Weight Of The World

And so seated next to my father in the train compartment, I suddenly asked, “Father, what is sex sin?”
He turned to look at me, as he always did when answering a question, but to my surprise he said nothing. At last he stood up, lifted his traveling case off the floor and set it on the floor.
Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?” he said.
I stood up and tugged at it. It was crammed with the watches and spare parts he had purchased that morning.
It’s too heavy,” I said.
Yes,” he said, “and it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It’s the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger, you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you.”

~Corrie ten Boom, from The Hiding Place


Continue reading “Weight Of The World”

Battling The Devil

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A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is… A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in.

C.S. Lewis, from Mere Christianity


It has never been easy to be a teenager.  Crossing the border from childhood to adulthood comes with an assortment of demons and when you are thirteen year old Michelangelo, the experience comes out in paint. That’s right, he was thirteen when he painted The Torment of Saint Anthony.

The church celebrates Saint Anthony today (January 17) and his life was instructive.  He inherited wealth from his parents at age twenty but gave it all away to live in simplicity and solitude, devoting himself to contemplation and prayer.  He is known for being the father of monasticism and for his ability to battle the devil against temptations of every stripe.

The Christian’s goal is to become more Christ-like everyday.  This is called sanctification and it has never been easy.  We live in a broken world in which sin and its consequence is all around us.  Thank God, the strength of the Christian  is with the Holy Spirit who stands ready to guide and empower our every step.  Jesus said “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

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Ephesians 6:12

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

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Art: The Torment of Saint Anthony by Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475–1564)

Kimbell Art Museum 
https://www.kimbellart.org/collection-object/torment-saint-anthony

This is the first known painting by Michelangelo, described by his earliest biographers and believed to have been painted when he was twelve or thirteen years old. Although Michelangelo considered himself first and foremost a sculptor, he received his early training as a painter, in the workshop of Domenico Ghirlandaio (c. 1449–1494), a leading master in Florence. Michelangelo’s earliest biographers, Giorgio Vasari and Ascanio Condivi, tell us that, aside from some drawings, his first work was a painted copy of the engraving Saint Anthony Tormented by Demons by the fifteenth-century German master Martin Schongauer. The rare subject is found in the life of Saint Anthony the Great, written by Athanasius of Alexandria in the fourth century, which describes how the Egyptian hermit-saint had a vision that he levitated into the air and was attacked by demons, whose torments he withstood. Created when he was informally associated with Ghirlandaio’s workshop and under the guidance of an older friend, the artist Francesco Granacci, Michelangelo’s painting earned him widespread recognition. Writing when Michelangelo was still alive, both Vasari and Condivi recounted that to give the demonic creatures veracity, he studied the colorful scales and other parts of specimens from the fish market. Michelangelo subtly revised Schongauer’s composition, making it more compact and giving the monsters more animal-like features, notably adding fish scales to one of them. He also included a landscape that resembles the Arno River Valley around Florence. The work is one of only four easel paintings generally regarded as having come from his hand and the first painting by Michelangelo to enter an American collection.

Literature and Liturgy: Saint Anthony

Anthony was born in Comus, Upper Egypt, in about 250. As a young man, he was much given to prayer, and one day—hearing the Gospel passage, “If you seek perfection, go sell your possessions, and give to the poor. You will then have treasure in heaven” (Matt. 19:21) read in church—he immediately resolved to give away all that he had and to live as an ascetic. He found (269) a solitary place for himself near his village, and there spent his time in prayer, penance, and manual labor. About 285, he left for the Egyptian desert, where he lived as a hermit. In due time, stories began to spread about his holiness, his battles with the devil, and his miracles. The consequence was that other solitaries came to seek his advice, and eventually they built hermitages near his. Because Anthony now had disciples and became their spiritual guide, he formed (305) them into an organized group and led them along the way of perfection and holiness. But Anthony was made for the solitary life, and after about five years with his monks, he returned (310) to the Egyptian desert (between the Nile and the Red Sea), and there he received visitors and engaged in spiritual conversations. He is said to have twice visited Alexandria to preach against the Arians. He died at his desert hermitage in 356, at about the age of 105 years.

In the year following his death, St. Athanasius (see May 2) wrote his biography, Life of Anthony, in which Anthony is portrayed as the ideal monk and the “father” of Christian monasticism. This book had immense influence in the early Christian world, and it has always been valued as a spiritual classic. Since the fifth century, St. Anthony’s feast has been celebrated on January 17, as the date of his death.

Bibliography

Five key primary source documents for the desert fathers are these:
(1) Athanasius’s Life of Antony,
(2) The History of the Monks of Egypt (a.k.a, Historia Monachorum en Aegypto),
(3) The Sayings of the Desert Fathers,
(4) Cyril of Scythopolis’s The Lives of the Monks of Palestine, and
(5) John Cassian’s Conferences.

