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Saturday 16 August 2014

Bernard Through Benedict

 From Benedict XVI, on October. 21, 2009; General Audience:

I would now like to reflect on two key aspects of Bernard's rich doctrine: they regard Jesus Christ and Mary Most Holy, his Mother. His solicitude for the intimate and vital participation of the Christian in the love of God in Jesus Christ does not offer new guidelines in the scientific status of theology. But, in a more than decisive way, the abbot of Clairvaux configures the theologian to the contemplative and the mystic. Only Jesus -- insists Bernard in face of the complex dialectical reasoning of his time -- only Jesus is "honey to the mouth, song to the ear, joy to the heart (mel in ore, in aure melos, in corde iubilum)." From here stems, in fact, the title attributed to him by tradition of Doctor Mellifluus: his praise of Jesus Christ, in fact, "runs like honey."
In the extenuating battles between nominalists and realists -- two philosophical currents of the age -- the abbot of Clairvaux does not tire of repeating that only one name counts, that of Jesus the Nazarene. "Arid is all food of the soul," he confesses, "if it is not sprinkled with this oil; insipid, if it is not seasoned with this salt. What is written has no flavor for me, if I have not read Jesus." And he concludes: "When you discuss or speak, nothing has flavor for me, if I have not heard resound the name of Jesus" (Sermones in Cantica Canticorum XV, 6: PL 183,847).

For Bernard, in fact, true knowledge of God consists in a personal, profound experience of Jesus Christ and of his love. And this, dear brothers and sisters, is true for every Christian: Faith is above all a personal, intimate encounter with Jesus, and to experience his closeness, his friendship, his love; only in this way does one learn to know him ever more, and to love and follow him ever more. May this happen to each one of us."

In another famous sermon on the Sunday Between the Octave of the Assumption, the holy abbot describes in impassioned terms the intimate participation of Mary in the redeeming sacrifice of the Son. "O holy Mother," he exclaims, "truly a sword has pierced your soul! ... To such a point the violence of pain has pierced your soul, that with reason we can call you more than martyr, because your participation in the Passion of the Son greatly exceeded in intensity the physical sufferings of martyrdom" (14: PL 183, 437-438).

Bernard has no doubts: "per Mariam ad Iesum," through Mary we are led to Jesus. He attests clearly to  Mary's subordination to Jesus, according to the principles of traditional Mariology. But the body of the sermon also documents the privileged place of the Virgin in the economy of salvation, in reference to the very singular participation of the Mother (compassio) in the sacrifice of the Son. It is no accident that, a century and a half after Bernard's death, Dante Alighieri, in the last canto of the Divine Comedy, puts on the lips of the "Mellifluous Doctor" the sublime prayer to Mary: "Virgin Mary, daughter of your Son,/ humble and higher than a creature,/ fixed end of eternal counsel, ..." (Paradiso 33, vv. 1ss.).

These reflections, characteristic of one in love with Jesus and Mary as St. Bernard was, rightly inflame again today not only theologians but all believers. At times an attempt is made to resolve the fundamental questions on God, on man and on the world with the sole force of reason. Instead, St. Bernard, solidly based on the Bible and on the Fathers of the Church, reminds us that without a profound faith in God, nourished by prayer and contemplation, by a profound relationship with the Lord, our reflections on the divine mysteries risk becoming a futile intellectual exercise, and lose their credibility. Theology takes us back to the "science of the saints," to their intuitions of the mysteries of the living God, to their wisdom, gift of the Holy Spirit, which become the point of reference for theological thought.

Together with Bernard of Clairvaux, we too must recognize that man seeks God better and finds him more easily "with prayer than with discussion." In the end, the truest figure of the theologian and of every evangelizer is that of the Apostle John, who leaned his head on the heart of the Master.

I would like to conclude these reflections on St. Bernard with the invocations to Mary that we read in one of his beautiful homilies. "In danger, in anguish, in uncertainty," he says, "think of Mary, call on Mary. May she never be far from your lips, from your heart; and thus you will be able to obtain the help of her prayer, never forget the example of her life. If you follow her, you cannot go astray; if you pray to her, you cannot despair; if you think of her, you cannot be mistaken. If she sustains you, you cannot fall; if she protects you, you have nothing to fear; if she guides you, do not tire; if she is propitious to you, you will reach the goal ..." (Hom. II super "Missus est," 17: PL 183, 70-71).

