“The Pilgrims of Emmaus” Through the Eyes of the Masters

If you tuned in for yesterday’s thrilling episode of  Bad Church Art and the Tasteless Vatican II Boomer Twits Who Inflict It Upon Us, you got to see the masterwork which will be glaring at me from my pew missal holder (and possibly yours) for the next year, causing little cartoon hate lines to radiate from my head. The artist is Alfred Manessier, and here are two of his other works. I’m going to hold back the titles till later to give you the frission of delight when you discover what they’re supposed to convey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moving on, then, to the subject of yesterday, which is Massenet’s painting “The Pilgrims of Emmaus.”  I am not alone in my disdain for the piece.

The Curmudgeonly Catholic said: “I can see this portraying the pilgrims of Emmaus – right after they were nailed by a 2005 Peterbilt tractor going 20 miles over the speed limit.”

“Mama of many nerdlings” said that her daughter with Aspergers thought it was a Magic Eye painting which went horribly wrong. I wondered if there was something to this, so I held it up to my face Magic Eye-style, and she’s right. If you squint, you can almost see the Spirit of Vatican II!

Interestingly, my son (quoted in the original post) is also an aspie, and was also extremely disturbed by the image, to the point that he reversed all the books in the pew racks so he didn’t have to look at. So now it’s pretty clear that OCP not only hates art and music, but people with Aspergers as well, and maybe puppies.

Here on Patheos, the good Deacon deemed it “just bad-ass ugly,” while The Anchoress, at a rare loss for words, simply said, “Oh, for crying out loud!” Joanna McPortland, however, wins the quip contest: “I knew it was a bad cubist-knockoff Emmaus right away. Apparently the artist wants us to know Him in the breaking of the planes.”

But it didn’t have to be so. “The Pilgrims of Emmaus” is a popular subject for art, and has been for some time. A trio of talentless hacks named  Titian, Rembrandt, and Veronese tackled the same image. Let’s see what they were able to do with it:

Titian, “Supper at Emmaus”

Rembrandt, “Supper at Emmaus”

Veronese, “Supper at Emmaus”

Caravaggio painted it twice: 

OCP sought out an abstract piece of art that they had to know would be unappealing and confusing to the majority of people who would see it.

The question is: why? Is it that they have no taste?

Well, yes, that’s part of it. A great swath of modern art is little more than a scam perpetrated by the collaboration of untalented, nihilistic, and radically politicized artists and a self-selecting critical elite. It is theory uber alles: concept is everything. People have lost any sense of what good is. This isn’t a mindless railing against modern art. Some can be quite fine. However, most is (as Charles Ryder observed to Cordelia) complete bosh.

But there’s more to it than the complete collapse of aesthetic sensibilities in the modern age. Someone truly interested in conveying a message of faith to as many people as possible using the visual arts would have picked something else. Someone more interested in  showing off their own progressive artistic credentials, however, would pick this.

Do they really believe the church of the masses will look at that and be uplifted, or even recognize it? Or are they just trying to impress us with their “mature” understanding of modern art? Are they collaborating with us to further the gospel in the world, or are they trying to impose their vision of the Church: modernist, progressive, elitist, ugly? Given the near-monopoly of OCP products, it’s not a minor question.

And now, let’s return to the Manessier masterpieces at the top of this post. Did you guess?

My daughter guessed (for the one on the left) “Lines on Thrown Up Cafeteria Lunch” and (for the one on the right) “Squished Bugs in Melted Skittles.”

Silly girl! The one on the left is “The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ” and the one on the right is “The Apparition of Mary Magdalene.”

Yeah.

I dunno.

I just-

[sigh]

Pope Tweets @Pontifex

Papa Bene is on Twitter with the account @Pontifex, and with all the skill the Roman curia usually musters on PR and technological issues, he hasn’t logged a single Tweet–not even a greeting, not even “Hello nOObs”–as of this posting. No Tweets are due until … December 12. Way to go, VIS! Can we just put Fr. Barron and Brandon Vogt in charge of social media initiatives for the Church and be done with it? Please?

Here’s their official announcement:

“The Pope’s presence on Twitter is a concrete expression of his conviction that the Church must be present in the digital arena. … The Pope’s presence on Twitter can be seen as the ‘tip of the iceberg’ that is the Church’s presence in the world of new media. The Church is already richly present in this environment – there exist a whole range of initiatives from the official websites of various institutions and communities to the personal sites, blogs and micro-blogs of public church figures and of individual believers. The Pope’s presence on Twitter is ultimately an endorsement of the efforts of these ‘early adapters’ to ensure that the Good News of Jesus Christ and the teaching of his Church is permeating the forum of exchange and dialogue that is being created by social media. His presence is intended to be an encouragement to all Church institutions and people of faith to be attentive to develop an appropriate profile for themselves and their convictions in the ‘digital continent’. The Pope’s tweets will be available to believers and non-believers to share, discuss and to encourage dialogue. It is hoped that the Pope’s short messages, and the fuller messages that they seek to encapsulate, will give rise to questions for people from different countries, languages and cultures”.
“Part of the challenge for the Church in the area of new media is to establish a networked or capillary presence that can effectively engage the debates, discussions and dialogues that are facilitated by social media and that invite direct, personal and timely responses of a type that are not so easily achieved by centralized institutions. Moreover, such a networked or capillary structure reflects the truth of the Church as a community of communities which is alive both universally and locally. The Pope’s presence on Twitter will represent his voice as a voice of unity and leadership for the Church but it will also be a powerful invitation to all believers to express their ‘voices’, to engage their ‘followers’ and ‘friends’ and to share with them the hope of the Gospel that speaks of God’s unconditional love for all men and women”.
“In addition to the direct engagement with the questions, debates and discussions of people that is facilitated by new media, the Church recognizes the importance of new media as an environment that allows to teach the truth that the Lord has passed to His Church, to listen to others, to learn about their cares and concerns, to understand who they are and for what they are searching. … It is for this reason that it has been decided to launch the Pope’s Twitter channel with a formal question and answer format. This launch is also an indication of the importance that the Church gives to listening and is a warranty of its ongoing attentiveness to the conversations, commentaries and trends that express so spontaneously and insistently the preoccupations and hopes of people”.
The first tweets from the Pope’s handle on Twitter will be given on 12 December, Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Initially tweets will be published with the Wednesday general audiences, although they may subsequently become more frequent. The first tweets, on 12 December, will respond to questions put to the Pope on matters of faith. The public can send questions between now and 12 December in the languages listed below. The official Papal handle is @pontifex.
In addition to English, tweets will also be published in the following languages:
Spanish @pontifex_es
Italian @pontifex_it
Portuguese @pontifex_pt
German @pontifex_de
Polish @pontifex_pl
Arabic @pontifex_ar
French @pontifex_fr

Bread & Wine | Life & Abundance

The moment when the Lord comes down and transforms bread and wine to become his Body and Blood cannot fail to stun, to the very core of their being, those who participate in the Eucharist by faith and prayer. When this happens, we cannot do other than fall to our knees and greet him. The Consecration is the moment of God’s great actio in the world for us. It draws our eyes and hearts on high. For a moment the world is silent, everything is silent, and in that silence we touch the eternal—for one beat of the heart we step out of time into God’s being-with-us.

Joseph Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy

There’s something simultaneously humble and profound in the use of bread and wine to convey the presence of Christ in the world. Bread and wine were deeply important to both the ritual and physical lives of the Jews, and thus it was natural for Christ to use them as vehicles for his new covenant. In doing so, he both fulfilled and extended their role and meaning.

Themes of replacement and abundance are central to the gospel of John. Jewish institutions, rituals, and feasts are to be replaced with the person of Christ himself. In particular, wine and bread shall be provided in great abundance, in fulfillment of the messianic promises of the Old Testament.

Over the next few days, I’m going to do a bit of catechesis on bread and wine in the Old Testament, and the way it is transformed in John’s gospel.

I want to start by isolating all the passages referencing bread and wine in both the Old and New Testaments, which is an easy task to do with Verbum. Here are the results:

Bread in the Old Testament and the New Testament

Here’s the distribution of the word bread among the books of the OT and NT:

“Bread” in the Old Testament

The use of “bread” in the OT is complex, since the word (לֶחֶם lechem) could have various meanings in Semitic languages, with the root representing any staple food. Thus, “in Arabic one has laḥm, ‘meat,’ in Ethiopic laḥm, ‘cow,’ and in the South Arabic language of Soqoṭra leḥem, ‘fish.’ In Ugaritic, Phoenician, Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac, and Mandaic lḥm referred to bread specifically and food generally.” (The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary, ed. David Noel Freedman) The highest number of references are grouped in Exodus, Leviticus, and 1 Samuel.

“Bread” in the New Testament

In the NT, it’s a little simpler, with  ἄρτος (artos, “bread”) used pretty consistently.  As you can see, the Gospels represent the most frequent usage of “bread,” with John having the most at 20.

Wine in the Old Testament and the New Testament

“Wine” in the Old Testament

Isaiah has by far the most references to wine, and we’ll see why as we go through this catechesis. There are several Hebrew words that get translated into “wine,” but the most common יַיִן (yayin).

“Wine” in the New Testament

By contrast with references to bread, references to wine are more predominant in Revelation (again, for reasons we’ll see) than the gospels. The Greek word here is οἶνος (ŏinŏs, “wine”).

These two elements become the vector for intense meaning both in the Old Testament and the New. Even before the last supper, bread and wine were imbued with deep layers of significance for the Jews. As we’ll see in this catechesis, together they fulfill key elements of John 10:10: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”