The mission of The Fra Angelico Institute for Sacred Art is to deepen the prayer life of Roman Catholics by evangelizing the truth, goodness, and beauty of God through education and the prayerful creation of sacred art.
Okay, we have reached Wednesday, the supposed day that if we can just get through it we will be on the downward slide toward the weekend.
In an attempt to put a little pick-me-up in your afternoon I ask you to put aside your pencils, pens, and paint brushes and take 4 minutes and 9 seconds to listen to a “Dude Rocks Out Amazing Grace on the Piano.”
The “Dude” in the green jacket and rose colored glasses is Terry Miles. He is an accomplished pianist, yet, this day he sits down to a public piano in a London train station and puts a little joy into peoples’ hearts.
The song starts out as usual and then slowly, with a little flutter, breaks into Terry’s personal interpretation; but, then at approximately 1 minute 20 seconds into the piece, he takes off! The style is called “Boogie Woogie;” and believe it or not, it is one of my favorite types of music from my teen age years.
Click on the red or blue site address below (which gives a short description), click on the red and white arrow (depending on how it loads, at the top or bottom of the page), and enjoy!!
I hope I linked it correctly. If it doesn’t pop up for you use the address below in your search engine. For those unfamiliar with searching YouTube – enter youtube.com for “Terry Miles Amazing Grace” in your search box, click on it, and it should pop-up for you.
I mentioned in my last post of February 3, 2019 that I am presenting some material on the early Church Teachers and “Fathers.”
Why is this necessary?
People studying and painting sacred images and icons should be aware of the theological underpinnings of a specific image. This especially applies to the major personalities of the Church’s early history (AD 65 – AD 800). Sacred artists do not need to become theologians or historians of this period in the Church’s history! Yet, they do need to acquaint themselves with some basic facts. As artists we must be faithful to Church Tradition and cultural traditions.
My posts will present some of these key figures in chronological order. A very brief, one paragraph or less description of their major contributions will be provided, and if possible, a sacred icon of them.
I will also provide you with the names of Councils of Bishops (such as Nicaea, Ephesus, Chalcedon, etc) and their key teaching (in brief sentences!). These Councils codified specific truths that became dogmas of the Catholic Church (Eastern and Western Rites). It follows that the Church’s sacred art developed in tandem with the understanding of its approved theological dogmas – all heavily influenced and directed by the Holy Spirit, Apostolic Tradition, and Sacred Scripture.
It is also important to remember that the four criteria for being considered a “Father” (exceptional teacher of the Church) are: Antiquity, existing between the years AD 65 – AD 800;Evidence that his teachings and writings were accepted by the bishops of the Church; Orthodoxy, true and faithful teachings; and Piety, the holiness of the teacher.
So, you can ask the question: “What are your sources for this information?”
The information I am presenting is based on twelve sources.
These sources will discuss teachers who were called Apostolic Fathers (men who knew, or were taught by those who did know the Apostles; I covered three of the Apostolic Fathers in the post of February 3rd). I will also discuss other periods which saw the rise of the Latin Fathers (wrote in Latin), Greek Fathers (wrote in Greek), Syriac Fathers (wrote in a dialect of Aramaic), and the Desert Fathers (monks living in caves or early monasteries in the Egyptian deserts). I will list my sources (found below) in a simple bibliography.
Please remember this is certainly not an exhaustive list! It will provide you with a starting point, and if you are writing a paper for your studies it will point you in the right direction.
Here are my sources:
Aquilina, Mike. The Fathers of the Church (expanded edition). Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division: Huntington, Indiana, 2006. Note well: this is an excellent introduction and critical if you were to purchase only two of these sources – this book and the CD set from Dr. D’Ambrosio.
Benedict XVI (Pope Emeritus). Church Fathers – From St. Clement of Rome to St. Augustine. Ignatius Press: San Francisco, 2008.
Benedict XVI (Pope Emeritus). Church Fathers and Teachers – From St. Leo the Great to Peter Lombard. Ignatius Press: San Francisco, 2010.
Cannuyer, Christian. Coptic Egypt – The Christians of the Nile. Harry N. Abrams, Inc.: New York, 2001.
Catechism of the Catholic Church – Second Edition. Libreria Editrice Vaticana: Vatican City, 1997. (The source citations at the back of the Catechism, pages 741 – 752, are very helpful because it links specific Fathers of the early Church to passages within the Catechism).
D”Ambrosio, Marcellino. When the Church was Young – Voices of the Early Fathers. Servant Books: Cincinnati, 2014.
