Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Posts Tagged ‘Marian Images’

The Virgin’s Three Stars

March 10th, 2014, Promulgated by Bernie
Icon of the Theotokos "Odigitria" ("Directress"), painted by the Fathers of Vatopedi Monastery, Mount Athos

Icon of the Theotokos “Odigitria” (“Directress”), painted by the Fathers of Vatopedi Monastery, Mount Athos

(Click on Pictures to see sharper images)

“And was Incarnate of the Holy Spirit

and the Virgin Mary”

In many icons of the All Holy (“Panagia”) Virgin she appears with three stars on her. Most westerners probably do not notice them as anything more than decorative accents but they are an important visual code to those of the Eastern Orthodox, and Byzantine Catholic Churches.

Do you know what they signify?

Christ’s incarnation is a great mystery. Christ was not conceived in the way that men are conceived. The conception took place from the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Consequently, a man did not participate. We can see this if we study the event of the Annunciation of the All-Holy (Panagia) Theotokos (see Luke 1:26-38). The Virgin Mary is called the Theotokos,which is a Greek word, used by the Fathers. It means Birthgiver of God. This is because she gave birth (tokos) to God (Theos)and not to a mere man (Jesus is one Person not two Persons, but of/in two natures, completely human and completely divine). The third Ecumenical Council concerned itself especially with this point. The Panagia was a virgin before the conception, virgin after the conception and virgin after the birth.

Comnenus Mosaic, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

Hodegetria Madonna, Comnenus Mosaic, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

We see this in every icon that represents the Panagia; she is depicted with three stars on her, one on her head and the other two on each shoulder. The Panagia was completely pure. In the Holy of Holies she had achieved theosis. The purity of Panagia was due to the grace of God, her own personal ascetic effort, and the successful purification of her ancestors. All the purifications in the Old Testament had the Panagia in view. Indeed, the Panagia’s parents conceived her with prayer, fasting and obedience to God; this is why the seed of Joachim (the father of the Panagia) is called “immaculate seed”.  –Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos, Entering the Orthodox Church”.

Happy New Year!

December 31st, 2013, Promulgated by Bernie

Russian Theotokos “of the Sign” Icon

(Click on picture for a much clearer image.)

The Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign:
Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son,
And shall call His name Immanuel
(Isaiah 7:14)

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them a light has shined.

For unto us a Child is born; to us a Son is given.
And the government shall be upon His shoulder, and of His peace there will be no end.

And His name shall be called the Messenger of Great Counsel, Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, the Father of the World to Come.

God is with us! Understand this, O nations, and submit yourselves! For God is with us!
(from the Song of the Holy Prophet Isaiah)

Our Lady of Walsingham

April 15th, 2013, Promulgated by Bernie

With the spread of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter1 in North America it is no surprise that “Latin” Roman Catholics are becoming more exposed to the title of Mary as Our Lady of Walsingham.  The title comes from the appearance of the Holy Mother to an English noblewoman in 1061 in the village of Walsingham in Norfolk, England. Walsingham became a popular pilgrimage destination for both Catholics and Anglicans in England.  The affection for Our Lady of Walsingham is naturally strong among the Anglicans who have entered into full communion with the Catholic Church through the Ordinariate. That is true in the case of the Fellowship of Saint Alban2 which is the presence of the Ordinariate right here in the Rochester Diocese.

Anyway, I thought folks not too familiar with Our Lady of Walsingham might appreciate a post on the topic.

Thomas, is the official bearer of Our Lady of Walsingham's banner at the Fellowship of Saint Alban.

Thomas, is the official bearer of Our Lady of Walsingham’s banner at the Fellowship of Saint Alban.

The Fellowship of Saint Alban has a nice summary on its website’s homepage.

