Saturday, February 27, 2021

Lent in the Wilderness - Stanley Spencer 1891-1959 Rising from Sleep

Stanley Spencer, (English painter, 1891-1959) Christ in the Wilderness Rising from sleep in the morning  (1940)

The origin of the season of Lent lies not in a conscious re-enactment of the Lord's time in the wilderness, but in the preparation of Christians for the celebration of the resurrection of Christ at Easter.  In many Christian churches, Lent starts on Ash Wednesday lasting for 40 days (not including Sundays) reflecting the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness. Related to Jesus' time in the wilderness, the Bible states;

‘I will arise and go to my Father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against Heaven and before thee.’ Luke 15:18

British artist Stanley Spencer (1891-1959) sought to give some form to the Lent's 40 days. In the 1930s-40s Spencer set himself a goal of creating 40 paintings, one for each day Christ was in the wilderness. The series, called "Christ in the Wilderness," never came to full completion. Eighteen drawings were made & 8 paintings completed. Each of the designs explores the solitary figure of Christ interacting with various elements of the wilderness - a hen, a scorpion, lilies, eagles. The paintings titled "Driven by the spirit into the wilderness" was inspired by Mark 1:12.  Nothing overt in the paintings speaks of the details Christ's 40 days in the wilderness, echoing Mark's lack of narrative specifics. The figure of Jesus is not the slim body commonly seen in paintings. A bulky figure & billowing garment are common to all the finished paintings in the series. Spencer envisioned the pictures hanging as a group on the ceiling of a church. In such a position Jesus' garments would be perceived as billowing, ethereal clouds.

“The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan.  He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.”  Mark 1:12-15

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Lent in the Wilderness - Stanley Spencer 1891-1959 Foxes Have Holes

Stanley Spencer, (English painter, 1891-1959) Christ in the Wilderness The Foxes Have Holes

The origin of the season of Lent lies not in a conscious re-enactment of the Lord's time in the wilderness, but in the preparation of Christians for the celebration of the resurrection of Christ at Easter.  In many Christian churches, Lent starts on Ash Wednesday lasting for 40 days (not including Sundays) reflecting the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness. Related to Jesus' time in the wilderness, the Bible states;

‘ And Jesus saith unto him, the foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.’ Matthew 8:20

British artist Stanley Spencer (1891-1959) sought to give some form to the Lent's 40 days. In the 1930s-40s Spencer set himself a goal of creating 40 paintings, one for each day Christ was in the wilderness. The series, called "Christ in the Wilderness," never came to full completion. Eighteen drawings were made & 8 paintings completed. Each of the designs explores the solitary figure of Christ interacting with various elements of the wilderness - a hen, a scorpion, lilies, eagles. The paintings titled "Driven by the spirit into the wilderness" was inspired by Mark 1:12.  Nothing overt in the paintings speaks of the details Christ's 40 days in the wilderness, echoing Mark's lack of narrative specifics. The figure of Jesus is not the slim body commonly seen in paintings. A bulky figure & billowing garment are common to all the finished paintings in the series. Spencer envisioned the pictures hanging as a group on the ceiling of a church. In such a position Jesus' garments would be perceived as billowing, ethereal clouds.

“The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan.  He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.”  Mark 1:12-15

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Lent in the Wilderness - Stanley Spencer 1891-1959 Christ & The Scorpion

Stanley Spencer, (English painter, 1891-1959) Christ in the Wilderness The Scorpion

The origin of the season of Lent lies not in a conscious re-enactment of the Lord's time in the wilderness, but in the preparation of Christians for the celebration of the resurrection of Christ at Easter.  In many Christian churches, Lent starts on Ash Wednesday lasting for 40 days (not including Sundays) reflecting the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness. Related to Jesus' time in the wilderness, the Bible states;

‘Behold, I give unto you the power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.’ Luke 10:19

British artist Stanley Spencer (1891-1959) sought to give some form to the Lent's 40 days. In the 1930s-40s Spencer set himself a goal of creating 40 paintings, one for each day Christ was in the wilderness. The series, called "Christ in the Wilderness," never came to full completion. Eighteen drawings were made & 8 paintings completed. Each of the designs explores the solitary figure of Christ interacting with various elements of the wilderness - a hen, a scorpion, lilies, eagles. The paintings titled "Driven by the spirit into the wilderness" was inspired by Mark 1:12.  Nothing overt in the paintings speaks of the details Christ's 40 days in the wilderness, echoing Mark's lack of narrative specifics. The figure of Jesus is not the slim body commonly seen in paintings. A bulky figure & billowing garment are common to all the finished paintings in the series. Spencer envisioned the pictures hanging as a group on the ceiling of a church. In such a position Jesus' garments would be perceived as billowing, ethereal clouds.