Repeat And Why All the Denial?

And a comment from this post, another answer to a reader. Read the comment by GYST 53...I am having trouble with the Net. It is important. CC is not about education.

Turn In Your Man Card, Dude

I have been discussing with young men the problem of "bossy women".  One gave me this phrase, which he and his buddies use when they encounter women who want to be in charge in their lives. The problem is not merely that some women are "bossy" or "strong". The problem is that of a deep underlying sin, the primordial sin of disobedience and rebellion.

These men do not want to "hand in their man card", but they want girlfriends, or wives. They want to "get along" with women, so they compromise, not speak the truth, back down from confrontation.

Some countries have been matriarchies for centuries, and some men from those cultures have handed in their man cards for centuries, leaving chaos to run in families. Such chaos is passed down from generation to generation.

Handing in the man card may mean wanting children but giving in to contraception when the wife does not want children. Or it may mean not correcting the fiancee who wants to use the Name of the Lord in vain. Or it may mean letting the woman work outside the home when it is not necessary, instead of home schooling.

And so on. Guys tell me that they hate conflict. They do not want to point out problems, but live peaceful lives, plopping on the coach after work with a beer and wanting domestic "peace".

Unless the man keeps his man card and is the real priest in the family, leading the family in prayer and the rosary, making sure everyone gets to Mass and so on, he will be blamed.

Note that the Church teaches that Original Sin is the Sin of Adam. Why? He handed in his man card.

I am convinced that some of the evil behind "bossy" women is much more sinister than at first seen. Witchcraft in the family can cause such rebellion, as can the sin of abortion.

Men, please do not turn in you man card for a life of ease. God will judge you on that, as He did Adam.

When We Saw The Faces of Saints

I have studied art all my life. In grade school, I had fantastic nuns who taught us art appreciated from Fourth Grade on up and Introduction to Basic Art. My family visited art galleries regularly, and I took art lessons at the local gallery as a young girl. In college, I was an art minor until I discovered philosophy and switched minors. I have sketched and painted off and on, when I could afford the art supplies. I just gave away two of my easels.

I have taught Art Appreciation and Art History both in high school and in college, as I was asked to do so, even though my main areas are history, theology and philosophy. I loved it. I created an introduction to art class at a high school for bored seniors. Most were guys and they loved it, after some initial murmuring. Art is part of the true Montessori Method, and I had art in my own Montessori school.

Teaching  the History of Art at the college level proved to be a treat! I loved every minute of a Humanities Course I taught which included Art History and Music History. Can one imagine getting paid to study and present such fun courses?

One thing I have noticed when studying and and teaching art has been the change in faces painted by the masters.

In the earliest days of portraiture or iconography, in depictions of the saints and the Holy Family, in Crucifixion paintings and paintings of the Scourging and the Crowning of Thrones, one can see a progression of facial expressions in the good and the bad "characters" of those paintings.

One of the things I noticed was that even the secular painters, those doing it for patrons or money, had insights into the soul which have been lost in modern times.

Yes, in our years of psychology and analysis, we have lost the insights into how to portray holiness and sheer evil.

Even Caravaggio, perhaps my favorite painter, understood the good, the bad and the lukewarm. Not a saint himself, and pained by an intemperate personality, this genius still could capture the holiness in the face of Christ, St. John and others. How is it that we have lost this sensitivity, this discernment?

We have, as artists, had to face to unfortunate truths in the past 200 years of painting. One is the demise of the person as a topic of interest, even Christ, and the other is the emphasis on the artist's feelings rather than those of the subject matter.

When I lived in Canada, I followed the Toronto International Art Show on the radio, as much of it, at that time, was followed by a certain station. In one interview, a young female artist shared her theory of art. It was this. That art was the expression of the feelings of the artist. Period.

