Category Archives: Art

Liturgy: How to Celebrate in Music and Song



Music and Song (CCC 1156-1158)

Sing and Celebrate

Singing and beautiful music have provided an interface with the heights and depths of human emotion since time immemorial. However, where such are formative of the liturgy, their higher purpose is that of giving glory to God in worship which, inevitably, eclipses the noble but limited destiny fulfilled by a primary desire for polished performance. Since it is oriented towards God, above all, the musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value, greater than that of any other art. The main reason for this is that, as a combination of sacred music and words, it forms a necessary or integral part of solemn liturgy  (Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC] 1156 and Sacrosanctum Concilium [SC] 112). The Old Covenant lay store, not only by psalms and hymns that remain central in Jewish and Christian liturgy, but by the different musical and symbolic registers of various musical instruments (CCC 1156). From a modern perspective, it is hard to establish what all of the instruments were, though a sense of their symphony can be absorbed by our appreciation of the versatility of a pipe organ which announces, so ably, the distinctive atmospheres of the liturgical year. One should never lose sight of the appeal of SC 120 in support of the particular esteem that should be afforded the pipe organ even when other instruments are permitted in the liturgy on the basis that they are suitable for sacred use.

Read or download the entire article at: How To Celebrate-Music and Song 2

 

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Constantine’s Conversion?



Academics in Rome to Mark Anniversary of Constantine’s Conversion

Battle Seen as Founding Symbol of a New World

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 17, 2012 (Zenit.org).- “Constantine the Great. The Roots of Europe” is the title of an international academic congress that begins Wednesday at the Vatican.

The four-day event has been organized by the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences to mark the 1,700th anniversary of the battle of the Milvian Bridge and the conversion of the Emperor Constantine.

Father Bernard Ardura, president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, explained that the initiative is “the outcome of effective academic cooperation with important cultural institutions such as the Vatican Secret Archives, the Vatican Apostolic Library, the Italian National Research Council, the Ambrosian Library and the Sacred Heart Catholic University in Milan”. It is also taking place “with the cooperation and contribution of the European Union delegation to the Holy See, the Lazio Regional Council and the Pontifical Lateran University”.

This congress is the first of two, the second of which will be held in Milan in 2013 for the 1,700th anniversary of the promulgation of the Edict of Milan, which established freedom of religion in the Roman empire and put an end to the persecution of certain religious groups, particularly Christians. While the 2013 congress will concern itself with what is known as the “Constantinian revolution”, tomorrow’s event will focus on the environment in which Constantine lived and on relations between Christians and the Roman empire prior to the year 313. Participants will “examine the relationship between religion and the State, the idea of religious freedom in the empire, and religion from the point of view of the emperor and the senate”, Father Ardura said.

One key area will be the conversion and baptism of Constantine himself, and his attitude towards Christians following the battle of the Milvian Bridge, which took place on Oct. 28, 312, and led to the death of his rival Maxentius. Contemporary and later Christian historians, influenced by the narrative of Eusebius of Cesarea, saw Constantine’s victory as the result of divine intervention.

Fr. Ardura pointed out that “from a purely strategic-military viewpoint the battle was not very important, but it soon became the founding symbol of the new world which came into being when Constantine found Christianity. Indeed, … the era of imperial persecution against Christians was about to come to an end, giving way to the evangelisation of the entire empire and moulding the profile of western Europe and the Balkans; a Europe which gave rise to the values of human dignity, distinction and cooperation between religion and the State, and freedom of conscience, religion and worship. Of course these things would need many centuries to come to maturity, but they all existed ‘in nuce’ in the ‘Constantinian revolution’ and therefore in the battle of the Milvian Bridge. (ZE12041705 – 2012-04-17)

Ponte Milvio: Milvian Bridge of Love Rome
The Bridge of Love in Rome
When one thinks of Rome’s Ponte Milvio, also known as the Milvian Bridge, they could be forgiven for not identifying this edifice as a symbol of love. In fact, the opposite has been true for most of the bridge’s two millennia existence. Since its very earliest construction in 206 BC, the Ponte Milvio has been a symbol of military might, dedicated to the triumphant victory of Rome over Carthage the previous year in the Second Punic War.

(Courtesy of Justin Demetri)

The current bridge, dating to 115 BC is most famous as the sight of a pivotal moment in Christian history: The Vision of Constantine. In 312 AD, the Ponte Milvio became the epicenter of a Christianized Roman Empire when Constantine the Great was led to victory over his rival Maxentius by the divine intervention of the Christian God. Without this moment in time, Roman persecution of the early Christians may have continued unabated for another century or more.


