Roman Triptych: The Stream

24 September 08 | Posted in Arts and Letters, Spirituality, Vatican

Pope Benedict XVI may go down in history as the greatest papal advocate for the environment, but Pope John Paul II started things off. He made statements in support of creation, but his major contribution is his example–he loved nature, and found God there.

My favorite image of Pope John Paul II is a snapshot during a camping trip. A vigorous and robust man, he liked camping, hiking and relaxing outdoors. roman-trip.jpg

His nature experiences found their way into his poems. The Poetry of John Paul II: Roman Triptych: Medications begins with “The Stream.”

I. The Stream

Ruah

The Spirit of God hovered about the waters

1. Wonderment

The undulating wood slopes down to the rhythm of mountain streams.

To me this rhythm is revealing You, the Primordial Word.

How remarkable is Your silence

in everything, in all that on every side unveils the created world around us..all that, like the undulating wood, runs down every slope…all that is carried away by the stream’s silvery cascade, rhythmically falling from the mountain, carried by its own current–carried where?

What are you saying to me, mountain stream? Where, in which place do we meet? Do you meet me who is also passing–just like you.

Read the poem here.

Becoming Fully Ourselves

10 September 08 | Posted in Animals, Arts and Letters, Global Catholic, Spirituality

In his book, The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis writes of a great journey through Heaven and Hell in a manner similar to Dante’s Inferno.  As they enter heaven, the visitor observes a woman enfolded in the glory of the divine energies surrounded by animals. The visitor is awed–thinking this is the BVM.

When he finally gets up his courage to ask the bus driver about the woman, the driver responds that no, this isn’t the BVM, but some humble woman who had rescued all of these creatures of God, and in her care, they became fully themselves. I would take Lewis a step further, in relationship with these animals, the woman also became more fully herself as well. They were her companions in prayer and life.

– From the blog, Bending the Rule

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Walk The Blue Fields

6 September 08 | Posted in Arts and Letters, Global Catholic

Walk the Blue Fields is a new book of short stories by Irish writer Claire Keegan.  All but one of the seven stories is set in rural Ireland. blue3.jpg

In the title story, a priest marries a young couple and throughout the celebrations he is haunted by the memories of a love affair and the choice he made. When everything begins to close in on him, he leaves the party to walk.

Reflecting on the perennial question, “Where is God?” he discovers “tonight God is answering back. All around the air is sharp with the tang of wild currant bushes. A lamb climbs out of a deep sleep and walks across the blue field. Overhead, the stars have rolled into place. God is nature.”

Dahud-Ahes the Mermaid

30 August 08 | Posted in Arts and Letters

A mermaid is rising in the desert. mermaid_red.jpg

When complete, she will stand 25 feet tall.  Through an entrance at the front of her hips one can access her interior and climb on top of her. Her scales are cut from colorful 55-gallon steel drums. Blue and green lights glow from within.

Designed by Lisa Nigro, Dahud-Ahes the Mermaid is an interactive installation in process. 

A Breton princess, Dahut was the daughter of Gradlon, a king, and the sorceress Malgven. Gradlon built the beautiful city of Ys for his daughter, because Dahut loved the sea. Ys was also known as Ker-Ys in the Breton tongue.

King Gradlon was a christian, his daughter Dahut was a pagan like her mother.  The king’s advisor was a monk, St. Guenole.  He whispered against Dahut, and predicted her way of life would bring the downfall of the city. guenole2.jpg

 Dahut was seduced by a demon or a fairy, who took the form of a beautiful young man. As proof of her love, he asked her to open the seagate at night to let him in. She stole the key while her father slept, opened the gates, and the sea flooded in, drowning most of the people of Ys.

King Gradlon and St. Guenole were among the survivors. The king would have saved his daughter, but Guenole urged him to throw Dahut into the water. Afraid for his life, he did. The water immediately receded, but the entire city was submerged and became part of the Bay of Dourarnenez.  The legend said Dahut did not die, but was transformed into a mermaid. flight-of-king-granlon.bmp

Dahud-Ahes was probably the daughter of 6th c. king of Kernev, or Cornwall, with branches in Wales and Brittany. Dahud was undoubtedly a druidess adhering to the old religion, and a force against St. Gwennole (St. Guenole) who wanted to convert the entire region to Christianity.

There are many Celtic legends about lost cities.  Perhaps they have their inspiration from the tale of Atlantis. Most likely the reworking of the legend of Ys by christian scribes and missionaries was to link it to Sodom and Gomorrah–what disasters can befall a town with a pagan influence and practices.

King Gradlon rode on to the city of Quimper and established it as his new capital.  On the cathedral is a figure of him on his horse, looking back toward the sea at Ys. king-gradlon.jpg

The Right Hand of God

29 July 08 | Posted in Arts and Letters, Bible, Global Catholic

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The Dextera Dei, the Right Hand of God, is portrayed on the north face of Muiredach’s Cross, the largests of the stone “high crosses” at Monasterboice in Co. Louth, just north of Dublin. The Hand of God is shown resting on a round carved disk; underneath it two snakes intertwine three human heads. 

The monastery was founded around 520 A.D.  The cross was carved in the 10th century, and is dedicated to an abbot of Monasterboice, Muiredach mac Domhaill. His death is recorded in 923 A.D.

I was in the presence of the cross on a cold, bright spring morning. The ground was still wet with dew. I remained standing by the Right Hand of God long after the other members of my group moved away.  I studied, and looked, and counted, but I couldn’t crack its mystery.

Since I returned home, I have not been able to find any discussion of the iconography of this part of the cross. Are the roots of the artwork in the ancient Irish symbols for the sun, victory and divinity?  The Old Testament? The New Testament? All three? The images portrayed have their roots in both traditions: Life, Death, Kingship, Victory, Divinity. Snakes could symbolize the ancient native religion, Satan or fallen angels.

The location of the cross was in an ancient grove had its own meaning. That gently sloping knoll served as a sacred place to the local people well before the arrival of Christian missionaries and monks.

There are referrences to “right hand of God” throughout the Bible. As the messiah, Jesus is supposed to be seated at the Right Hand of God. 

But the cross of Muiredach pays as much attention to David as it does Jesus, so I think the origin for the symbols come from one of his stories or psalms. 

In my first attempt as a Biblical art detective, I propose the inspiration for the carving comes from Psalm 109.  It begins: “The Lord said to my Lord: Sit thou at might right hand: Until I make thy enemies thy footstool.”