Saturday, December 27, 2008

Iconographic Theme

St John Evangelist had many great and unique privileges: he alone of the Apostles was a virgin, was for this grace as for his other aspects of saintliness especially beloved of the Lord, and was commended by Christ to His Mother the Virgin as a pure soul worthy to substitute in a manner even for her Onlybegotten Child, standing on our behalf as representative of the whole of redeemed mankind.  

He was miraculously delivered from martyrdom, endured exile on the isle of Patmos, and slept at last in the Lord in extreme old age at Ephesus, having established and ruled the churches of Asia Minor in perfect charity and love.  Mediævals even speculated that the Beloved Disciple, like the Mother of God, was assumed bodily into heaven.

Whatever rationalists and critics may assert, the tradition is still respected by the Church that he composed the Fourth Gospel, three epistles, and the Apocalypse, shewing him to be an evangelist without par of the Word made flesh: hence he is both John the Evangelist and John the Theologian, or John the Divine, given his piercing insight into the secrets of heaven and of Christ's Divinity: his symbol therefore is a soaring eagle.

I have always liked the image of St John as Our Lady's chaplain - for did he not take her unto his home (St John xix, 27), and thereafter would he not have, as a priest of the New Testament, celebrated for her the Divine Mysteries of her Son?  It is piously held that Our Lady had this privilege from the Lord, that as He took flesh from her flesh, so after the Resurrection she daily received Him in sacramental Communion, and - miracle! - His Real Presence within her ceased not from Communion to Communion.  Again, sceptics may scoff, but potuit, docuit, ergo fecit...

Therefore, I'm thinking of commissioning from Christopher, an artist of my acquaintance whom I saw at the Adelaide ordinations, a painting according to a design that's been for years on my mind: in mediæval style, a portrayal of Our Lady attending at the Mass of St John, as the Evangelist offers up the tremendous Sacrifice - she would be shewn at a prie-dieu, no doubt with a prayerbook, he at the altar in the usual pose as seen in the well-known Mass of St Gregory.  The image would be not anachronistic, but a symbolic depiction of the truth that the Blessed Virgin would have been houselled by St John.


Quasi Seminarian said...

"He alone was a virgin". Noooo Traditionalists everywhere scream! If you count St. Paul that makes at least two, though he was not one of the twelve.

My knowledge of each of the apostles does need some work. I am sure there are some rather fanciful books detailing their exploits. Know of any?

Joshua said...

Yes, I meant of the Twelve.

From what I recall, St John is alone portrayed as fresh-faced, while the other Apostles and Our Lord have beards, indicating them to be mature men as opposed to the young St John. Again, apart from Our Lord, all the Apostles, called at mature age, would naturally have been married, though presumably they gave up the use of marriage to follow Our Lord.