The appearance of Our Lady of Walsingham is one of the earliest Marian apparitions in history. Richeldis de Faverches, a noble widow living in Norfolk during the reign of Edward the Confessor, petitioned the Blessed Virgin to inspire her to a notable work of charity. In answer, Our Lady gave her a vision, taking Richeldis to the house in Nazareth where the Annunciation occurred. She instructed her to build a replica in Walsingham to commemorate Mary’s joy at the Angelic Salutation of Gabriel, the heralding of the Incarnation.

The Holy House became a shrine, a place of pilgrimage and miracles. Ballads were penned in praise of Our Lady of Walsingham, and many kings made pilgrimage there. This included…   (Read more here – scroll down when you get there)

statue_our_lady web



1         Catholics of Anglican heritage. The Ordinariate was established following the publishing of Anglicanorum Coetibus an Apostolic Constitution that allowed for Anglicans to enter the Catholic Church with their Anglican liturgical tradition. The Ordinariate is under the protection of Our Lady of Walsingham

2         The Fellowship of Saint Alban is devoted to the liturgical practice of the Anglican Use Liturgy in the Catholic Church.  Mass is at 3pm on Sundays at Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Henrietta.  Directions can be found here.

Mary Shows Us The Way

March 14th, 2013, Promulgated by Bernie

IMG_3626_web name

Click on picture for a sharper image.

El Greco’s “Vision”

December 31st, 2012, Promulgated by Bernie

“Vision Of the Immaculate Conception”, by El Greco

This is El Greco’s1 Vision of the Immaculate Conception, 1608-13, Museo de Santa Cruz, Toledo, Spain). It is a truly amazing interpretation; very different from Guido Reni’s (see below) soft, peaceful, and harmonious rendition that we looked at a few weeks ago!

El Greco presents the doctrine of “Immaculate Conception” as a mystical, spiritual event that has cosmic consequences. It is literally “out-of-this-world”. Everything natural –space, proportion, gravity, anatomical accuracy, light, day and night, logic— have been abandoned so as to transport us into a spiritual state of ecstasy. We experience this doctrine.

The sun and the moon.

All of existence is here electrified by the event of the Immaculate Conception of Mary in the womb of Saint Anne.  The cosmos is set on fire as it begins recharging –as its redemption gets underway eventually culminating in the Incarnation (and Passion and Resurrection). The Immaculate Conception of Mary and the Incarnation/Nativity are linked. The Immaculate Conception of Mary is the glowing dawn announcing the approach of the brilliant sun. In the lower center we can see the sun breaking through the morning sky while the moon, to the right, still rules the darkness. The stage is set, the curtain is rising and the anticipation palpable. The world, darkened by sin, suddenly finds itself aflame in anticipation. The flashing whites and intense colors suggest the burst of fire from a match suddenly lit. The painting exudes promise and hope for full illumination. Heaven itself, symbolized by the angels playing string instruments accompanied by excited cupids, breaks out in joyful sound.

The excitement is communicated by El Greco’s decision to use an ambiguously balanced arrangement as his overall principle of design. Balance is ‘sensed’ and achieved intuitively rather than formally or overtly. An imaginary center axis line in this painting reveals significant differences between the two halves of the design. Diagonal movement to the left is opposed by a movement in the opposite direction. Large simple areas are balanced by more complicated ones. Also, intense colored shapes and white shapes balance darkness. The off-centered reds and yellows are balanced by the large blue shape in the center.

Opposing diagonals create excitement.

The contrasting or opposing diagonal directions convey movement and excitement. Diagonal lines (directions) are unstable and convey a sense of tension. (Horizontals and verticals –of which there are none except one in this work– convey stability and rest.)

El Greco also knows, however, that too much excitement -physical or otherwise- makes us feel sick (and can symbolize the triumph of sin) and so he subtly introduces some visual stability and rest. The use of equidistant tricolor harmony (red, yellow and blue) as in the Reni painting offers us balance. In addition, he arranges for some ‘centering’ to act as visual anchoring within the design. In fact we could almost call this an approximately ‘symmetrical’ design as his composition masterfully keeps us visually in suspense.