You’ll find portions of (2) and (3), as well as other ancient histories, in

Helen Waddell’s The Desert Fathers (Vintage, 1998);

Owen Chadwick’s, Western Asceticism (Westminster, 1958) contains translations of (3) and (5).

Benedicta Ward’s The Lives of the Desert Fathers (Cistercian, 1980) is a full translation of (2) and R. M. Price’s Cyril of Scythopolis:

The Lives of the Monks of Palestine (Cistercian, 1991) is what it says it is, as is Robert C. Gregg’s translation of Athanasius: The Life of Antony (Paulist, 1980).

In addition, you can find older translations of these documents on the Internet. The Christian Classics Ethereal Library (www.ccel.org) has Cassian’s Conferences (www.ccel.org/fathers/NPNF2–11/jcassian/conferen/), and The Ecole Initiative (www2.evansville.edu/ecoleweb/) has the Life of Antony, as well as many other minor works (e.g., lives of Paul of Thebes or Mary of Egypt).

Probably the most significant single work on the desert fathers has been an essay by Princeton historian Peter Brown: “The Rise and Function of the Holy Man in Late Antiquity.” He argues that these men were key figures in the transition from pagan antiquity to the Christian Middle Ages. The essay is reprinted in his Society and the Holy in Late Antiquity (University of California, 1982), and a revised assessment can be found in Authority and the Sacred (Cambridge, 1995).

Also see Christian History Magazine-Issue 64: Anthony & the Desert Fathers: Extreme Faith (Carol Stream, IL: Christianity Today, 1999).

The Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo (1508-12)

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He was not a painter.  At least that’s what he thought.  Michelangelo always thought of himself as a sculptor, but in this case he didn’t have a choice.  Pope Julius II decided that the little chapel needed improvement and he assigned Michelangelo to the task.  Though he accepted the duty grudgingly, he decided to make the most of it.

As Terry Glaspey explains in 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know:

Michelangelo used the extensive canvas of that ceiling to create an unforgettable study of Old Testament stories that foreshadowed the coming of Christ. It contains a total of three hundred figures, and these figures—beautiful, strong, dignified—provide ample evidence of his skill as a sculptor. They look like sculptures chiseled out of paint. The work is centered on biblical episodes that deal with the big issues of life: innocence, sin, judgment, and reconciliation. Three biblical stories, highlighting important episodes from the origin of the universe, the creation and fall of man, and the tale of Noah are each rendered on three “panels.” In particular, the image of God creating Adam is so familiar to us that it is in danger of being dismissed as a cliché—until you actually look at it closely and take in all its grandeur and majesty. There is a good reason why it is one of the most popular images in all of art.

The Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo, Vatican City

Around these three central stories are arrayed seven Old Testament prophets and five Greek sibyls, all of whom are credited with predicting the coming of Christ. The effect of the whole unified work on most viewers is to be awestruck and overwhelmed. But not everyone loved Michelangelo’s masterpiece. One later pope referred to it dismissively as a “bathroom of nudes.”1 Most, however, have recognized the genius and skill of its execution and the creativity with which the biblical motifs are revealed. Clearly Michelangelo had great knowledge of the Scriptures, but he read and interpreted them through his own unique lens. He once prayed, “Lord, make me see Thy glory in every place.” Michelangelo’s art was clearly a vessel through which that glory was revealed.

 

Has God ever done a beautiful work in your life through difficult circumstances?


John 1: 1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

D I G  D E E P E R


The Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel

Michelangelo

The principal chapel of the Vatican Palace, so called because it was built for Pope Sixtus IV (1471–84). It is used for the principal Papal ceremonies and also by the cardinals for the election of a new Pope when there is a vacancy. The chapel is celebrated for the frescoes by Michelangelo and other artists on its walls and ceiling, chief among them being Michelangelo’s Last Judgement covering the altar wall. The decorations of the chapel also included a set of tapestries commissioned from Raphael by Pope Leo X illustrating scenes from the lives of St Peter and St Paul (now elsewhere in the Vatican Palace).

Michelangelo

In 1488 Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni became apprenticed to the great Ghirlandaio in Florence, but in 1496, at the age of twenty-one, he moved to Rome. The story is told that Michelangelo had sculpted a statue of St John the Baptist for Lorenzo de’ Medici, who had asked him to create the impression that the work was an ancient original in order that Lorenzo might pocket a greater sum when selling it. When the eventual buyer, a certain Cardinal Raffaele Riario, discovered the ruse, he was so taken by the quality of the forgery that he invited Michelangelo to Rome himself.

It was in Rome that Michelangelo set to work on ‘The Giant’, an unwieldy block of marble over five metres high from Carrara in northern Tuscany. Michelangelo turned the Giant, the size of which had deterred other sculptors from working on it, into the most iconic sculpture of the high Roman Renaissance, and perhaps the most recognised sculpture in Western history. David (1501–4, Figure 4.7) stands over four metres high, completely nude, and bears a look of intense energetic defiance, a statement of confidence in the limitless potential of Renaissance humanity. It was perhaps Michelangelo’s Neoplatonist convictions that enabled him to take the commission where others, including Leonardo, had refused. He believed that the form of beauty was contained within the stone, and that to sculpt was merely to liberate the form in a process that he likened to religious salvation.