D”Ambrosio, Marcellino. Early Church Fathers – From St. Clement of Rome to St. Peter Chrysologus (2 Volume CD set). Produced by Champions of the Truth, 2004. (This CD set is an excellent overview presented in quick ten minute snippets on the early Fathers. It can be purchased for $18.00 (a bargain price!) at https://www.crossroadsinitiative.com
Hahn, Scott and Aquilina, Mike. Living the Mysteries – A Guide for Unfinished Christians. Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division: Huntington, Indiana, 2003.
Nichols, Aidan, O.P. Rome and the Eastern Churches. Ignatius Press: San Francisco, 2010.
Hitchcock, James. The History of the Catholic Church – From the Apostolic Age to the Third Millennium. Ignatius Press: San Francisco, 2012.
Staniforth, Maxwell. Early Christian Writings. Penguin: Baltimore, 1975.
Willis, John R., S.J. The Teachings of the Church Fathers. Ignatius Press: San Francisco, 2010. Note well: This book is a wonderful source for the Early Church Fathers and teachers speaking in their own words about specific issues that concern the Church: the idea of One God, the Trinity, the Person of Jesus, the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the Sacraments, Grace, the hierarchy of Orders, Sin, the Apocalypse (the Last Things), etc.
I pray that this helps you in your understanding of Patristics (the study of the writings of the Early Fathers of the Church) and how they influenced early sacred artists in correctly portraying their subjects.
Thanks for visiting with me. I hope you have a relaxing weekend.
This post and an upcoming posts will very briefly explain some of the major figures in the Church history during the period of AD 65 through AD 155 – the period known as the age of the Apostolic Fathers. Ultimately, Parts 7 through 9 will cover some of the key leaders within the three subsequent periods of the early Church (circa AD 155 to circa AD 800). I am presenting this material because it is critical for anyone studying and painting sacred images and sacred icons to be aware of the theological understanding of the scholars and bishops in the Church’s early history. Sacred art developed in tandem with the approved theology of the Church. I will ultimately show you how this is expressed, specifically how our Blessed Mother Mary is artistically portrayed in Part Nine and subsequent posts.
After Jesus Ascension to Heaven the Apostolic Fathers continued the mission of Jesus and His Apostles to shepherd the early Church. The term “Father” refers to the early leaders of the Church who remained faithful to the Apostolic faith and traditions and brought the early Church out of “diapers” into “young adulthood.” These men carried on the spiritual beliefs and religious traditions of the Apostles and, in some cases, directly knew the Apostles (for example, both St. Ignatius of Antioch and St. Polycarp were disciples of St. John the Apostle, and St. Peter consecrated St. Clement of Rome a bishop).
The Apostolic Fathers lived and died between the years AD 65 through AD 155. Their writings began to be circulated around the year AD 95. Apostolic Fathers that I will not cover in this post are Marcion, who was an eye-witness to the martyrdom of St. Polycarp and wrote an account of it and the anonymous writers of important documents: (TheShepherd of Hermas – this document and the Apocalypse of Peter were eventually removed from the canonical collections of Christian writings), TheDidache, The Epistle to Diognetus, and The Epistle of Barnabas.
Many scholars believe that the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and the Epistles: of Paul, Peter, James, Jude, and John were all written before the year AD 100. Yet it took approximately another four hundred years for the dogmas, doctrines, writings and the Church approved Gospels/Epistles to be studied, discussed, codified, and accepted or eliminated by the bishops of the Catholic Church (Eastern and Western Rites). Concomitantly, the sacred art of the early Church was affected by and developed within these cultural and spiritual currents. To exemplify this I will definitely present images of these developments, as they apply to Our Blessed Mother Mary, in upcoming posts.
The Apostolic Fathers confronted numerous controversies and heresies. For example, Pope St. Clement of Rome (martyred in AD 99 or 101) addressed the question of the authority of the Bishop of Rome and clerical leadership (see his very important Letter to the Church at Corinth written in the first century). The Emperor Trajan (reigned AD 98 – 117) had him martyred by being thrown into the sea with an anchor around his neck.
While traveling to Rome to be martyred, the bishop St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote significant letters to various churches in Asia Minor on important theological issues. He promoted the structure of clerical hierarchy (deacons, priests, and bishops). Adhering to Apostolic Tradition, Ignatius promoted belief in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist (which was achieved by a validly ordained male priest through the Scriptural words of Consecration within the liturgical structure of the Holy Mass). St. Ignatius of Antioch is also the first bishop to use the word “catholic” (universal) to describe the first Christian Church communities. He was martyred in Rome’s Circus Maximus by being savaged by lions. His martyrdom occurred in AD 107 – 108.