Liturgy: Deviations In Holy Week


These are just a selection of many inquiries about blatant reordering of the liturgy in general and the Easter celebrations in particular. Why these things happen and why some priests are deluded into thinking that this is a more “pastoral” approach than following the prescribed rubrics, remains a mystery.

I remain convinced that the best and most effective pastoral policy is to offer Christ’s faithful the rites that his Church proposes. This is what has stood the test of time and of widespread use. Our personal tinkering can only impoverish and weaken their effectiveness.

From the legal standpoint, all of these initiatives violate Sacrosanctum Concilium 22’s basic principle of liturgical law quoted by our first questioner. This norm is not restricted to the Mass but to the entire liturgy, including all celebrations of the sacraments and also the sacramentals. In the case of the sacramentals and the Liturgy of the Hours the official books themselves occasionally allow for greater leeway in choosing texts and modes of celebration, provided that certain core criteria are always met.

As our first correspondent observed, they also explicitly violate many other liturgical norms. This is the case in Q2 where, effectively, the only occasions when laypeople are allowed to read the Gospel along with the priest is Palm Sunday and Good Friday. The other exception, foreseen in No. 47 of the Directory for Masses with Children, does not apply to Masses celebrated for the whole parish community.

Read or download Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara’s, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university,  complete responses at Deviations in Holy Week.


The Beauty of the Annunication


We are reproducing a fine article that appeared in Zenith. The article does not need an introduction.

Five Joyous Pieces

Contemplating and Enjoying the Annunciation Through Artistic Genius

ROME, MARCH 29, 2012 (Zenit.org).- A few weeks ago, the ever-alert editors at ZENIT sent me an interesting idea for a column. A writer for the Catholic Herald UK had selected his favorite images of Mary to present to his readers. Taking a leaf from his blog, I thought I might propose a list of my five favorite images of the Annunciation in honor of the feast day this week.

It is impossible to choose a single favorite, therefore the list doesn’t go in any particular order, but simply presents five ways that artistic geniuses inRomehave offered this great mystery for our contemplation and enjoyment.

Sta Maria Maggiore, Triumphal Arch, Mosaic, c. 450

 1. The triumphal arch in the basilica of St. Mary Major contains one of the most unusual images of the Annunciation as Mary sits in a throne surrounded by attendant angels. No simple girl in a plain woven dress, this Mary wears regal robes and sits with the dignity of an empress. This mosaic, crafted in 450 for the first Western church dedicated to Mary, was made for an audience ofRome’s senatorial elite. Fashioned only a few years after the Council of Ephesus, where the Nestorian heresy had been defeated and Mary proclaimed Mother of God, this elegant work, made for the local aristocrats, intentionally conferred a royal aspect on Mary to evoke due homage from the Romans. A particularly interesting touch is that the Annunciation to Mary is paired with the angel speaking to Joseph — this is the first image of Joseph in the history of art.

Annunciation, Pietro Cavallini, Mosaic , 1290

2.  We cross the Tiberto Trastevere for the next image of the Annunciation, this time by Pietro Cavallini. This mosaic was crafted in 1290, almost a thousand years after that of St. Mary Major. The mosaic art was dying out, soon to be replaced by the medium of fresco, which was more versatile for narratives. Cavallini gave the art of mosaic its swan song in this series of small panels, very much an homage to the works in St. Mary Major. The gold ground of this Annunciation is dazzling and as light shimmers around the two figures it evokes the mystery and majesty of the event. But this mosaic is not all transcendence; Mary sits on a monumental throne, much like the triumphal arches of antiquity, still visible in the Forum. With Mary’s fiat to God, so begins the era of victory over sin and death. The Blessed Virgin is not bedecked in jewels nor swathed in folds of drapery as often portrayed in Byzantine art; her tunic falls around her revealing the human being underneath. In this work we also see God the Father in the upper left sending the Holy Spirit to Mary. As in all early representations of the First Person, He appears with the visage of Christ, the visible Person of the Trinity. Cavallini not only teaches but also delights. A bowl of figs sits by Mary’s one side while a vase of lilies stands by the other. It appears that Medieval artists rediscovered the still life a century before the Flemings and half a millennium before the Impressionists. Another innovation of Cavallini’s age was the rendering of perspective space. Over the head of the Virgin, the artists re-creates a coffered vault depicting a three dimensional space. In this ancient story, told in an archaic medium, Cavallini invents fresh new flourishes.