Visual anchors unconsciously keep us from losing our balance.

The attributes of the Virgin (roses, lilies, a mirror, and a fountain of clean water) indicative of the event of the Immaculate Conception appear at the bottom right of the painting. A view of Toledo, Spain appears on the left.

Toledo on the left, roses and lilies in the center right, and fountain on the right.

I’m tempted to ask the question: Which is the more appropriate painting from a liturgical/sacred art point of view? Which is more appropriate for use in the liturgy – for prominent display in a chancel: Reni’s “Immaculate Conception” or El Greco’s “Vision”? Do they both qualify? How do we decide?

Happy New Year!


1 Born Doménikos Theotokópoulos, Greek (1541 – 7 April 1614); a painter of the Spanish Renaissance.

Guido Reni’s “The Immaculate Conception”

December 11th, 2012, Promulgated by Bernie


I thought maybe we could extend the celebration of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception by reflecting on a painting by Guido Reni (Italian, Bologna 1575–1642) I ran across today. Specifically, let’s look at how the artist has organized the elements of art according to the principles of design to convey the meaning of the subject.1

Reni interprets purity (preservation from original sin) by creating an analogous visual experience of stability (balance), wellness, wholeness, peace, harmony, and calm. The interpretation being that sin can be thought of as illness, imperfection, instability –the condition of fallen man.

First, however: We naturally think of white color when we think of something or someone as ‘immaculate’ –free of stain, and certainly Reni plays to that natural tendency by using a palette of soft pastel colors. He has adjusted every pure color of paint (from the naturally occurring spectrum of colors) through the addition of white in order to raise the value of each color to a lighter version. Every color in this painting is a ‘tint’ of its hue (the color pink, for example, is a lighter value [some would say shade] of the hue red). Soft, pastel colors suggest innocence to us and are often used on young children’s clothes and such.

So, Reni does the traditional in his interpretation of ‘immaculate’ as purity but then shifts to an analogous interpretation through his choice of colors to use in the painting. By restricting his use of colors to a palette of mostly reds (pinks), yellows (yellow-orange, really), and blues Reni plays on our sense of balance.


Looking at an artist’s diagrammatic color wheel we note that red, yellow and blue are situated equal distant from each other around the wheel. Red, yellow and blue, you will remember, are the so-called primary colors –all other colors are derived from them.2 Reni creates a sense of completeness, perfection and balance by using, in almost equal importance, all three of the primary colors.

This interpretation of ‘immaculate’ as perfection, wellness, and stability (that sin would stain or upset) is further stressed when we notice that the artist has arranged his composition according to the principle of symmetrical balance: the right and left sides of the design mirror each other (or nearly so). Artists deploy symmetrical balance when they wish to communicate a sense of stability and balance, permanency and the ‘ideal’. Asymmetrical balance is often used when an artist wants to convey a sense of movement, instability, tension.

There is movement in this painting which tends to communicate a heavenly or spiritual magnetism. Notice the alignment of contours, edges and poses in the Virgin and angels that sweeps us upward into a golden (read “idea/divine”) space. The soft contrapposto pose of the Virgin reminds us of a flame.

Notice the entire composition is contained in an egg shaped oval. Notice, also, that the womb of the Virgin is at the center of that oval. Is this a reference to full of life, full of grace?

A master artist is aware of certain visual needs that people have that have to be accommodated in order to make a work ‘satisfying’ from a purely human, sensual perspective. In our fallen state we crave excitement and distraction for we are attracted by sinful habits. That’s an imperfection in us, but there it is. From an artistic point of view that means that we get bored by too much visual harmony. This painting has elements deployed in counterpoint, contrast. For example, notice that blue would seem to be the color we notice first in this painting and that would seem to contradict our sense of balance; blue is upsetting the apple cart by trying to take over the design. But, it’s held in check by the ocean of yellow-orange in the background. If we consult our color wheel we can see that blue and orange are opposite each other; there is no color more different from blue than orange; blue and orange totally contrast (clash). Reni knows this little fact of color theory and arranges color so that he not only creates harmony and balance through the use of a tri-color harmony but does so by actually incorporating the visual dissonance of complementary color theory to head off visual boredom.

