Last Sunday After Epiphany

Every year, the Last Sunday After Epiphany is also the Sunday before Ash Wednesday. Glory and the Cross for our contemplation.

Transfiguration, fresco, 11th Century, unknown artist of Cappadocia

“And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain apart. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light. And behold there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking to him.” (Matt. 17:1-3)

When the western part of the Roman Empire collapsed the eastern portion thrived and in time became the Byzantine Empire which extended eastward from Constantinople into Asia Minor. In a region known as Cappadocia, Greek-speaking Orthodox Christians often required protection from invaders and found it in rock formations created by volcanic eruptions. By carving into the soft rock, Christians created spaces that gave them shelter from the elements and made invasions by outside forces difficult.

In this setting, a monastic compound known as the “Dark Church,” was carved and its interior walls and ceilings were covered with frescos. Among the paintings is The Transfiguration. In it, Moses and Elijah are with Jesus in an event interpreted as a revelation that Christ is the fulfillment of the law and prophets. Moses represents the law and in paintings he often is shown holding the Torah or a stone tablet. Elijah represents the prophets. In this fresco, neither Moses nor Elijah has been given an identifying symbol but we can assume the gray-haired bearded man on the right is Moses and the un-bearded figure on the left is Elijah.

Mt. Tabor is the traditional site of the transfiguration but other places have been proposed. One of the sites that have been suggested is Mt. Hermon which has three distinct peaks. Often in paintings of the transfiguration, as in this painting from the Dark Church, three peaks are shown. In this painting,, Christ is standing on the center peak. Moses is standing on the right peak and Elijah is on the left. Below them are the disciples kneeling and crouching. At the bottom left is Peter with white hair and a beard. He is pointing upward toward Christ. The disciple John is depicted in the center as a beardless youth (his face is partially obscured by damage) and James is to the right with brown hair and a beard. Linear rays indicate there is a direct connection between Jesus and each of the disciples.

Note: The “Dark Church” is so named because it has only a small opening (oculus) for light, thus the interior is dim.

Dark Church is at the left side of photo.

Among the various people of ancient Cappadocia were the Armenians who were known then as being horse breeders. “Cappadocia,” the historic name for this region is believed to have been derived from “Kapatuka,” an Old Persian term meaning, “Land of beautiful horses.” The Crusaders referred to the region as Terra Hermeniorum: “Land of the Armenians.”

According to tradition, Byzas, a Greek colonist founded the ancient city, Byzantium, in BC 667. Later, Byzantium, along with eastward lands became part of the Roman Empire. In AD 330, when Constantine moved the capital of Rome to Byzantium, the city’s name was changed to Constantinople. After the city was conquered by the Ottoman Turks in 1453, its name was changed to Istambol (Turkish: “City of Islam”), and in 1930 it was changed again and is now, Istanbul.

Hovak Najarian © 2013

Transfiguration | Art for Last Epiphany C

Luke 9:28-29 Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white.

Transfiguration
Transfiguration
Fresco
“Dark church” ( Karanlik kilise ) 11th century
Göreme district, Nevşehir Province, Turkey.
Click image for more information.
Click here for more Göreme district churches.

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Commentary by Hovak Najarian

Transfiguration, Fresco, 11th Century, Unknown artist of Cappadocia

“And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain apart. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light. And behold there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking to him.” (Matt. 17:1-3)

A large portion of the Eastern Roman Empire spoke Greek and by the seventh century it was the primary language used by the Byzantines. The Byzantine Empire extended eastward from Constantinople and included Asia Minor where Greek speaking Orthodox Christians often had to seek protection from invading tribes. In a region known as Cappadocia, the ash and lava of a volcanic eruption created rock formations that were soft and could be carved easily. By carving into the rock, Christians hollowed out spaces that would shelter them from the elements and offer protection from invaders. The soft rock also was carved out for churches.

In a monastic compound known as the “Dark Church,” The interior walls and the ceilings are covered with frescos and among the paintings is “The Transfiguration.” In it, Moses and Elijah are with Jesus in an event interpreted as a revelation that Christ is the fulfillment of the law and prophets. Moses represents the law and often he is shown holding the Torah or a stone tablet. Elijah represents the prophets. In this fresco, neither Moses nor Elijah has been given an identifying symbol but we can assume the gray-haired bearded man is Moses and the un-bearded figure is Elijah.

Mt. Tabor is the traditional site of the transfiguration but other places have been proposed. One of the suggested sites is Mt. Hermon which has three distinct peaks and in paintings of the event often three peaks are shown; Christ is always in the center. In the “Dark Church” fresco, Moses is standing on the right peak and Elijah is on the left. Below them are the disciples kneeling and crouching. At the bottom left is Peter with white hair and a beard. He is pointing upward toward Christ. The disciple John is depicted in the center as a beardless youth (his face is partially obscured by damage) and James is to the right with brown hair and a beard. Linear rays indicate a direct connection between Jesus and each of the figures.

Note

The “Dark Church” is so named because it has only a small opening (oculus) for light, thus the interior is dim.

Among the various people of ancient Cappadocia were the Armenians who were known at one time as being horse breeders. “Cappadocia,” the historic name for the region was derived likely from “Kapatuka,” an Old Persian term meaning, “Land of beautiful horses.” The Crusaders referred to the region as Terra Hermeniorum: “Land of the Armenians.”