Annunciation, Filippo Lippi (student of Botticelli), 1492

3. The 13th century church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva forged a special bond with the Annunciation. Here, Cardinal Juan de Torquemada founded the Confraternity of the Annunciation in the 15th century. Together with other wealthy prelates, he started an endowment to provide poor girls with dowries. Every March 25, the Pope would preside over Mass in this space and then distribute the dowries to the future brides. It is therefore unsurprising that two ofRome’s best Annunciation paintings are in the same church. The first is in the right transept chapel, built by Cardinal Oliviero Caraffa in 1488. To decorate his chapel, Cardinal Caraffa consulted Lorenzo de Medici who suggested Filippino Lippi, the painter with finest pedigree in Renaissance art. As the son of Filippo Lippi, student of Botticelli and heir to Masaccio, there was nothing that could daunt this young painter. His Annunciation from 1492, turns traditional imagery around in a surprising new way. Mary receives the angel Gabriel not in a garden or bedroom, but in a study, much like a monastic cell. The wooden walls are constraining and her shelves are lined with books. Here, Mary embodies the motto of the Dominicans, who were and are the custodians of this church: Contemplare et contemplata aliis tradere – “to contemplate and to share with others the fruits of the contemplation.” In this dark enclosed space, Lippi painted Gabriel as an iridescent figure framed by an arch, who seems to gaze in awe at Mary. The Virgin, poised on a chair, is the pinnacle of the composition. To our surprise, she does an extraordinary thing; turning her back on the angel, she directs her attention to two onlookers, St. Thomas Aquinas who is presenting a kneeling Cardinal Caraffa. Could it be that the Virgin was distracted during the Annunciation? Of course not. The luminous hues of the angel also envelope her cloak while the matte red of her dress matches the robes of the Cardinal. Her hand is raised in blessing toward her devotees and thus we see Mary in this work as a conduit of grace. Having received the grace of the Lord, she already turns to pass it on to others.

Annunciation, Antoniazzo Romano, 1500

4.  A few steps down the same aisle will bring the pilgrim to the second image of the Annunciation, in the chapel of the homonymous Confraternity where they met and prayed together. This altarpiece is by Antoniazzo Romano, a painter born just a few steps away from the Pantheon. Despite being painted in 1500, the zenith of the High Renaissance, Antoniazzo’s work looks a little old-fashioned. The figures of the angel and Mary are larger compared to the others in the panel and the background is a wall of gold leaf. Antoniazzo was not ignorant of Renaissance innovations, however, he chose to use them sparingly so as to not distract from the central significance of the story. Mary and Gabriel are indeed the protagonists of this event, and the smaller cardinal with the young maidens are in fact of minor importance. Despite the elegant lines of the figures and his good drawing skills, with Antoniazzo the hierarchy of heaven takes precedence. Similarly, Antoniazzo has learned the new art of perspective as is visible in the floor tiles, but chooses to leave the gold ground like the many mosaicked apses ofRome. Antoniazzo sparingly adds details from the empirical world, but the true wonder of the Annunciation is in its mystery of incarnation, and Antoniazzo’s artistic decisions underscore this.

Annunciation, Marcello Venusti, 1500

5. The last is a little-known work by Marcello Venusti, a follower of Michelangelo. This Annunciation, dated around 1550, is kept in the Corsini Gallery in Trastevere. Venusti was part of Michelangelo’s closest circle and was commissioned to make a copy of the master’s Last Judgment for Cardinal Alessandro Farnese. Michelangelo often prepared designs for Venusti’s works and it is likely that the Florentine genius was responsible for the composition of this work. Unlike the other versions of the Annunciation, this was not meant for public display, but private devotion. In this panel, the Virgin does not kneel in submission, but looks startled, taken by surprise by the angel in her room. The sharp turn of her body and the raised hand indicate an immediate reaction to the unexpected. This type of image was well suited to private devotion as it captured the way that God often surprises us when He calls. A statue of Moses with the Old Law sits on her table. The prophet appears to be smashing his tablets. The Old Covenant with God will be now superseded by Mary, theArkof the New Covenant. This little panel must have provided much fruit for meditation for its former owner.

These five joyful pieces have allowed generations of Romans to contemplate the mystery of the Incarnation through different perspectives, styles and techniques in a case where all roads lead to God.

 * * *

Elizabeth Lev teaches Christian art and architecture at DuquesneUniversity’s Italian campus and Universityof St. Thomas’ Catholic Studies program. Her new book, “The Tigress of Forlì: Renaissance Italy’s Most Courageous and Notorious Countess, Caterina Riario Sforza de’ Medici” was published by Harcourt, Mifflin Houghton Press this fall.  She can be reached at lizlev@zenit.org

Read or download the full article on Sacred Art And Its Most Intimate Essence.