He does the same thing by using just a little green and purple in this painting. Look for those two colors on the color wheel and you’ll see they are opposite red and yellow. (Maintaining visual interest is also the reason the composition is approximately symmetrical and not perfectly so.)

Reni’s painting is a very beautiful presentation of the “Immaculate Conception”. But, in order to fully appreciate beauty in the service of truth in a painting or sculpture a person has to reflect on how the artist is deploying the elements of art according to the principles of design3. That requires that we take time to really look at the work. In Eastern icons, that is less true for the use of the elements is carefully regimented so that each icon results in a careful and faithful copy of its prototype.  In the East, because of its tradition, you are far less likely to encounter controversy over an icon. That advantage is somewhat offset, from a Western perspective, by a sense of boredom. In Western sacred art, variety –interesting compositions in the use of the elements– are more the rule but that comes at the risk of controversy, ambiguity, and even heresy. Reni seems to have avoided the pitfalls in this painting. It’s orthodox and beautiful.


1 The Elements of art are: line, shape, form, value (lights and darks), color, texture, and space. The Principles of design are: balance, emphasis, harmony, variety, gradation, movement/rhythm, and proportion.

2 Technically, a shade is a darker value or version of a hue; a tint is a lighter version. A hue is a term that applies to any color as it naturally appears in the color spectrum. The color brown is not a hue but rather a shade of the hue, yellow. Notice that brown is not in the spectrum of colors. Neither is pink.

3 Green, as an example, is derived by mixing equal quantities of the primary colors yellow and blue together. Green is positioned between yellow and blue on the color wheel. Such derived colors are called secondary.

Saint Anne’s Nativity of Mary Window

September 8th, 2012, Promulgated by Bernie

(click on pictures to see clearer images)

While attending a funeral Mass this morning in Saint Anne Church in Rochester I looked up at one of the gorgeous windows overhead and, low and behold, there was an image of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin. I should have remembered it being there as I no doubt saw it hundreds of times when we belonged to that parish. I should have also recalled that since nearly all the windows in Saint Anne Church represent events in the life of Mary and her parents -as well as events she shared with her son- that there would no doubt be a representation of the Nativity of Mary.

The entire set of windows in this church are beautiful with events represented as vignettes on soft pastel colored stained glass panels. They are characterized by graceful figures carefully arranged into complete compositions unified by a very limited range of low intensity hues.  Emphasis is added by the placement of pure, bright color here and there. You can see that treatment in the Nativity of Mary window in which brighter yellow-oranges emphasize St. Anne and her child, Mary, as well as the star in the sky. (Why do you think there is a star depicted?) For visual balance a touch of a slightly duller yellow-orange livens up the the base of the scene.

The Western treatment of the Nativity of Mary can vary considerably from the traditional iconography of the Eastern and Byzantine Catholic Churches. Eastern icons tend to not only depict the historical event but also include elements perhaps not even mentioned in the Gospel narrative in order to stress a doctrinal belief.

Western imagery has done the same, of course, but the freedom of expression allowed Western artists can sometimes make the doctrinal statement less clear or even less important -sometimes more important! Western images, although initially inspired by the iconic images of the East, have gradually evolved into more ‘creative’, unique, and personal expressions of the artists. You can see the possibilities for problems arising! Such a development would be a no-no in the East where icons are not viewed as personal expressions but rather as imaging the orthodox (right) faith and liturgy of the whole Church. To change the image in a significant way by omitting or adding to the scene would be to change the faith and to introduce heterodoxy (wrong faith or practice).