“The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan.  He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.”  Mark 1:12-15

Friday, February 19, 2021

Lent in the Wilderness - Stanley Spencer 1891-1959 Christ & The Hen

Stanley Spencer, (English painter, 1891-1959) Christ in the Wilderness The Hen

The origin of the season of Lent lies not in a conscious re-enactment of the Lord's time in the wilderness, but in the preparation of Christians for the celebration of the resurrection of Christ at Easter.  In many Christian churches, Lent starts on Ash Wednesday lasting for 40 days (not including Sundays) reflecting the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness. Related to Jesus' time in the wilderness, the Bible states;

‘...how often would I have gathered my children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings...’ .Matthew 23:37

British artist Stanley Spencer (1891-1959) sought to give some form to the Lent's 40 days. In the 1930s-40s Spencer set himself a goal of creating 40 paintings, one for each day Christ was in the wilderness. The series, called "Christ in the Wilderness," never came to full completion. Eighteen drawings were made & 8 paintings completed. Each of the designs explores the solitary figure of Christ interacting with various elements of the wilderness - a hen, a scorpion, lilies, eagles. The paintings titled "Driven by the spirit into the wilderness" was inspired by Mark 1:12.  Nothing overt in the paintings speaks of the details Christ's 40 days in the wilderness, echoing Mark's lack of narrative specifics. The figure of Jesus is not the slim body commonly seen in paintings. A bulky figure & billowing garment are common to all the finished paintings in the series. Spencer envisioned the pictures hanging as a group on the ceiling of a church. In such a position Jesus' garments would be perceived as billowing, ethereal clouds.

“The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan.  He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.”  Mark 1:12-15

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Where did the Stories of Gospels come from? An Early View of Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John + a few of their Fierce Friends c 875

Illuminated Manuscript, Gospels of Freising, Evangelist Portrait of Matthew, Walters Art Museum Ms. W.4, fol. 33v Freising, Germany c 875.

A gospel is an account describing the life of Jesus of Nazareth. The most widely-known gospels are Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John.  Some Christians use the term "gospel," otherwise known as the "good news," in reference to the general message of the biblical New Testament.  Here Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John are portrayed with a few of their fierce friends writing about the life of Jesus.
Illuminated Manuscript, Gospels of Freising, Evangelist Portrait of Mark, Walters Art Museum Ms. W.4, fol. 90v Freising, Germany c 875.
Illuminated Manuscript, Gospels of Freising, Evangelist Portrait of Luke, Walters Art Museum Ms. W.4, fol. 126v Freising, Germany c 875.
Illuminated Manuscript, Gospels of Freising, Evangelist Portrait of John, Walters Art Museum Ms. W.4, fol. 178v Freising, Germany c 875.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Ash Wednesday

In the early Christian church of Rome, the length of the Lenten celebration varied, but eventually it began 6 weeks (42 days) before Easter. This provided only 36 days of fasting (excluding Sundays). In the 7C, 4 days were added before the 1st Sunday in Lent in order to establish 40 fasting days, in imitation of Jesus Christ’s fast in the desert.

It was the practice in Rome for "penitents" & "sinners" to begin their period of public penance for the "guilt" of their offences on the 1st day of Lent in preparation for their restoration to the sacrament of the Eucharist. They were sprinkled with ashes, dressed in sackcloth, & obliged to remain apart, until they were reconciled with the Christian community on Maundy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter. When these practices fell into disuse (8C–10C), the beginning of the penitential season of Lent was symbolized by placing ashes on the heads of the entire congregation. (Probably because we are all, each & every one, "penitents" & "sinners" by thought, word, & deed each & every day.)

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Sunday, February 14, 2021

A Small, Human Valentine

1663 Vincenzo Ferdinando Ranuzzi as Amor by Elisabetta Sirani

Who was Saint Valentine?

Pair of Lovers, c 1480 Attributed to the Master of the Amsterdam Cabinet or theMaster of the Housebook (German artist, fl c 1470-1500)

It is said that on February 14, somewhere around the year 270 A.D., Valentine, a priest in Rome in the days of Emperor Claudius II, was executed. Well, Chaucer said it was February 14th, and that's good enough for me.