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St. Anthony Abbot: An Italian Tradition


Not to be confused with St Anthony of Lisbon (Padua) the great Franciscan nor with our Founder, Father, Prophet St Francis of Assisi, on the memorial of St Anthony Abbot (a.k.a. St Anthony the Egyptian, St Anthony of the Desert) animals will be blessed in St. Peter’s Square to mark this saint’s feastday.

January 17 is traditionally the feast day of St. Anthony, Abbot, an Egyptian hermit, whose day has been celebrated in a special way in Italy for many centuries.

St. Anthony, the father of monks, retired to the desert at about the age of eighteen in order to live in perfect solitude. He laid the foundations of community life, and gave to his disciples that profound broad and sane instruction, the mature result of solitude and prayer, which forms the surest basis of Christian asceticism.

The feast of St. Anthony, the Egyptian hermit, is considered to be the founder of monastic life, is celebrated Catholic Church, Lutheran and Coptic Churches. The Orthodox Church celebrates his feast on January 30. His hagiography was passed down to us by St. Athanasius of Alexandria, who was one of Anthony’s disciples and a companion in combatting the Arian heresy.

On January 16-17 in Italy, for example, his memorial is celebrated with vigils, processions, special blessings, parades and bonfires, open air celebrations featuring song, music and historical enactments that recount the life and legend of this saint.

The celebrations usually start with a vigil and is followed by the opening of the stands featuring local and regional food specialties. Early the next day, after morning Mass, the parish priest blesses the bonfires, which are then lit. During the day and into the evening there is dancing, singing and eating, all accompanied by folk music and dramatic performances, poetry recitals and storytelling.

This is a feastday characterized by the blessing of the fields, livestock, animals, and the harvest. Appropriately, St. Anthony is the patron of butchers, peasants, breeders and domestic animals.

Many entrust themselves to his care and intercession, praying for healing of illnesses, but also praying for relief from demonic temptations. In fact, religious art depicts St. Anthony as “the saint of the demonic temptations”; his martyrology recounts how he was continually accosted, at times even physically, during his life, tempted and tormented by the devil and his minions.

St Anthony Patron of Animals

This year, 2012, in Rome, on January 17 Cardinal Angelo Comastri, the archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica  celebrated the blessing of animals in St. Peter’s Square; the animals included chickens, sheep, goats and horses.


REFLECTIONS ON EUCHARIST IN LIGHT OF “ADORO TE DEVOTE”


Effectively there are two variants of this beautiful hymn. Most of the variations occur in the first two verses. The substitution of the words “posset omni scélere” for “quit ab omni scélere” in the second-to-last verse and “cupio” for “sitio” in the closing one are practically the only other changes.

This hymn is usually attributed to St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) even though the earliest extant manuscript hails from about 50 years after his death. References to Aquinas’ hymn in the writings of his

Franciscan contemporary Jacopone da Todi (1228-1306, author of the Stabat Mater) tend to confirm its authenticity.

In spite of its saintly authorship the hymn never entered into the official liturgy and was only saved from obscurity when Pope St. Pius V included it among the prayers of thanksgiving after communion in his missal of 1570. Paul VI incorporated it into the Roman ritual, using a critical text established by the liturgist Dom André Wilmart. (read the entire Adoro Te Devote + Blue Vestments).

In 2004, Father Cantalamessa began a series of Eucharistic reflections in the light of the hymn Adoro Te Devote.

Reflection on the Eucharist


First Sermon – Adoro te devote

To respond to the Holy Father’s desire and intentions to dedicate this year to the Eucharist, the preaching for this Advent — and, God willing also for next Lent, will be a stanza-by-stanza commentary of the Adoro Te Devote.

With his encyclical “Ecclesia de Eucharistia,” the Holy Father John Paul II said he intended to reawaken “Eucharistic wonder” in the Church,[1] and the Adoro Te Devote lends itself wonderfully to achieve this objective. It might serve to give spiritual inspiration and heart to all that will be done during this year to honor the Eucharist.

A certain way of speaking of the Eucharist, full of warm unction and devotion as well as of profound doctrine, banished by the advent of so-called scientific theology, was preserved in old Eucharistic hymns and it is here that we must look for it today, if we wish to overcome a certain arid conceptualism that has afflicted the Sacrament of the Altar in the wake of so many disputes surrounding it.

Ours, however, will not be a reflection on the Adoro Te Devote, but on the Eucharist! The hymn is only the map that helps us to explore the territory, the guide that introduces us to the work of art. (Continue Reading the Reflections On Eucharist In Light Of Adoro Te Devote Part 1.)


Spiritual Art: Consumer Christ


This is an example of spiritual art.

What does it say to you?

Consumer Christ

Leave a comment below and let us know your thoughts.


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