|Resurrection of Christ and Women at the Tomb|
by Blessed Fra Angelico, 1442
This is the day of days! This is true. It really happened in history. Christianity does not loom out of the mists of a fabled past or take form in the fevers of a single prophet. If it is a fraud it is an inexplicably benign and beautiful conspiracy involving hundreds, sealed in the lying blood of false martyrs. Perish the thought! The Resurrection has been attacked since day one, and the evidence remains compelling. "And he that saw it hath given testimony: and his testimony is true. And he knoweth that he saith true: that you also may believe." (John 19.35)
How can we be part-time Christians when this is reality? Our faith cannot be tacked on to our "real life." It is our real life, and the real history of the world. It must be the very ground on which we stand and the air which we breathe. We must be mad with faith, delirious with love, and burned down to the ground with the Holy Spirit. For our faith is folly to the world, and the world is no longer the fond hound but the old pagan wolf, who is suckling new Romans and stirring to the faint scent of blood.
The painting is a fresco by Blessed Fra Angelico, finished in 1442. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1982 and declared to be the patron of Catholic artists. Fra Angelico was a humble Dominican friar who never picked up a brush without saying a prayer.
This painting is simple, direct, and respectful. The women are looking at the empty tomb, one actually peering into it, her hand to her brow in perplexity and grief. They hold in their hands the now unneeded spices for preparation of the body.
The angel, seated firmly on a corner of the broken tomb, points to the empty interior with one hand, and the Risen Christ with the other. Not a single figure looks at Christ, but of course, the women were not present at the resurrection. They are working out the Good News from the angel's message. "He is not here. He is risen."
Christ bears the palm of martyrdom and banner of the cross, now the Christian standard. He appears in a mandorla, a favorite Medieval symbol formed by the intersection of two circles, representing the union of Heaven and Earth, Divine and Human. Jesus is not in some spirit realm, but bears his bleeding resurrected body.
Fra Angelico's frescos were often in the humble cells of monks, who could contemplate them as a spiritual exercise. This one is in Cell 8 of the Convento San Marco in Florence.
On the left, apparently a Dominican friar kneels alone. He represents the monk contemplating the scene, which is an interesting feature. It is deceptively simple, but had a purpose. It wasn't just pious decoration. Even today, the Chapter Room at St. Meinrad Archabbey is covered walls and ceiling with instructive paintings.
The Bear joins all creation in praising God and also wishes you a glorious Easter!
Especially beloved woodland creatures Kathryn, Terry, Jane and Pete!