Posted tagged ‘Art’

Art for May Prayer Tables

April 20, 2017

Our topic this month is the Holy Spirit, and there are lots of artsy dove-like directions we could go with that, but since Pentecost is also on the horizon I’m going with this version of the event, painted by an Austrian artist, Joseph Mildorfer about 260 years ago.

mildorf2

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.  And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.  Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which came to rest on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.  (Acts 2:1-4)

I think this is a gorgeous piece because unlike so many works that picture all those in the upper room neatly sitting in a row, this one depicts a level of drama that matches the event.  Look at these people – they are completely enraptured by what’s happening.  They’re not even looking at each other, but each seems to be totally consumed with their newfound relationship with the Holy Spirit.

Look at the tongues of fire – they are just now being sent down and have not yet come “to rest on each one of them.”  They seem to be alive and are being sent from the Dove at the center of the heaven’s section at the top.

Look at the other center of this work, the Blessed Virgin Mary.  See how she recognizes her beloved Friend and is welcoming His arrival?

This painting was originally at the altar of a church in Hungary dedicated to the Holy Spirit.  Wouldn’t it be amazing to look up each time you were at Mass to be reminded of this beautiful relationship the Spirit offers to each of us?

Image Credit: Web Gallery of Art

 

 

Art for April Prayer Tables

March 15, 2017

god_fath

This piece is entitled God the Father and was painted by a French artist about 350 years ago.

At this point, you may be thinking, “Wait a minute! No one knows what God looks like.  How could He possibly be painted?”  And these Bible verses confirm that you’re right:

  • 1 John 4:12— “No one has ever seen God.
  • John 1:18— “No one has ever seen God.
  • 1 Timothy 6:15-16— “… the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, and whom no human being has seen or can see.”
  • Even Moses did not see God face-to-face. Exodus 33:18-20— “Then Moses said, ‘Please let me see your glory!’ The Lord answered: I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim my name, ‘Lord,’ before you; I who show favor to whom I will, I who grant mercy to whom I will. But you cannot see my face, for no one can see me and live.

So how do we have any ideas about what God looks like?  Mostly, by prayerful discernment of Scripture and Tradition, and by that wonderful way great artists have of making something intangible into something visible.  In religious art, an attribute (noun) is a big red-flag-clue to help us identify the subject of the work. It’s most commonly something that is held but can also be something worn, something in the background, a particular color used, or a number of other meaningful hints.

In the case of God the Father, what do we know about Him?  He’s all-powerful, all-knowing, and can do anything and be everywhere.  He’s creator, king, and judge.  Jesus reveals Him to be a loving father “who art in heaven.”

So what do artists do with that?  In this month’s piece, God is shown as an old man as a way to describe that He is ancient/timeless and wise, dressed in a regal color to show his sovereignty, and strong to show His unlimited power.  He’s holding the Earth in His hand to highlight His role as creator, and the angels are worshipping Him.  (Although I’m not sure what’s going on with those two who are sharing His cloud.J)  And an angel on the right has incense – an ancient way to honor sacred persons and things.

If that’s not obvious enough, the banner on the right reads Gloria in Excelsis Deo.  (Glory to God in the Highest!)

Pieces like this are a great example of why knowing how to “read” religious art can go a long way in teaching us the truths of the Faith and can lead us to a deeper personal faith.

Image link and credit: Web Gallery of Art

Art for March Prayer Tables

February 16, 2017

6-march-stations-of-the-cross

This piece is a diptych entitled Christ and the Mater Dolorosa.  Let’s start with just a little vocabulary.  A diptych (diptik/) is a piece of art that is in two pieces, typically hinged so it can open and close.  This one was created by Hans Holbein the Younger (his father was also a famous artist), about 500 years ago.

The subjects are, obviously, Jesus and his mother, and the setting is Pilate’s palace.  Jesus has been whipped (although not graphically here) and crowned with the painful thorns but has not yet started the terrible walk to His crucifixion.

Imagine all the hate and mockery and suffering that is still to come this day.  Now can you imagine what it would be like to know all of that is still ahead of you?  No wonder Jesus looks so very exhausted and sad!

Now imagine you are Mary.  She also has a good idea of what is ahead for her beloved Son and she cannot do anything to stop it.   In fact, the arrangement of this piece, with her on a completely different panel, just highlights her separation from Jesus on this day.  “Mater Dolorosa” means Mother of Sorrows; a perfect description of a mother who is helpless to stop the unfair death of her beloved child.