The image we see here in this window in Saint Anne Church would no doubt be considered incomplete in Eastern eyes. Where is Joachim, for example? He should be represented in the vignette at some distance from St. Anne, usually in another part of the house. Where is the house? St. Anne, in the Eastern tradition is always represented reclined on a couch or bed with the baby Mary attended to by servants (Mary’s parents were reported to be well-off). Sometimes, St. Joachim stands next to the bed and, with St. Anne, points to Mary. All of these elements would be necessary in an Eastern icon for the scene to be ‘realistic’ and recognizable.

In the Saint Anne Church window we see an abbreviation of the event rendered in touching tones, colors and shapes personally important to the artist, and offering us few iconic clues. The scene is something of a mystery as we are not quite sure of the story represented. In that way the vignette draws us in and invites us to linger and discover what the scene represents.

New Icon for UR Newman Community

October 22nd, 2011, Promulgated by Bernie

"Mother of God" icon by Minhhang K. Huynh, UR Newman Catholic Community


One of our staff writers learned of the appearance of a new piece of liturgical art in our diocese. The UR Newman Community recently unveiled a newly created Marian icon.

The Community’s October 16 bulletin mentions that the Newman Community had started (in 1999) a small collection of images of the Blessed Mother from the many cultures of its students. The collection has grown to over 15 images.

The bulletin also explains that over seventy people were involved in the current selection and commissioning of a Marian image and the composition of a related prayer. Apparently, holy cards have been printed.

Well known local liturgical artist Minhhang K. Huynh was commissioned to ‘write’ a Byzantine/Eastern style icon. It is a stunningly beautiful work. Its prototype is the “Mother of God Eleousa (the Merciful)” or the “Mother of God Oumilenie (of affectionateTenderness).” From what Father Brian Cool, Director of Catholic Pastoral Care, wrote in the bulletin concerning the icon it seems the community wishes to stress Mary’s virtue of Mercy.

Mercy (Eleousa) and affectionate tenderness (Oumilenie) are two aspects of the basic Eleousa prototype.


Even though in both cases (Eleousa and Oumilenie) the faces of Mother and Child are touching affectionately, Eleousa and Oumilenie express two different aspects of the icon of the Mother of God: Eleousa refers to the virtue of Mary, mercy, Oumilenie refers to the sentiment experienced by the Child, following the intervention of his Mother, of affectionate Tenderness. The name Eleousa pertains directly to the Mother, whereas the name Oumilenie pertains to the Child.[1]

Among several ways the icon unites mother and child is the very nice alignment of contours that join the two figures into an intimate embrace of tenderness.

Father Cool added some personal observations on the icon in the Community Sunday bulletin:

“Honestly, my breath is taken away when I look at this image. Look at it from many angles. Ponder the subtle and the not so subtle. Pray with it and let it lead you to the sane devotion Mary had to Christ whom she holds so tenderly and close. …I believe this is the most significant project that I have been part of while here at Newman. It will inspire many for generations.”

A previous related post here.



Mosaic of Mary, “Mater Ecclesiae”

October 19th, 2011, Promulgated by Bernie

From Opus Dei

(Click on Picture to see a larger image.)

In an article published in “L’Osservatore Romano,” Javier Cotelo recounts how the mosaic dedicated to Mary, “Mother of the Church,” came to be placed in St. Peter’s square, in December 1981.

October 07, 2011
Javier Cotelo // L’Osservatore Romano

“One of the most recent architectural features in St. Peter’s square is the mosaic dedicated to Mary Mater Ecclesiae, inscribed with the words Totus Tuus, a sign of Blessed John Paul II’s immense affection for our Lady.

I had the privilege of knowing something about the origin of the decision to put up this mosaic, a reflection of Blessed John Paul II’s special relationship with young people and his deep sense of gratitude.

