Sunday, May 27, 2012

Veni Sancte Spiritus

Gianlorenzo Bernini, Holy Spirit
Center of the Cathedra Petri, the final
point in the apse of St. Peter's Basilica
Italian, 1647-1653
Vatican City, St. Peter's Basilica

Happy Birthday Church! 

Pentecost Sunday is usually ranked as the beginning day for the Church as we know it.  Until the Spirit came to the still-shocked Apostles and other disciples, people who had suffered a terrible series of shocks in a short time (the betrayal and Crucifixion of their leader, His Resurrection, Appearances and Ascension), they were not yet more than a group of worried and probably confused individuals.  With the Spirit they understood and they wanted to share that understanding with the rest of the world.  From that moment of inspiration, understanding and sharing Christians every where and every when have been the beneficiaries. 

I've reviewed my previous comments on the iconography of Pentecost and refer you back to them.  You can read it here.

For this year I'd like to share with you the beautiful sequence for Pentecost Veni Sancte Spiritus, one of the four great Gregorian sequences that were preserved in the universal liturgy from the medieval liturgies by the Council of Trent (1545-1563). 
Here are the Latin words and a literal English translation. 

Latin text                                     English version

Veni, Sancte Spiritus,                     Come, Holy Spirit,
et emitte caelitus                            send forth the heavenly
lucis tuae radium.                           radiance of your light.

Veni, pater pauperum,                   Come, father of the poor,
veni, dator munerum                      come giver of gifts,
veni, lumen cordium.                     come, light of the heart.

Consolator optime,                       Greatest comforter,
dulcis hospes animae,                    sweet guest of the soul,
dulce refrigerium.                          sweet consolation.

In labore requies,                         In labor, rest,
in aestu temperies                         in heat, temperance,
in fletu solatium.                            in tears, solace.
O lux beatissima,                         O most blessed light,
reple cordis intima                        fill the inmost heart
tuorum fidelium.                           of your faithful.
Sine tuo numine,                           Without your divine will,
nihil est in homine,                         there is nothing in man,
nihil est innoxium.                          nothing is harmless.
Lava quod est sordidum,              Wash that which is unclean,
riga quod est aridum,                     water that which is dry,
sana quod est saucium.                  heal that which is wounded.
Flecte quod est rigidum,               Bend that which is inflexible,

fove quod est frigidum,                 warm that which is chilled,
rege quod est devium.                  make right that which is wrong.

Da tuis fidelibus,                          Give to your faithful,
in te confidentibus,                       who rely on you,
sacrum septenarium.                    the sevenfold gifts.

Da virtutis meritum,                     Give reward to virtue,
da salutis exitum,                         give salvation at our passing on,
da perenne gaudium,                   give eternal joy.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Ascension

Salvador Dali, The Ascension of Christ
Spanish, 1958
Mexico City, Private Collection
Read the essay here

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Monkeys in the Margins - the Breviary of Queen Isabella

Monkey Playing the Bagpipes
from the Isabella Breviary
Flemish (Bruges), ca. 1488-ca. 1497
London, British Library
MS Additional 18851, fol. 270
This "monkey", despite the well-observed
paws, is more humanoid in appearance than
most.  Clad in a fool's hood (note the ears) he
is meant to be seen as grotesque.
I've been somewhat under the weather recently and so have not been doing much research.  However, I just came across this interesting and amusing article on the medieval manuscript blog of the British Library that I thought I would share with you.

To read the blog article and see the other illuminations, click on
Monkeys in the Margins - Medieval and Earlier Manuscripts

A Breviary, contains the psalms and readings and prayers for the Divine Office, also known as the Liturgy of the Hours.  Often associated with the clergy and religious alone, the breviary is an important prayer tool for the laity as well.  In the later middle ages especially, it was a well-used item by many in the literate classes.  A shortened version, for the use of the laity, known as the Book of Hours , is the most common book surviving from the middle ages.  Most of the manuscript editions we see today are the luxe versions prepared for and used by the noblility. Often these contained calendar pages , illustrations of Biblical events, devotional images and border decorations so that each was a little art gallery. 

Frequently, the border decorations on the pages included paintings of plants and animals from the natural world, sometimes providing thinly disguised commentary on the folly of human activities.  The artist (or artists) who decorated this manuscript Breviary, which belonged to Queen Isabella of Castille (the patron of Christopher Colombus) seems to have had a particular interest in the humanoid activities of monkeys, who preen, play the bagpipes, tend to the vines they live among and perform other activites.