Sister Joan Chittister is one of my favorite authors. Here is her “Easter Prayer.” You can find an index to all of her “Ideas in Passing” here. I encourage you to subscribe to her weekly email.
To say “I believe in Jesus Christ . . . who rose from the dead,” is to say I believe that the Resurrection goes on and on and on forever. Every time Jesus rises in our own hearts in new ways, the Resurrection happens again. Every time we see Jesus where we did not recognize him before—in the faces of the poor, in the love of the unloved, in the revelatory moments of life, Jesus rises anew. The real proof of the Resurrection lies not in the transformation of Jesus alone but in the transformation awaiting us who accept it.
To say, “I believe in Jesus Christ . . . who rose from the dead,” is to say something about myself at the same time. It says that I myself am ready to be transformed. Once the Christ-life rises in me, I rise to new life as well. “Christ is risen, we are risen,” we sing at Easter. But it has a great deal more to do with life than with death. If I know that Jesus has been transformed, then I am transformed myself, and as a result, everything around me.
Until we find ourselves with new hearts, more penetrating insights, fewer compulsions, less need for the transient, greater awareness of the spiritual pulse of life, resurrection has not really happened for us. Jesus has risen but we have not. Resurrection is change at the root of the soul. It marks a whole new way of being in life.
Jesus, help me to understand that in every life, something good fails, something great ends, something righteous is taken unjustly away, something looms like an abandonment by God. Give me the wisdom to know that You rose from the dead as a sign to us that every one of these “little deaths” is life become new all over again. Be with me in living Your Resurrection over and over again.
Joan Chittister in: Vision and Viewpoint e-newsletter dated 1 April 2013
The Lord who conquered darkness with light,
give peace to you.
The Lord who conquered death with life,
give peace to you.
The Lord who conquered loneliness with love,
give peace to you.
Commentary by Hovak Najarian
Related post “Easter, April 8,2012′
In 1407, Guido di Pietro joined the Dominican order in Fiesole (near Florence, Italy) and at his vows took the name Giovanni. Thus, he was known as Friar Giovanni da Fiesole (Brother John of Fiesole). Vasari referred to him as Fra Giovanni Angelico (Brother John the Angelic one); now he is known simply as Fra Angelico. In Fra Angelico’s lifetime, Italy was in a state of transition. In the early part of the fifteenth century, medieval art was still a presence but Florence was at the heart of the Renaissance and Fra Angelico was aware fully of the trends toward humanism and the changes in art that were taking place.
In medieval art, figures are generally flat with little sense of individuality. They seem to exist in a mystic realm surrounded by gold leaf that shimmers as though reflecting heavenly light. Figures are not always anatomically correct in proportion and may be made larger or smaller according to a person’s status. During the Renaissance, the interest in humanism, an awareness of the world in which they lived, a better understanding of perspective, and the use of oil paints were factors that led artists toward the creation of paintings that were convincing effects of reality. Figures of a Modonna and Child no longer existed in another realm; they were given anatomically correct proportions and were presented as real people.
Fra Angelico’s life was devoted to the work of the church and one of his major undertakings was at the monastery at San Marcos in Florence where he and his assistants painted the cells (prayer and meditation rooms) with scenes from the life of Christ. Noli Me Tangere (“Don’t touch me”) is a fresco on the wall of one of the cells. The scene depicts Mary Magdalene just after she recognized the risen Christ. She is kneeling and reaching out toward him as Christ subtly gestures to her and steps aside.
There is pictorial depth in this fresco and the modeling creates an effect of solid figures under the draped clothing. Mary Magdalene’s kneeling position is believable as is the sense that Jesus has just moved his right foot as he withdraws slightly from Mary. Yet, although the figures are no longer painted as they would have been in medieval times, the tomb is quite stylized and tightly rendered. The landscape of springtime flowers and the backdrop of trees also are stylized.
Studies by perceptual psychologist Rudolph Arnheim have shown that viewers tend to “read” a painting from left to right. It also has been shown that from the standpoint of visual balance, we are more comfortable when there is more visual weight on the left side of a painting. Fra Angelico followed intuitively these compositional guidelines. If the painting, Noli Me Tangere, were to be divided in half (the background palm tree being the center) the larger and more passive visual mass on the left – the tomb and Mary Magdalene – is balanced by the more active figure of Christ on the right.
In Noli Me Tangere our eyes enter the painting on the left side at the tomb. We make a mental note of the darkness in the open door (this door is not designed to be closed by a large stone) and then we continue our visual journey to Mary Magdalene dressed in red, a color that also carries weight. The direction of Mary’s gaze, her arms, and her hand gesture lead our eyes to the figure of Jesus the focal point of the painting. In the figure of Jesus we find movement and we follow his gaze as it leads us back to the face of Mary. A fence in the background limits pictorial depth and keeps the focus of attention on the figures of Jesus and Mary Magdalene in the foreground. Although Noli Me Tangere seems to be a simple composition there is within the subtle gestures and facial expressions, a subtext that causes us to reflect on the moment this meeting occurred.
© 2012 Hovak Najarian
Great Fifty Days of Easter
The feast of Easter is a season of fifty days, from Easter Eve through the Day of Pentecost. From early times the Greek word pentecost (fiftieth day) was used also for the whole Paschal season. During this season there is no fasting. The Council of Nicaea (325) directed that Christians are to pray standing. The word “alleluia” (praise the Lord) is said or sung repeatedly, which contrasts sharply with the season of Lent when the alleluia is omitted. The color of liturgical vestments and hangings is white or gold.
Handout p. 1