During Holy Week in 1980, Pope John Paul II received in audience several thousand young people who came to Rome for the UNIV Conference, an international meeting of university students who take part in activities at centers of Opus Dei throughout the world. This yearly event, which began in 1968, combines the desire to spend the Holy Week Triduum in Rome, the city of Peter, with activities of cultural enrichment for the students.

At the end of the audience, one of the young people there, Julio Nieto, told the Holy Father that among all …”

Read more

Annunciation Byzantine Catholic Church, Joliet, IL.

September 6th, 2011, Promulgated by Bernie

I ran across the website forAnnunciation Byzantine Catholic Church in Joliet, Illinois and found the program of icons in the interior interesting. The site has three pages of photos of the church, mostly the interior. The third page offers larger views if you click on the pictures. Unfortunately, the first two pages offer only thumbnails in a little larger size than normal. Scroll down and click on “Next page” to advance to pages 2 and then, 3. The pastor, Fr. Thomas J. Loya, is painting the icon murals.

I am quite taken with Byzantine, Eastern Rite and Orthodox churches that cover nearly every available interior wall space and ceiling space with icons. It is an amazing liturgical and spiritual experience for me especially with chanting and clouds of incense.

Check out the Church’s website.

In the bottom left corner you can see the top of the altar, and the tabernacle, candelabra and liturgical fans as well as the crucifix. The Virgin of the Sign dominates the bema/altar area. On the left wal is a mural in only the first stages of 'writing' by the pastor.

Another view of the altar area (behind the iconostasis screen). The altar and tabernacle are in the bottom of the photo. Note the altar for the preparation of the bread and wine on the left. You can see here also the chairs for the priests and deacon or other attendants.


The pastor, Fr. Thomas J. Loya, works on the ceiling mural. You can see the iconostasis screen in the bottom half of the photograph.

Close-up of adding facial features; dark lines and tones, first.

Bishop saints: John Chrysostom (left) and Basil the Great.

I think this is a view of the nave with the mural of the Dormition on the back wall.

Here we have saints Methodius and Cyril.

A Beautiful Processional Banner

August 16th, 2011, Promulgated by Bernie

(Click on pictures to see larger images)

I saw this banner in use at Father Scott Caton’s first Mass which was celebrated in the glorious setting of St. Michael’s Church, Rochester. It is such a gorgeous image of The All Holy Mother of God that I had to take a picture of it. I thought it would be nice to post it around the time of the Feast of the Annunciation, or even the Feast of the Assumption for it communicates to me the glorified -deified-  Holy Mother.

The rich patterns, colors, and gold  thread communicate a heavenly environment and a heavenly being. It seems to be one of the basic ways in which humans from all around the world, from the most “primitive” to the most sophisticated, picture the transcendent or state of heavenly bliss. To describe that which cannot be described sensually, humans usually turn to the most sensual or precious.

The floral motif, of course, calls to mind a garden: Eden, Paradise. That is the garden that was lost through the first Eve but reclaimed through the second Eve, Mary, at the Annunciation.

I believe the banner is owned by one of the priest’s who celebrated with Father Caton at the altar.

Even More Faces of Mary

June 9th, 2011, Promulgated by Bernie

From the National Catholic Register

by Simcha Fisher

Be sure to read the entire article and even the comments. Very interesting, in my opinion.

I kind of like the new statue of Mary in the Our Lady of Angels Cathedral in L.A. (above).  From the pictures I’ve seen it looks like a competent and interesting work of art, and I find it much more appealing than a some of the other images that Steven Greydanus posted in The Many Faces of Mary.