The last Apostolic Father that I will briefly discuss in this post is the bishop St. Polycarp of Smyrna (a city in Asia Minor – currently in Turkey). Polycarp’s name, in Greek, means “much fruit.” St. Polycarp was a friend and disciple of St. John the Apostle; and he was known as a New Testament scholar, and author of an important letter to a Church community in Greece.
St. Polycarp was tireless in his fight against the Marcionite heresy. That heresy grew out of a heresy accepted by some interpreters of the Hebrew Scriptures who claimed that there were “two Gods” – one good and one bad. Polycarp was martyred in AD 155 or 156. The story of his martyrdom relates the attempted burning of this good bishop at the stake, but when the fire had no affect at all his frustrated executioners pulled him out and did the deed with a dagger!
The “Great Schism” between the Roman Catholic and Greek Catholic (Orthodox) Rites did not occur until AD 1056; and the Protestant movement did not begin until the middle of the 15th century. The Protestant Revolt came to full force in the early 16th century and continued through to the 17th century. The Protestant sects viewed sacred art as unnecessary for the faithful since they needed to concentrate only on Sacred Scripture (Sola Scriptura).
Prior to AD 1056 all Christians were “Catholics” from different cultural areas of Europe, Africa, and the Near East. Each one of these Eastern and Western Rite communities applied their own interpretation to appropriate liturgical music, sacred art, liturgical disciplines to their regional church environments. Examples of this interpretation are celibacy for male deacons and priests, and liturgical use of cultural specific language. This was achieved by remaining faithful to approved Catholic Creeds (Nicene and Apostles), Holy Scripture, clerical/hierarchical organization, etc. A unified set of Church dogmas and doctrines developed out of this 800 year history.
Thank you for stopping by and reading this brief post. My next post will briefly review the next group of “Fathers of the Church” – the Apologists.
My best wishes for a restful weekend; and if you are in the United Stats an enjoyable Super Bowl football game!
“And only where God is seen does life truly begin.
Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is.
We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution.
Each of us is the result of a thought of God.
Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.
There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ.
There is nothing more beautiful than to know Him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him.”
The above was written by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
If I may add just a few lines inspired by his thoughts:
There is nothing more beautiful than to become aware of what Jesus sacrificed for us in order to make us members of His family.
There is nothing more beautiful than when we repent of our sins, implore His mercy, and amend our lives, in love for Him.
There is nothing more beautiful than an innocent child in their mother’s womb and being cared for by a loving parent(s).
A relevant theme: as Americans, regardless of religious creed, we need to remember the sixty million nine hundred and ninety-six thousand, nine hundred and ninety-four abortions, that is, the murder of 60 million, 996 thousand, 994 innocent children, that have been surgically murdered since the Roe vs, Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision of 1/22/1973. This number does notinclude those abortions that have been chemically induced. The estimate for chemically induced abortions in the United States is approximately 250 million children.
In the United States today one abortion is performed every 20 seconds.
World statistics, which began being tabulated in 1980, total: 1,522,353,500. murdered children.
In the world today one abortion is surgically performed every second.
The source for these statistics is a non partisan reproductive health and family planning organization known as the Guttmacher Institute. These statistics, tabulated minute-by-minute, can be found at: http://www.numberofabortions.com
What can Americans do? Those that are against abortion can do three things: physically protest by legally, prayerfully, and peacefully demonstrating in front of abortion clinics and through legal and peaceful mass demonstrations. Catholic Americans that are unable to do so because of age, employment, or health concerns can prayerfully say the Holy Rosary every day. The Rosary can be found on-line by just entering the title – Holy Land Rosary. This will take you to a number of sites, some contain music, others such as the one (which I find very beautiful in its pace and view of Holy Land sites), linked here, is prayed by a Canadian Catholic priest and his Holy Land Tour group: https://youtu.be/a3Z3Sfp_0bA
You can say a prayerful Glorious, Joyful, Sorrowful, and Luminous Rosary at this site. An entire Mystery of five decades can be prayed in under 20 minutes. Save it to your phone, say it while driving or performing other tasks with the intention of interceding with Jesus and His Blessed Mother to touch the hearts of mothers and medical personnel so they do not proceed with the abortions.
A child or children’s lives depend on our prayers.