The highly intelligent interviewer pushed this relativistic and subjective philosophy until the young woman finally said that even if she put a splotch of mud on a wooden board, that was art and worthy to be hung in the Toronto Show.

Like the interviewer, I gasped. Mud on a board.

Well, I knew from years of art stalking that the pursuit of beauty was out the window, that political statement art was "in" and that art was practically anything a so-called artist wanted it to be. I remember the students at Notre Dame when I was there making fun of a Christo exhibit by wrapping up the statue of the founder, Father Edward Sorin. Such is art criticism. It was hysterically funny, but the administration was not amused.

Art became propaganda under the Tudors and that idea spread throughout Europe, coming to America way before Stalin and Hitler magnified the problem. Propagandist art became popular again in the sixties, as did pop-art and all kinds of manifestations of the decadence of the modern artistic brain.

We had a respite with the excellent Sister Wendy, who was not afraid to call rubbish rubbish and who could beauty in certain paintings which baffled some critics.

But, in recent times, the purpose of art has been to shock, to "reveal" whatever, and not to praise God or show the dignity of man.

Sadly, the artists did lose their way be separating religion from art and philosophy from the pencil and paintbrush.

Not that I want artists to be philosophers, but an artist has a duty to think as well as feel and the best did: da Vinci, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, and so forth. Artists who are anti-intellectual usually create sentimentality, which, sadly in the Christian world, sells too well.

But the hay-day of sentimental Christian art may be waning, at last. The eighties saw the worst of it, with Evangelical artists taking the pencil and paintbrush into the realm of emotive art, which only appeals to the appetites and not to the intellect. In a way, we have been through the worst of emo Christian art.

But, not EWTN in the 2013 re-do of the mysteries of the rosary.

To whom and to what are they appealing on the staff? Excellent Christian art must appeal to reason and not merely the emotions. It must transcend and be universal and not "subjective" or "personal".

I had the hunch that some of the models for Mary were someone's daughter or wife. Not every model can be a "Mary". Only someone who understands the face of holiness can paint a convincing Mary, Jesus, Joseph.

And, some of the portraits of those people are not exhibiting holiness but sensuality.

It is hard to find an innocent to paint. The elders of our tradition manage. Why? I think more saints walked the earth.

Even young people, even children lose their innocence so early now because, mainly, of television and computer games. Women have been so brainwashed by the feminist lie that few have truly female faces. The face of a woman can capture some of the purity of a saint, if that woman "has it in her".

I am not sure we shall see great Catholic art ever again. Perhaps there is a reason for this. We have lost the time when we saw the faces of saints and could discern holiness.

A beautiful woman, indeed, has a beautiful soul. There are objective standards for beauty in the West. The relativists and subjectivists have destroyed objective female beauty in art. But, God knows what it is and He has shown it to us in the person of His Mother.

Continuing Art Critiques

Years ago, I was tutoring a tweenie in religion in her home. Her mother was home schooling. WE did a section on Our Lady and I told her about the customs of the Jewish women at the time of Christ. We talked about the Circumcision of Christ as part of the Presentation of the Temple. We discussed the two Passovers in John. She was ahead of most children her age and loved Bible History.

After one class, the mother of the house came to me and told me I was fired as a tutor. I was shocked at the abruptness of the announcement. She told me that I had taught her daughter that Jesus and Mary were Jews. The woman's husband was racist and he never wanted his daughter to discuss Jesus, Mary, Joseph and all the apostles as being Jewish.

I left with a sad heart. I had known the mother for years, but I never knew her husband's deep seated antisemitism until then. The denial of the truth won the day.

Sadly, some of the new paintings used for the mysteries on EWTN have dropped the Jewishness of both Jesus and Mary. I do not understand this.  

Because of time, I have only two more criticisms. There may be cause for more, but I can only state these two today.

