Showing posts from April, 2020

The Good Ram-bearer

The Great Pastoral Sarcophagus , c.300 CE (Pius-Christian Museum, Vatican City) The Good Ram-bearer The Fourth Sunday of Easter is often known as Good Shepherd Sunday on account of the Psalm, Epistle, and Gospel appointed for the day. In them, we hear Jesus described as the Good Shepherd who looks after and knows each and every one of his sheep, protecting them from robbers and strangers. The c.4th Great Pastoral Sarcophagus is the original resting place of an unknown (but clearly very wealthy) Roman Christian. In the middle are several tableaux depicting various scenes from an idealized, rural setting: grazing sheep, fighting rams, vine dressing, and ploughing. These scenes are flanked by two large figures. On the right, we see a figure often found on Paleo-Christian sarcophagi--a lady holding up her hands in the  orans  (praying) position. On the left, there is a man in a kriophoros (ram-bearer) pose--a popular Graeco-Roman statue type which portrays a youth taking a ra


Supper at Emmaus (Caravaggio, 1602) [Public Domain] EMMAUS  '...he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.' [Luke 24.35b] In the Gospel of Luke, Christ's first resurrection appearance is a surreal affair. It takes place on the road to Emmaus, a small town approximately seven miles north-west of Jerusalem. Two of Jesus' followers, Simon and Cleopas, are heading back to Galilee. Despite reports that some of their friends had seen the Lord, they are desolate--all their hopes have been dashed. They are joined by a mysterious stranger who accompanies them on the road. The stranger admonishes them for doubting that Jesus the Nazarene was the Messiah and King of Israel. He then proceeds to explain the scriptures to them. On reaching Emmaus, Simon and Cleopas invite the stranger to eat dinner with them. The stranger joins them and then takes, blesses, and breaks the bread. They immediately recognize that the stranger is in fact Jesus, who the

Thomas and his Twin

The Incredulity of S. Thomas (Caravaggio) [Public Domain] The Second Sunday of Easter Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”  [John 20.28-9] We seem to give 'doubting Thomas' a bit of a hard time. He is portrayed as weak of faith, unbelieving, suspicious of the truth. However at the end of day, dead people don't get up and walk. If you were told that your friend is now alive once again, you would probably want to see it for yourself rather than simply accepting it is as fact. This is the position in which Thomas found himself  having just narrowly missed Jesus' visit to the disciples on that first Easter Day. Either out of a sense of 'missing-out' or believing himself to be the victim of a cruel joke, Thomas outlines his gruesome benchmark for belief--seeing and touching Jesus' wounds. A week later, Je

Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday Station at the Basilica of St Mary Major 'And so, the women went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.' [Mark 16.8] In Scripture, the typical reaction to a direct, unadulterated vision of God (a theophany) is a sense of deep fear and amazement.  Moses hides his face for fear when God speaks to him out of the burning bush [Exod. 3.6b].  When Isaiah has his vision of God, he fears for his safety--he has seen God and is unclean [Isa. 6]. In his vision of the chariot, the prophet Ezekiel falls on his face upon realizing that he is in the presence of God [Ezek. 1.28]. At Jesus' Transfiguration, Peter, James, and John fall to the ground in fear when the Father's voice is heard [Mt. 17]. The examples go on and on.  In the Gospel of Mark, the three Marys go to the tomb in order to anoint Christ's dead body. On entering the garden, they see the tomb

Holy Saturday

Christ leads Adam and Eve out of Hell  (The Walters Manuscript, 13th Century English) [Public Domain] Holy Saturday  Station at the Archbasilica of S. John Lateran 'A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me.'  [Jn. 17.16] I have always felt that Holy Saturday is a bit of a 'non-day'. In more normal times, it seems to be entirely occupied by cleaning/decorating the church, rehearsing music, and running all those last-minute errands for Easter Day. To a certain degree one is treading water until it is time to go to church and participate in the Easter Vigil.  Accordingly, the first draft of this post was centered entirely on the Easter Vigil and its music.   However, in this time of isolation and uncertainty, it is perhaps apt that we spend some time today thinking about the true meaning of Holy Saturday: all too often we think of it as the 'day before Easter' as opposed to the 'day fo

Good Friday

Cristo crucificado  (Diego Velazquez, 1632) [Public Domain] Good Friday  Station at S. Croce in Gerusalemme  It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed;   and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last. [Luke 23:44-46] It was at 3pm on the Passover Day in the year 33, that Jesus died himself upon the cross for our sins. It is no coincidence that this occurred at 3pm--this was the Hour of Prayer for the Jews and the time at which the evening sacrifice was slain.  Through the omnipotence of his divine nature, Jesus could have prevented his own death. No man or creature on earth has the authority or power to kill the incarnate God [Jn. 11:17b-18a]. Jesus alone possessed that authority and power, and it is he himself that slays the Lamb of God upon the Altar of the