God bless your daily efforts to end this Satanic scourge of the world’s children.
In the past four posts I briefly reviewed the following topics: Part 1: What is Art, Part 2: Roman Catholic Sacred Art – Categories, Part 3: Roman Catholic Sacred Art – Painting Schematic, and Part 4: Roman Catholic Sacred Art – Three Major and Minor Stages.
Today in Part 5, I would like to provide you with a brief review of a major, historically based, theological theme that directly impacts the creation of Roman Catholic and Orthodox Greek/Russian sacred art.
It is an historical fact that in the year AD 30, the Roman historian Tacitus writes in his Annals that “The Christ is condemned to death by Pontius Pilate, under the emperor Tiberius.”
It is a belief of all devout Christians that Jesus, the Son of God and through the power of the Holy Spirit, was born of the Virgin Mary. His ministry to the Israeli people was the fulfillment of Hebrew prophecy. At the end of His ministry He was unjustly tried by the Romans, condemned to death, tortured, crucified, and died in reparation for our sins. Three days after His death, through the power of the Father and the Holy Spirit, He rose from the dead and was seen and interacted with the twelve Apostles and hundreds of His disciples. Before His ascent to Heaven the Apostles are told by Jesus to “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Gospel of Matthew, chapter 28: vs. 19-20).
St. Paul explains to us in his letter to the Colossians (1:15) that Jesus Christ is the image, the icon (eikon) of the invisible, all powerful, God. Our foundation from the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures explains that God communicates with us through historic events, His prophets, and His Son Jesus (“God is With Us” – Emmanuel).
The Holy Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, communicate among themselves, too. The Father communicates with His creation through His incarnated Son. The Father discussed His plan for our eternal salvation, with His Son, and the Son – Jesus, the Christ, agreed to both the Father’s plan for our Redemption and His Incarnation into human history. He also agreed to humbly obey His Father’s will.
Thus, through His Incarnation, Jesus expresses his two natures: human and divine. He does this while “hiding” the full majesty of His divinity (except for His Transfiguration and Resurrection). The full ramifications of the Incarnation of Jesus is one of the great mysteries of our Faith. It demands of us humility, faith, and loving obedience to God’s revealed teachings.
The Incarnation of Jesus Christ changed the Universe. God became flesh, thus, all matter is good. Nature’s matter – its water, mineral, plant, and animal life – and its living beings – must be enjoyed and respected in obedience to God’s Laws.
Thus, we have our first theological theme: God the Father has communicated His love and laws to us. He has achieved this through His revealed word in the Scriptures, and the ministry, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus, the Christ. Our Redemption by Jesus has made it possible for the Holy Spirit – the Sanctifier – to express the love of the Holy Trinity to us through the Sanctifying Grace of the Seven Holy Sacraments.
Through theologically based sacred art these truths come alive. We are able to experience the life of our Redeemer and the historic life of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Faith. This is all made visible to us through the painting, sculpture, music, drama, literature, poetry, and architecture of two thousand years of gifted artists.
Thanks for visiting with me. My best wishes for a great weekend!
Allow me to wish everyone a belated Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! I can do that because, liturgically, we are still in the Christmas Season! That Season ends this Sunday – the Baptism of the Lord.
Okay, we left off in the last post with a schematic of the discipline of painting. The previous posts also provided a simple definition of Art and its disciplines.
As we now return to our study allow me to provide you with the three “Major Periods” of Catholic Sacred Art. These Periods also impact what I, in my humble opinion, have labelled “minor stages” of sacred art. These minor stages were outgrowths and were dramatically influenced by the previous major period. The academic source for the Major Periods is Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s book: The Spirit of the Liturgy.
I labelled the other stages minor not because they are any less in value, artistic merit, or cultural import, rather, I gave them that designation because the Major Periods promoted specific Catholic theological insights. The minor stages while artistically very significant, continued the theological themes and dogmas of the previous major period. The minor stages contributed to culture and sacred art by providing different artistic interpretations of the previous major period.
I am emphasizing that Catholic theology and its cultural environment dramatically affected Catholic sacred art. This is not a “new” insight on my part, just one that I believe should be emphasized in our studies. The beginning and end dates for the Periods below are fluid and, depending on the region of Europe you are studying, can be slightly increased or decreased in time.
My chart of the Periods/Stages is below:
Soon I will begin posting the development of specific theological themes, and a brief explanation of the major periods and minor stages. I will provide some artistic examples, too.
Your comments and constructive criticism are always welcome.