One of the most disturbing image is that of Christ is shown "crawling" out of the tomb at the Resurrection in that Glorious Mystery in a modern depiction. The artist has made no attempt to understand or portray a glorified body. In fact, the body is not beautiful, but contorted, ugly. The body reminds one of paintings of Sisyphus, not Christ. All art should be in context, the cultural context of centuries of art to some extent. Some of the new art reveals ignorance of Catholic symbolism and pagan symbolism. Distortion is not from God, as it purposefully deceives. I do not think the artists I am criticizing want to deceive, but they do distort.

Now, the revelation of the glorified body is hard for us to understand, but we must take St. Paul's words on the glorification of the body, and the fact that the disciples did not recognize Christ on the road to Emmaus until the breaking of the bread.

Christ is not to be depicted merely as some superhero who has overcome a fight, but as far as possible, as the God-Man in a glorified body; yes, with the scars of the Crucifixion, but not as a human looks normally. The Transfiguration scared the apostles and that episode prefigured the Resurrection.

I paint and some of the artists who are doing the new interpretations have great talent, but some do not understand Christ or Christology.

Here are some passages from the greatest Doctor of the Church, Thomas Aquinas:

But Christ's body after the Resurrection was truly made up of elements, and had tangible qualities such as the nature of a human body requires, and therefore it could naturally be handled; and if it had nothing beyond the nature of a human body, it would likewise be corruptible. But it had something else which made it incorruptible, and this was not the nature of a heavenly body, as some maintain, and into which we shall make fuller inquiry later (XP, 82, 1), but it was glory flowing from a beatified soul: because, as Augustine says (Ep. ad Dioscor. cxviii): "God made the soul of such powerful nature, that from its fullest beatitude the fulness of health overflows into the body, that is, the vigor of incorruption." And therefore Gregory says (Hom. in Evang. xxvi): "Christ's body is shown to be of the same nature, but of different glory, after the Resurrection."
Reply to Objection 3. As Augustine says (De Civ. Dei xiii): "After the Resurrection, our Saviour in spiritual but true flesh partook of meat with the disciples, not from need of food, but because it lay in His power." For as Bede says on Luke 24:41: "The thirsty earth sucks in the water, and the sun's burning ray absorbs it; the former from need, the latter by its power." Hence after the Resurrection He ate, "not as needing food, but in order thus to show the nature of His risen body." Nor does it follow that His was an animal body that stands in need of food. 


I answer that, Christ's was a glorified body in His Resurrection, and this is evident from three reasons. First of all, because His Resurrection was the exemplar and the cause of ours, as is stated in 1 Corinthians 15:43. But in the resurrection the saints will have glorified bodies, as is written in the same place: "It is sown in dishonor, it shall rise in glory." Hence, since the cause is mightier than the effect, and the exemplar than the exemplate; much more glorious, then, was the body of Christ in His Resurrection. Secondly, because He merited the glory of His Resurrection by the lowliness of His Passion. Hence He said (John 12:27): "Now is My soul troubled," which refers to the Passion; and later He adds: "Father, glorify Thy name," whereby He asks for the glory of the Resurrection. Thirdly, because as stated above (Question 34, Article 4), Christ's soul was glorified from the instant of His conception by perfect fruition of the Godhead. But, as stated above (14, 1, ad 2), it was owing to the Divine economy that the glory did not pass from His soul to His body, in order that by the Passion He might accomplish the mystery of our redemption. Consequently, when this mystery of Christ's Passion and death was finished, straightway the soul communicated its glory to the risen body in the Resurrection; and so that body was made glorious.
Reply to Objection 1. Whatever is received within a subject is received according to the subject's capacity. Therefore, since glory flows from the soul into the body, it follows that, as Augustine says (Ep. ad Dioscor. cxviii), the brightness or splendor of a glorified body is after the manner of natural color in the human body; just as variously colored glass derives its splendor from the sun's radiance, according to the mode of the color. But as it lies within the power of a glorified man whether his body be seen or not, as stated above (1, ad 2), so is it in his power whether its splendor be seen or not. Accordingly it can be seen in its color without its brightness. And it was in this way that Christ's body appeared to the disciples after the Resurrection.

To not try and show Christ in the splendor of glory is to misrepresent the Resurrection. That event was not a "resuscitation" but a resurrection.

I shall continue with the second one in the next post...