Rome's emperor was called Claudius the Cruel for good reason. During his reign, he involved his empire in many unpopular & bloody campaigns. Claudius needed to maintain a strong, loyal army, but he was having a difficult time enticing soldiers to join his traveling troops. Claudius believed that strong, young Roman men were unwilling to join the army, because they wanted to stay close to their loves.

To get rid of the problem, Claudius banned all marriages & engagements in Rome. If he could have banned sex between lovers, I suppose he would have. Priest Valentine, incensed by his emperor's cold decree, defied Claudius continuing to perform marriages for young lovers in secret.

When the disobedient priest's actions were discovered, Valentine was arrested & dragged before the Prefect of Rome, who condemned him to be beaten to death with clubs, so that he might suffer a little for his disloyalty to his supreme emperor, & then to have his head cut off. The sentence was said to be carried out on February 14.

Legend has it that, while in jail Valentine became enamoured with his jailer’s daughter, who was blind. The jailer asked Valentine if his God could restore daughter’s sight. They prayed together & the young woman regained full sight. Reportedly, Valentine left a farewell note for the jailer's daughter signing it "From Your Valentine." No, I do not know the extent of the priest's relationship with the jailer's daughter, & I do not wish to know.

For his great service to loyalty & truth & love, the church named Valentine a saint after his death.

Well, now, there is some debate about how the date February 14th came about; and there also seems to be some question about the exact identity of St. Valentine. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, "At least three different Saint Valentines, all of them martyrs, are mentioned in the early martyrologies under the date of 14 February." One was a priest in Rome, the 2nd was a bishop of Interamna (now Terni, Italy), & the 3rd St. Valentine was a martyr in the Roman province of Africa.

Perhaps it is just coincidence, but probably not,that the date of his death may have become mingled with the Feast of Lupercalia, a pagan festival of love. During these popular celebrations, the names of young women were placed in a box, from which they were drawn by the men as chance directed. In 496 AD, Pope Gelasius decided to put an end to all the silliness of the Feast of Lupercalia, & he declared that February 14 be celebrated as St Valentine's Day.And to this day, February 14 became a date for exchanging love messages, poems, & beautiful gifts such as flowers.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Candlemas - The Presentation of Jesus at The Temple

11C Menologion of Basil Presentation of Jesus at The Temple

The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple is an early biblical episode in the life of the infant Jesus, describing his presentation at the Temple in Jerusalem in order to officially induct him into Judaism, that is celebrated by many Western Christian Churches on the holiday of Candlemas. (Luke 2:23–40).

In some liturgical churches, the Compline on the Feast of the Presentation marks the end of the Epiphany season. In the Anglican Communion, the Presentation of Christ in the Temple is celebrated on February 2 or as close as possible  

According to the gospel, Mary & Joseph took the Infant Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem 40 days after Christmas to complete Mary's ritual purification after childbirth & to perform the redemption of the firstborn son, in obedience to the Torah (Leviticus 12, Exodus 13:12–15, etc.). Luke explicitly says that Joseph & Mary take the option provided for poor people (those who could not afford a lamb; Leviticus 12:8), sacrificing "a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons." 

Upon bringing Jesus into the temple, they encountered Simeon. The Gospel records that Simeon had been promised that "he should not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ" (Luke 2:26). Simeon then uttered the prayer which prophesied the redemption of the world by Jesus: "Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, & for glory to your people Israel". (Luke 2:29–32).

In art, early images concentrated on the moment of meeting with Simeon, typically at the entrance to the Temple. In the West, beginning in the 8C or 9C, a different depiction at an altar emerged, where Simeon eventually by the Late Middle Ages came to be shown wearing the elaborate vestments attributed to the Jewish High Priest, & conducting a liturgical ceremony surrounded by the family & the elderly prophetess Anna. In the West, Simeon is often already holding the infant, or the moment of handover is shown; in Eastern images Mary is more likely still to hold Jesus.

This parchment 1310-1320 image of The Presentation of Jesus at The Temple in a Missal originates from East Anglia, one of the earliest examples of a Missal of an English source. Sarum Missals were books produced by the Church during the Middle Ages for celebrating Mass throughout the year. National Library of Wales.
15C South German Depiction of The Presentation of Jesus at The Temple