy, and bid the weak be strong;
to give them songs for sighing, their darkness turn to light,
whose souls, condemned and dying, were precious in his sight.

3
He shall come down like showers upon the fruitful earth,
and love, joy, hope, like flowers, spring in his path to birth:
before him on the mountains shall peace, the herald, go;
and righteousness in fountains from hill to valley flow.

4
Kings shall bown before him, and gold and incense bring;
all nations shall adore him, his praise all people sing;
to him shall prayer unceasing and daily vows ascend;
his kingdom still increasing, a kingdom without end.

5
O’er every foe victorious, he on his throne shall rest;
from age to age more glorious, all-blessing and all-blest:
the tide of time shall never his covenant remove;
his Name shall stand for ever, his changeless Name of Love.

James Montgomery

Supper at Emmaus | Art for Easter 3A

In the breaking of the bread … recognition

When [Jesus] was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight.  (Luke 24:30-31)

Supper at Emmaus, 1628, oil on canvas, Rembrandt van Rijn, 1606-1669

Commentary by Hovak Najarian

When Christ was crucified, the disciple’s world was shattered and their future uncertain. Where would they go? What would they do? Two of them were on the road to Emmaus, a village near Jerusalem, and as they walked, their conversation was about Jesus and the harrowing events of the previous week. What were they to make of news received from the women who went to Jesus’ tomb and found it empty? The women said angels told them Jesus was alive. While the disciples were walking, the resurrected Jesus joined them on their journey. They were unable to recognize him, however, and when this stranger (Jesus) asked what they had been discussing, they became still. Their heads were downcast. The disciple, Cleopas, asked incredulously, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened…?” When asked, “What things?” Cleopas, recounted the ministry of Jesus the Messiah and how he was sentenced to death and crucified.

As the travelers approached the village of Emmaus, it was near evening and the disciples invited the man accompanying them to stay instead of continuing on his journey. Jesus stayed, and when they were ready to eat, he gave thanks for the bread and broke it. As bread was given to the disciples, they were shocked when they realized suddenly the man they met on the road, and now was in their presence, was Jesus. After Jesus revealed himself, he disappeared.

As a youth, Rembrandt’s schooling was in Latin and Religion and in addition to his skills in art, he developed a deep interest in the Bible. In his drawings, paintings, and etchings, he returned to biblical themes throughout his life. Rembrandt was still a young man when he painted the Supper at Emmaus, and it is a subject he returned to later. His earlier painting, shown here, depicts the exact moment Christ revealed himself to the two disciples.

The light source in a painting establishes highlights, shadows, reflections, and it gives definition to three dimensional forms. Often the light is provided by a candle, lamp, or window, and at times more than one source is included. In addition to natural and artificial sources, light emanating from Jesus has been depicted in paintings since the early Renaissance. In Rembrandt’s Supper at Emmaus, the primary source of light comes from Jesus and much of the painting is in shadow. In the background is a dim light surrounding a servant who is unaware that Christ has revealed himself to the disciples.

Upon realizing they had been walking with Jesus on their journey, and that he was now with them at the table, the two disciples were overcome. One disciple fell to his knees at Jesus’ feet. [He is in deep shadow in the central foreground.] The disciple seated across from Jesus is recoiling in awe and is overwhelmed. Perhaps fright is being experienced as well. Rembrandt made dramatic use of light and dark tones to suggest something extraordinary was taking place.

Hovak Najarian © 2017

Image on the Web Gallery of Art

Collect: Feast of Saint Mark

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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

Be well. Do good. Pay attention. Keep learning.

Image: OldBooks.org

Genocide Remembrance

Remembering. Then acting to build a more just future for all.

Remembering the Armenian Genocide

Begin quoteThis day is set aside in the calendar of the church to hold in remembrance those who have died and those whose lives have been severely damaged as a result of acts of genocide: the systematic and intentional destruction of a people by death, by the imposition of severe mental or physical abuse, by the forced displacement of children, or by other atrocities designed to destroy the lives and human dignity of large groups of people.

This day is chosen for the commemoration because the international community recognizes April 24 as a day of remembrance for the Armenian Genocide, the systematic annihilation of the Armenian people during and just after World War I. On April 24, 1915, more than 250 Armenian notables—civic and political leaders, teachers, writers, and members of the clergy—were rounded up, imprisoned, tortured, and killed. Before the cessation of conflict, it is estimated that as many as one-and-a-half million Armenians perished,…  Read more from the Episcopal Church website

From our website:

 

Collect: John Keble, Priest, 1866 (Mar 29)

Pursuing our God-given work with integrity and courage.

 

John Keble

New ev’ry morning is the love
Our wakening and uprising prove:
Through sleep and darkness safely brought,
Restored to life and power and thought.

These familiar words of John Keble are from his cycle of poems entitled The Christian Year (1827), which he wrote to restore among Anglicans a deep feeling for the Church Year. The work went through ninety-five editions, but this was not the fame he sought: his consuming desire was to be a faithful pastor, who finds his fulfillment in daily services, confirmation classes, visits to village schools, and a voluminous correspondence with those seeking spiritual counsel.

Keble, born in 1792, received his early education in his father’s vicarage. At fourteen, he won a scholarship to Oxford and graduated in 1811 with highest honors. He served the University in several capacities, including ten years as Professor of Poetry. After ordination in 1816 he had a series of rural curacies, and finally settled in 1836 into a thirty-year pastorate at the village of Hursley, near Winchester.  Read more

Holy Women, Holy Men

The Collect for the Commemoration

Grant, O God, that in all time of our testing we may know your presence and obey your will; that, following the example of your servant John Keble, we may accomplish with integrity and courage what you give us to do, and endure what you give us to bear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

Among the many thanksgiving I commonly offer is that God sets challenges before me that expands mind and heart and spirit. Pray with me that, with God’s help, you and I may truly accomplish—with integrity and courage—the work God has given us to do.  ~Fr. Dan

Be well. Do good. Pay attention. Keep learning.