For those who use this piece on a prayer table, I recommend folding it so it stands up (in the spirit of the diptych design), and possibly passing it around so all the children can spend a moment or two gazing into the tortured face of Someone who loves them so dearly.

Image Credit: Web Gallery of Art

Art for February Prayer Tables

January 20, 2017

This post is doing double duty as the art choice for February classrooms and giving more information about the holy card image in your Home Lesson packets.

door-knocking-jesusI love the ways that beautiful art can teach us the truths of the Faith and lead us closer to Christ.  I have a vivid memory of this image on a stained glass window at my childhood church, and I think it’s fair to say that the way it spoke to me was a more effective and lasting message than all the CCD classes I ever attended!

Light of the World by William Holman Hunt

 Light of the World was painted by William Holman Hunt in the mid-1800’s and became a popular subject for Victorian era religious devotions.  It’s based on Revelation 3:20 and is filled with great symbolism for you to decode!

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.

  • First, it’s important to think about the symbol of the door.  What does it represent? (Depending on the ages of your kids they may come up with answers ranging from “your heart” to more complex ideas involving obedience and our free will.  All of those are great answers.)
  • Then, the most obvious visual element in the colored version is that Christ is bringing light.  Christ as the Light is a theme that is all over Scripture and the Catechism.  If you light your children’s Baptismal candles occasionally, this might be a good time to remind them that Christ’s light first entered their lives at the time of their Baptism. And as you light a candle on your classroom prayer table, we hope you’re pointing out how candles at church always remind us of the presence of Christ.
  • Next, notice how Christ is knocking.  He certainly could be pounding on the doors to our heart – the message of salvation is urgent and nothing is more important – but instead He appears to be gently knocking.  This reminds us that Jesus will never demand a place in our lives, but He is always lovingly asking us to open the door just a little wider so He can come in just a little more.
  • You can see from the brush and weeds growing up next to the door that this particular door/heart has not been opened to Christ in a very long time, perhaps never.  But Jesus is still out there, patiently hoping to be let in.  This can be a very encouraging reminder that we can never fall so far away from Christ that He is no longer there.  No matter what, He is always close by waiting for our response to His knock.
  • Another less obvious feature of this piece is that there is no doorknob on the outside.  Jesus will not let Himself in; the knob is on my side of the door and only I can open it to answer His invitation to me, and it’s the same for each of you as well.

There are lots of other versions of this work, but if you want to get a closer look at the best of them, follow the link to the highest resolution version of the colored original either here or here or you can get a bigger version of the black and white print by just right-clicking on it to copy.

Art for January Classrooms

December 15, 2016

snorbert

This is Saint Norbert worshiping Our Lord, truly present in this ornate monstrance.  Norbert was a worldly man who had a very dramatic conversion story and went on to found a religious order that continues to this day.  One of the other things Saint Norbert is known for is defending the Eucharist against heresy and disbelief, and one of his attributes* is to be pictured with a monstrance.

I’d like to recommend this piece for January classrooms in preparation for our time of family adoration during the large group sessions.  Catechists, help your students get more out of the experience by pointing out some elements in this work of art.:

  • Norbert’s obvious devotion.  His posture, focus, position of his hands – all are expressions of love for He who is before him.  How can your students follow his example during our time of adoration?  (Genuflect, kneel, eyes on the monstrance, participate in the singing, listen to the verbal meditations, etc.)
  • The beauty of this particular monstrance.  We offer our best to God, and some craftsman (and this artist, Marten Pepijn), certainly did that, also as a sign of their devotion to God.  How can your students give their best to God during Family Formation and in other areas of their lives?
  • And finally, there are other details you can cover such as:
    • What is a monstrance? (A sacred vessel with a glass opening through which the Sacred Host can be seen.  From a Latin word meaning to show.)
    • Why is that lamp burning just to the right of the monstrance?  (That is a sanctuary lamp, required by canon law to be lit wherever the Blessed Sacrament – consecrated hosts – are reserved, to remind believers of their sacred presence.)
    • Where can we find the Eucharist in our church?  (Answers vary slightly with each church, but it would be most typical to find the Blessed Sacrament reserved in your church’s tabernacle and in an Adoration Chapel.)  Make sure your students know where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in your church and remind them of the proper signs of devotion and respect.  (genuflecting, sign of the cross, reverent behavior, etc.)
    • How can we find where the Eucharist is another Catholic church? (Look for the sanctuary lamp to point the way.)