Hovak Najarian © 2013

Transfiguration | Art for A Epiphany Last

Matthew 17:2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white.

Transfiguration
Transfiguration
ANGELICO, Fra
(b. ca. 1400, Vicchio nell Mugello, d. 1455, Roma)
Transfiguration (Cell 6)
1440-42
Fresco, 181 x 152 cm
Convento di San Marco, Florence
Click image for more information.

Click here for Frescoes in the upper floor cells
of the Convento di San Marco.

Commentary by Hovak Najarian

Transfiguration, Fresco, 1440-1442, Fra Angelico, c. 1400-1455

In 1407, Guido di Pietro joined the Dominican order in Fiesole, Italy (near Florence) and at his vows took the name Giovanni. Thus he was known as Friar Giovanni da Fiesole (brother John of Fiesole). Artist/historian, Giorgio Vasari, referred to him as Fra Angelico (Brother John the Angelic one); today, he is known simply as Fra Angelico. His life as an artist was devoted to the Church and at the monastery of San Marcos in Florence he painted the walls of the cells (prayer and meditation rooms) with scenes from the life of Christ. The “Transfiguration” shown here is in cell number six.

Mathew gives the following account of the Transfiguration: “And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain apart. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light. And behold there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking to him.” (Matt. 17:1-3)

Christ, the central figure in Fra Angelico’s painting, is standing in a white robe with outstretched arms and is surrounded by a mandorla (a body halo). A traditional cruciform halo surrounds his head. Moses and Elijah are each presented here in bust form, not as full figures; Moses is on the left representing the law and Elijah is to the right representing the prophets. On the left side below Moses is the Virgin Mary with her arms folded across her chest. To the right, below Elijah, is Saint Dominic (in 1435 the Monastery of San Marcos was turned over to the Dominican order). He is standing with hands placed together in a position of prayer. Dominic’s mother reported seeing a star on his chest when he was born and in paintings, he can be identified by a star placed on or above his head. Mary and Dominic were not present at the Transfiguration but it is not unusual for artists to use creative license to include non-participating figures on the sidelines as observers of an important event. In the foreground are Peter, James, and John. They have just heard God’s voice say: “This is my son. Hear him” and “…they fell on their faces and were filled with awe.” (Matt. 17:5-6)

The actual site of the Transfiguration is not known; accounts in the Gospels do not name a specific mountain. Mt. Tabor is the traditional site but Jesus and the disciples were in the district of Caesarea Philippi prior to the Transfiguration and the closest mountain there is Mount Hermon. It is the highest mountain in Israel and it has been suggested this may have been the “high mountain” that is mentioned in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark.

Hovak Najarian © 2014

Wind Chimes: 12 Feb 2013

Then from the cloud came a voice that said,
“This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”

Luke 9:35 NRSV

“Listen, listen, listen,” it is the music of the chimes this week. What do you hear?

What we most need to hear

Many voices ask for our attention. There is a voice that says, “Prove that you are a good person.” Another voice says, “You’d better be ashamed of yourself.” There also is a voice that says, “Nobody really cares about you,” and one that says, “Be sure to become successful, popular, and powerful.” But underneath all these often very noisy voices is a still, small voice that says, “You are my Beloved, my favor rests on you.” That’s the voice we need most of all to hear. To hear that voice, however, requires special effort; it requires solitude, silence, and a strong determination to listen. That’s what prayer is. It is listening to the voice that calls us “my Beloved.”

Nouwen, Henri J. M. (2009-03-17). Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith (p. 14). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Let us practice listening to the Chosen One this week.

keep-learning

You may want to read Beloved! Can you believe it? a previous post (with additional links) exploring both Scripture and what Henri Nouwen learned while listening for the still small voice.

Wind Chimes: 11 Feb 2013

Cloud_touching_the_tip_of_the_mountainx640

How often the chimes sing out, “Listen, listen, listen.” What do you hear?

Listen: a theme of the week

Last week I shared the opening words of The Rule of St Benedict, “Listen carefully, …” Through his words and the example of Anne Hutchinson we were invited to listen. This Sunday (2/10/2013) we heard the account of the Transfiguration as shared by Luke. The voice from the cloud picked up the theme of the previous week and sets on a course for this week:

Then from the cloud came a voice that said,
“This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”

Luke 9:35 NRSV

Soacer40x20

Let us practice listening to the Chosen One this week.

Image: Veera.sj on WikimediaCommons

B Epiphany Last, Art for Readings for February 19, 2012

GRÜNEWALD, Matthias
(b. 1470/80, Würzburg, d. 1528, Halle)
Click to open Web Gallery of Art Artist Biography and to explore other works by this artist.

An Apostle from the Transfiguration
c. 1511
Black chalk on brownish paper, heightened with white, 148 x 263 mm
Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Dresden
Click to open Web Gallery of Art large image .


An Apostle from the Transfiguration
c. 1511
Black chalk on brownish paper, heightened with white, 146 x 208 mm
Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Dresden
Click to open Web Gallery of Art large image.

I cannot find any finished work on The Transfiguration by Grünewald and assume these are preliminary studies for a planned work. Interesting that the artist would begin with the Apostles’ witness.