In 1508 Michelangelo reluctantly accepted a commission from Pope Julius II to fresco the more than 1,000 square metres of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, a task that was to take him until 1512. It is characteristic of the high Renaissance, and especially of the work of Michelangelo, that the characters he depicted in the Chapel are presented in almost superhumanly muscular proportions. This is true not only of gods and heroes, whom one might expect to cut a heroic dash, but also of fishermen and labourers. It should not surprise us however, for the Neoplatonist Michelangelo considered bodily perfection to be a sign spiritual beauty.

None of his characters, however, is depicted in more colossal proportions than the Jesus who forms the focal point of the Last Judgment on the altar wall of the chapel (Figure 4.8). David and Jesus provide a powerful contrast with Michelangelo’s own Pietà (Pity, 1499), depicting a seated Mary with her dead son Jesus lying limply in her arms, and sculpted when the artist was only twenty-four years old. In contrast to the invincibility of David and Jesus, the Pietà remains one of the most tender evocations of the fragility of human life in the history of Western art. In 1546 Michelangelo was commissioned as architect of the new St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The cupola, a huge 42.3 metres in diameter, remains to this day the world’s tallest dome.

Bibliography

Christopher Watkin, From Plato to Postmodernism: The Story of Western Culture through Philosophy, Literature and Art (London: Bristol Classical Press, 2011), 88–90.

E. Steinmann, Die Sixtinische Kapelle (2 vols., 1901–5), with plates (2 vols., 1901–5). C. de Tolnay, Michelangelo, 2: The Sistine Ceiling (Princeton, NJ, 1945). L. D. Ettlinger, The Sistine Chapel before Michelangelo (Oxford, 1965). M. Giacometi (ed.), The Sistine Chapel: Michelangelo Rediscovered (1986). F. Hartt and others, The Sistine Chapel (2 vols., 1991). P. de Vecchi (ed.), The Sistine Chapel: A Glorious Restoration (New York [1999]). E. Wind, The Religious Symbolism of Michelangelo: The Sistine Ceiling (posthumously ed. E. Sears, Oxford, 2000). J. Shearman, Raphael’s Cartoons … and the Tapestries for the Sistine Chapel [1972]

F. L. Cross and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, eds., The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 1517.

Buonarrotti, Michaelangelo. The Poems. Translated by Christopher Ryan. London: Dent, 1996.
Graham-Dixon, Andrew. Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel. New York: Skyhorse, 2009.
Gromling, Alexandra. Michelangelo Buonarroti: Life and Work. Konigswater: Konemann, 2005.
Neret, Giles. Michelangelo. Köln: Taschen, 2000.
Richmond, Robin. Michelangelo and the Creation of the Sistine Chapel. New York: Crescent Books, 1995.

 

Terry Glaspey

 

Terry Glaspey

Terry Glaspey is a writer, an editor, a creative mentor, and someone who finds various forms of art—painting, films, novels, poetry, and music—to be some of the places where he most deeply connects with God.

He has a master’s degree in history from the University of Oregon (Go Ducks!), as well as undergraduate degrees emphasizing counseling and pastoral studies.

He has written over a dozen books, including 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know:  Fascinating Stories Behind Great Art, Music, Literature, and Film, Not a Tame Lion: The Spiritual Legacy of C.S. Lewis, The Prayers of Jane Austen, 25 Keys to Life-Changing Prayer, Bible Basics for Everyone, and others.

Terry enjoys writing and speaking about a variety of topics including creativity and spirituality, the artistic heritage of the Christian faith, the writing of C.S. Lewis, and creative approaches to apologetics.

He serves on the board of directors of the Society to Explore and Record Church History and is listed in Who’s Who in America Terry has been the recipient of a number of awards, including a distinguished alumni award and the Advanced Speakers and Writers Editor of the Year award.

Terry has two daughters and lives in Eugene, Oregon.

Dig Deeper at TerryGlaspey.com

 

Some of the greatest painters, musicians, architects, writers, filmmakers, and poets have taken their inspiration from their faith and impacted millions of people with their stunning creations. Now readers can discover the stories behind seventy-five of these masterpieces and the artists who created them. From the art of the Roman catacombs to Rembrandt to Makoto Fujimura; from Gregorian Chant to Bach to U2; from John Bunyan and John Donne to Flannery O’Connor and Frederick Buechner; this book unveils the rich and varied artistic heritage left by believers who were masters at their craft.

Terry Glaspey, 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know: The Fascinating Stories behind Great Works of Art, Literature, Music, and Film (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2015).

Order it HERE today.