*In art, an attribute is an object that identifies someone, most commonly referring to objects held by saints.  (e.g. Saint Peter is often identified as holding keys, Saint Joseph by carpenter tools and a staff with lilies, etc.)

You can find the art to download here, thanks to the Web Gallery of Art.

If you’d like options, these pieces would also be nice on this month’s prayer table.

 

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Our Lady of the Eucharist.  Printable version here.

 

 

 

Art for December Prayer Tables

November 10, 2016

Is there any event better celebrated in art than the birth of Christ?  And it’s only right that the Incarnation should be lavishly depicted with images.  As we read in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

Previously God, who has neither a body nor a face, absolutely could not be represented by an image. But now that he has made himself visible in the flesh and has lived with men, I can make an image of what I have seen of God . . . and contemplate the glory of the Lord, his face unveiled. (CCC 1159)

If you haven’t been updating your prayer table each month, this would be a wonderful time to do so.  At the very least, you probably have a Nativity set or some religious Christmas cards.  Either of these could work very nicely.

I’d like to recommend this piece for catechists.

06adorat

It’s entitled Adoration of the Child, by Dutch artist Gerrit van Honthorst, painted c. 1620.

The Web Gallery of Art describes it this way: A joyous sweetness suffuses this Nativity, presented in intimate close-up. As tradition decreed, Joseph is a shadowy figure in the background, the white linen foretells the shroud of the crucified Christ, and the straw beneath the babe presages the Eucharist.

As a teaching piece, start with the characters which even your youngest students are likely to know.  A serene Mary and Joseph are on the right and there are two shepherds on the left who are not much older than your students.  It would be impossible to not notice their expressions!  They’re so joyful and their response to what they’re seeing is reflected in their gestures of piety.  (Don’t we also fold our hands in the Presence of Christ as we go up to receive holy Communion?)

The central character, though, is Jesus and the first thing you may have noticed about this painting is the use of light. It’s not shining onto Jesus from some outside source, but He is the source shining up onto the faces of His onlookers.  As your students are looking at it, you may want to read a few Bible verses to them:

  • What came to be through Him was life, and this life was the light of the  human race, and this light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.  (John 1:4-5)
  • About John the Baptist – A man named John was sent from God.  He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.  He was not the light, but came to testify to the light.  The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. (John 1:6-9)
  • When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  (John 8:12)
  • The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? (Psalm 27:1)
  • You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9)

Saint Paul says that all the followers of Jesus are Children of Light.  (I Thessalonians 5:5) Do these verses along with this piece of art help you understand that better?

UPDATE: You can find the printable file here.

Art for November Prayer Tables

October 13, 2016

This month we’re learning about Saints; who is called to be one, what it means to be one, how to become one, and there are a number of directions we could take.   In the past, I’ve recommended a picture of Saint Martin of Tours (who plays a prominent role in the lesson), and making good use of all the statues and holy cards you may have in your collection.  This time I’m going with something different.

This stained glass piece is amazing.  I wish I could tell you more about it, but the post link seems to be dead.

communion-of-saints-snip

Even so, there are some obvious lessons in a beautiful setting. It’s heaven with Jesus enthroned in the center with the Holy Spirit and God the Father above Him.  St. Joseph (with lilies) is just to his left and Mary is to His right.  Other than that, the most striking things may be the color, the variety  and just how densely packed it all is!

Heaven is never too full for more and there is a place for every person who ever has or ever will live.  (You too!)  That’s a lot of people, and we get that sense here.  A few of them are looking out at us, but mostly they are rightly focused on Jesus, giving Him eternal praise.

If you use this in a classroom, pass it around so all your students can see the variety.  Besides the angels, there are people of all ages and from a variety of backgrounds.  With just a glance, I can see popes and peasants, young and old, people dressed in all sorts of religious habits, and others in more ordinary clothing.  Again, the emphasis is that we are all invited and there is a place for everyone.

If you’re a catechist at COSP I’d be glad to print one for your classroom prayer table.  Just email me.  For everyone else, you can find it here


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