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art for souls's
After two cd-roms each dedicated to a specific artist – G. de La Tour, then Caravaggio – Art for Souls has, in Italian Renaissance, art for souls, brought together three works of three distinct artists : The Marriage of the Virgin by Raphaël, The Entombment by Michelangelo, and Noli Me Tangere by Titian.
These three works are chronologically close, having been completed within a time-span of approximately eight years, between 1504 and 1512. They are also close geographically as they first saw the light of day in the “golden triangle” linking Florence, Rome and Venice.
The three artists reunited in Italian Renaissance, art for souls are truly beacons of art, whose rays illuminate us still in today’s world. Michelangelo (1475-1564), Raphaël (1483-1520) and Titian (1490-1576) lived during the Italian Renaissance, in which they were influential players. They had a multifaceted talent in common, which they expressed by painting on wood or frescoes of varied subjects, as much religious as historical or mythological, without even considering the portraits. How could we not mention, for Michelangelo and Raphaël at least, the masterpieces by which they have enriched the other arts : sculpture, architecture and poetry? All three were celebrated during their lifetimes as universal geniuses and they received commissions from the most prestigious patrons of the arts : popes, emperor, kings and princes of all christendom. Neither their deaths, nor the centuries past have diminished their glory. Above all others, they remain at the pinacle of art, whilst fashions and different schools of art succeeded each other more or less quickly.
Gifted with a rare talent and fortified by their genuine technique, these painters were no less artisans than believers. They were catholics or, again, universal. In our own times, many so-called “artists” make art an idol ; they sacrifice reality to it. Neither nature nor technique exist in their eyes : they paint the absence of an object with an absence of the paintbrush. On the contrary, Michelangelo, Raphaël and Titian knew how to admire the world around them because they contemplated there the masterpiece of the only true Artist, God, Creator of all things. They admired the fact that this God was made Man to save so many ungrateful men. Not mistaking themselves for saints, they created useful and spiritual works by illustrating for all sinners the true history of Salvation.
The three pictures presented here have for their subject the Redeemer, Jesus Christ, true Man and true God. But it is not His mortal life that they paint for us : they say nothing of the 33 years spent on Earth, of His Birth in Bethlehem until His Death in Jerusalem. All three show us this Saviour before the Crib and after the Cross. Raphaël points out the Child not yet born, on the wedding day of His Blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary, with Saint Joseph His foster-father. Michelangelo illustrates the entombment of the Body of God after death on Golgotha. Finally, Titian reveals the first apparition of the resurrected Christ, to the joy of Saint Mary Magdalene on the morning of Easter. We contemplate in this way the Body of Christ in three stages : His Body in the Womb ; then His exsanguinated, inert Body ; and finally His Body in glory.
The Body of Christ was a human body, like ours : provided with members and organs ; muscles ; nerves and hair. To this fleshly body was united a human soul like ours, gifted with memory, intelligence and will. In the bosom of the Virgin Mary, God the Son had, in effect, assumed this Body and Soul instantaneously created. Christ is therefore God the Son made Man. His Body is the Body of a man, with weight and movement. But because this Body is moved by a soul intimately united with the Person of God the Son, this Body of Christ is truly (not metaphorically) the Body of God.
In consequence, all that this Body suffered for us effects our salvation. When this Body suffered circumcision on the eighth day, the rigours of exile in Egypt, hunger thirty years later in the desert, fatigue on arriving at the well of the Samaritan woman, and again the sweating of blood at Gethsemane, the blows before Caïphas, the flagellation and the crowning with thorns before Pilate, concluding with the carrying of the Cross and the Crucifixion, it is the person of God the Son who is the subject of these sufferings. Also all these sufferings are divine, in that each of them is “of God”. In the eyes of the celestial Father, the least of these sufferings is given an infinite value : the least of them is salvific and they all redeem us.
The three stages:
That is why it is useful for our faith to contemplate this sweet Body of our Saviour, true instrument of Salvation. In this cd-rom we seek to present the divine Body in its concrete and material reality, emphasizing three particular states of his real existence : the antenatal period (The Marriage of the Virgin); the inanimate period (The Entombment) and the period of glory (Noli Me Tangere). The Body of Christ will assume these three respective conditions. The first prepares, the second prolongs and the third exalts the mortal condition which was, for 33 years, that of the revered Body.
To discern Him when not yet born, to weep for Him when dead and to embrace Him resurrected, let us be guided by these three great Christians – Raphaël, Michelangelo and Titian who painted Him for us, and by those saints as well who had the grace to approach the divine Body – the Virgin Mary and St Joseph, St John, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea and then St Mary Magdalene.
Let us not envy them : let us imitate them! We are invited to the same grace and are promised the same glory if we confess, as sons of the Church, the real and sacrificial presence of the Saviour in the Host. After the transsubstantiation, if we say, regarding the Host presented by the priest “Lord, I believe, have pity on me” – the same Lord will soon come to touch our own bodies and vivify our souls. Yes, in Holy Communion, His eucharistic Body is soon on our lips and then eventually in our hearts. We leave the last word to the painters – their works relate to us because they say to all men :
“O friend who pass by,
 Please refer to the Biography of each of the three painters given in this CD-Rom.
 After the Consecration, the Body of Christ is truly, effectively and substantially present in full, under the apparent forms of bread and wine.
 The changing, at the Consecration during the Holy Sacrifice of Mass, of the full substance of the bread into the substance of the Body of Christ, and of the full substance of the wine into the substance of the Precious Blood of Christ.
 The rite during Holy Mass whereby the Body of Christ is received by the faithful in the apparent form of a small piece of bread (a host).
 The mystical Body of Christ
differs from His physical Body. The
expression mystical Body is a figurative use of the word body, in
order to refer to all the living members of the Church, governed by the same
divine Head, Jesus Christ, and driven by the same divine inspiration, the Holy
Dear Father de Malleray,
I have received the third volume of your “Art for souls” series of CD-Roms on Christian art and I thank you for it.
After Georges de La Tour and Caravaggio, you are now presenting three masterpieces from the Italian Renaissance : The Wedding of the Virgin by Raphaël, The Entombment by Michelangelo and Noli Me Tangereby Titian, as a form of three-fold meditation on the Body of Christ: before birth, after the Descent from the Cross, and on the morning of the Resurrection.
Current culture provides the men and women to-day with all the manifold elements of a cult of the body, portrayed as a “fleshless” ideal, where the mere outer appearance purports to gratify all possible desires. At the same time, television news unceasingly broadcasts images of mutilated bodies, of corpses hacked through in circumstances of hatred and terror and in an atmosphere of chaos and despair.
Your meditation on the body is in direct opposition to such a counter-culture. You present the works from the Renaissance because they insist on the material dimension of the body and express its supernatural vocation. Even when injured by pain and death, the flesh, as the Temple of the Spirit, retains the dignity of its supernatural vocation. As I wrote in Faith and Cultures (C.L.D., 2001, p.44): “The jaded anthropocentrism of today’s culture was unthinkable [during the Renaissance]. Man had a place in the universe which God had reserved for him out of love, the first in the order of creation! Humanly speaking, such an anthropology bestows dignity and is a source of peace”.
With my encouragements for this magnificent initiative to evangelise through culture and beauty,
Yours devotedly in Our Lord,
PAUL CARDINAL POUPARD.
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Last update: 1st Nov. 2005.