This type (above)  in particular always gives me the willies, and, TO ME, doesn’t resemble the Mother of God I know any more than a ham sandwich does:  it’s a perfectly pleasant and appealing thing, in its way—but would you go to it for help?  Maybe for help with skin care. … However, the key phrase …

Read more

Changing Appearances to Communicate to Different People

May 27th, 2011, Promulgated by Bernie

From the New Liturgical Movement  here

by David Clayton

When depicting Christ or Our Lady one always has to consider their individual characterics (handed down to us by tradition); but at the same time the artist will always consider modifying the appearance so that those who are likely to see the painting will identify with Him or her. Here are some paintings by Chinese Christians …    

 Christ is the Everyman, the model for all humanity. When He (or indeed Our Lady and the saints) are painted, the image must also participate in a model of humanity that the audience can relate to. All sacred art is a balance of the general and the particular. If those who are going to see the painting are going to be almost exclusively …

Read more

May is Mary’s Month

May 13th, 2011, Promulgated by Bernie

"Madonna & Child" Hodegetria image by Marianne Preindlsberger Stokes, ca. 1907/8, Austrian/Bristish Pre-Raphaelite Painter, Wolverhampton Art Gallery, Wolverhampton, UK


Picture Source:

More Information:

Marianne Preindlsberger Stokes

Hodegetria type Marian image

Wolverhampton Art Gallery

Our Holy Mother Mary

May 8th, 2011, Promulgated by Bernie



Picture by Bernie Dick. Image was shot in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and manipulated in Photoshop.

Our Lady, Star of Evangelisation by Marek Czarkecki

May 3rd, 2011, Promulgated by Bernie

From the New Liturgical Movement (scroll down when you get there)

by David Clayton

Here is an authentic Catholic icon by Marek Czarnecki who is based in Connecticut in the United States. He is trained in the Russian style and he works firmly within the principles of the iconographic tradition. A look at his gallery indicates that he is able to portray Western saints without stepping outside the bounds of the tradition . He is by all accounts and excellent teacher as well. This was commissioned by the Franciscan friars at Steubenville to illustrate John Paul II’s characterisation of Our Lady as …

Read more and view the icon

Our Lady is definitely not blonde

April 7th, 2011, Promulgated by Bernie

From Linen on the Hedgerow

Related here,  here,  here, and here

We return to the topic of Marian images to stimulate our critical thinking about liturgical art. Please note that I am not necessarily in agreement with the opinion expressed in the link, Linen on the Hedgerow.

Picture: The Daily Telegraph. Our Lady as portrayed by poet Lynn Roberts


That excellent Catholic journalist, Christopher Howse writes in Saturday’s Daily Telegraph about Mary the Mother of God and how she has been perceived and portrayed by artists and poets. He quotes from a poem called “Icon” by contemporary poet and talented artist, Lynn Roberts:

    “She is a dark/scared girl in dusty djellabah and veil,/with dirty feet.”

I like the realism of this type of portrayal; it shows beauty, honesty and a certain level of basic human goodness. I much prefer this sort of treatment over the conventional blonde haired virgin so beloved of the western world. Those who commission the creation of  statues and those who carry them out seem oblivious to…

"Our Lady of Lourdes"


"Our Lady of Akita" Japan


Read more


Contemporary Images of the Blessed Virgin

February 21st, 2011, Promulgated by Bernie

 I followed a Friend’s link on FaceBook and discovered some interesting Marian images. They were created by Alfredo Arreguin, an artist originally from Mexico but residing in Seattle since 1958. He has a long list of accomplishments and recognition and is recognized as one of the originators of the so-called pattern and decoration movement in painting. He is noted for his intricately designed and brilliantly colored oil on canvas paintings. In 1995 Arreguin received the highest recognition given by the Mexican government to the commitment of distinguished individuals who perform activities that promote Mexican culture abroad.

Alfredo Arreguin is affiliated with the Linda Hodges Galley. He also has a FaceBook page here.

I doubt that these paintings were created for a church environment but I immediately thought of that use when I saw them. I think they could be appropriately used in a chancel or side chapel. Do you think so?

Liturgical art is a difficult genre and there is certainly no consensus as to what constitutes good and bad Liturgical art. To my way of thinking Liturgical art -art in the service of the Liturgy- should express a transfigured world; a redeemed world, a ‘new world.’ Images in a church should encourage us in this life by visualizing the promise the Lord made to us if we follow Him, and if we partake of His Body and Blood. I think these paintings of the Blessed Mother offer us such a vision. Was this the artist’s intention? Probably not so specifically, but I think something like a vision of a transfigured world may have been in his mind.

(Click on pictures for clearer images)

Mary, Mother of Hope

February 18th, 2011, Promulgated by Bernie

Those of you who know Father Peter Abas  from his sojourn as a student at the U of R, and his work in parishes of the Rochester diocese, may be aware that he celebrated his 25th anniversary of priestly ordination on February 2 of this year. That was the reason why Pat and I and some others travelled to Borneo at that time. Rather than place the emphasis on his anniversary, however, Father Peter proposed to celebrate the traditional feast of the Purification of the Virgin Mary with a ritual crowning of Mary as the “Mother of Hope.” It was appropriate as Father Peter has a personal devotion to “Mother Mary” –as he never fails to refer to her. There was a party with a cake and entertainment in the gym after Mass, but it celebrated Mother Mary’s crowning as Mother of Hope.

Father searched high and low around the world (by way of the internet, of course) for a crown of the right size and style  for the event but it turned out there was one right in Rochester! And so, there is a little bit of Rochester now crowning the statue of Mary in a church in Borneo. The statue was robed at the crowning with one made by some of the women of the parish  and reflected traditional local styles.

The Mass and crowning were held at the Church of the Nativity, the home base from which Father pastors three or four churches. Representatives of the other churches that Father serves were present and formed, along with other groups, the procession of the statue of Maria, Tina Do Kahansanan from its shrine outside the front of the church to its position of honor in the sanctuary.

You will recognize some elements of the Crowning Mass are similar to the Sunday celebrations shown in the previous video I posted of our visit.

Here is the video montage of the Mass, and crowning of Mary, Mother of Hope.

Mosaic Apse Icons of the Most Holy Mother of God

January 20th, 2011, Promulgated by Bernie

Perhaps you remember our series on the categories or types of Mother of God icons? Below is an example each of the Mother of God Hodegetria type, and Kyriotissa type. I have been very fortunate to have visited both locations and I can’t help but mention how profound it is to stand in such old and venerable churches even though often –as is the case with the first one– the churches are no longer used for Mass or the Divine Liturgy.

The first picture is of the Cathedral Church (late 12th c.) on the Island of Torcello in the Venetian Lagoon. Torcello was the first island settled in what was to become the Republic of Venice. It is now, for the most part, deserted. The second picture is of the apse in the church of the Greek Orthodox monastery of Hosios Lukas (11th c.). The church is still part of an active monastery in Greece.

The Torcello apse mosaic is a Hodegetria type image of Mary (She who knows–-or shows– the way) holding the Child Jesus, presenting Him to us. The second is a Kyriotissa type (an enthroned Mother and Child), depicts Mary as the greatest among men because of her status as Theotokos (God bearer). The image is a sort of short-hand for the doctrine of the Incarnation. Both apses are Eastern or Byzantine in style.

I have always been attracted to the Eastern or Byzantine style of icons and church decorative ‘programs’ because they are so clearly dogmatic as well as mystical. Orthodoxy -right thinking/belief or right praying/practice- is of primary importance in the creation of the Byzantine images and how they are arranged in the churches. There is so much variety in the art in Western churches, especially art created with a strong sense of individual artistic expression, that what is believed can sometimes be hard to determine.

(Click on pictures for a larger image)

Cathedral on the Island of Torcello, Venetian Lagoon

'Hodegetria with The Apostles' in the cathedral on the Island of Torcello, Venetian Lagoon

'Kyriotissa' image in the apse and 'Pentecost' image in the dome. Church at the Greek Orthodox Monastery of Hosios Lukas, Greece


Picture sources:

Torcello Cathedral and Church at Hosios Lukas