Sunday, March 28, 2010

Virtual Sistine Chapel

On the Vatican website you can tour the Sistine Chapel in a simulated way. Thanks to Prof. Scott for finding this. It feels a lot like a video game actually, a very dizzying and awkward to manuever videogame but you can get really great quality images of every inch of what Pope John Paul the Great referred to as "the sancuary of Theology of the Body".

Michelangelo's depictions of the human body painted right on the walls and ceiling of a building as prominent in Catholicism as the Sistine Chapel is very affirming for me and what I feel called to as a Catholic figurative artist. I was eating lunch with some (Catholic) friends and showed them my sketchbook which includes life drawings from nude models and they were teasing me about it. They were joking, all in good humor of course, about how I believe "God wants me to draw naked people". I could tell that they were having a hard time reconciling God with the naked human body which is a reflection of our cultural attitude we have aquired. The truth is that the human body has very much to do with God in a very particular way. God made people in His image. We tend to think this means that our spirits our made in His image and our bodies are just sort of shells containing our spirits. Actually, God's image in us doesn't stop at our non-physical selves but spills over into our physical bodies. God's image embraces all of man, integrated body and soul. Our bodies and our souls are inexorally connected. The body expresses or makes visible the soul. In all of creation, it is the human body which most concisely communicates by making visible the invisible spiritual reality which is God. I could go on and on from many different angles...but what more does God have to do to get it through our thick heads and hearts that our bodies are not to be estranged from Him. I mean for crying our loud consider the Incarnation. Break it The God of the universe took on human flesh. Why did He do this? To espouse us, all of us-including our bodies, to Himself. He took on our humanstuff to redeem it, and this redemption is an ongoing process. Don't believe for a minute that God doesn't have anything to do with our bodies...He is VERY intensely interested in the union of our bodies with His own assumed flesh. Just consider the Eucharist, where Jesus offers Himself entire...His very flesh, to be taken into our own bodies. Hmmm...I think He wants to have very much to do with our bodies. Jesus, God incarnate, is all about NOT being estranged from our bodies! I hope through my art I can do a small part in proclaiming this truth of integration... that of our own bodies and souls and of our whole selves with God in Christ.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Architecture and the Human Body

For my Renaissance art history class I was assigned to read about Michelangelo's architecture and one thing that caught my attention is how the form of the human body influenced his architecture. I thought this was an interesting concept and just reinforced my perception of how for me it all comes down to the body; God's revelation of Himself through our bodies which image Him and through the Incarnation where God took on our humanity. From the reading I got that by having the form of the human body influence architectural design, the building as a result is humanized and made more accessible to people. I'm sure Michelangelo, with his love affair of the human form, was keenly aware of this. I found this part of the reading fascinating as it spoke from another, unexpected angle, architecture, about the accessibility of the human body, of its power to communicate in a way that is relatable to people. The communicative force of the human body tied which is naturally tied into this relational factor is the reason I'm so drawn to the human form in my own art. Also, God took on the human form to make himself accessible to us, to enable us to relate to him. It's just amazing how all aspects of the human experience echo this, it's ingrained in us.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Discernment and Theology of the Body

Sr. Helena Burns, fsp, has some great insight into how Theology of the Body can inform our discernment. This presentation is right up my alley, combining the two things I'm currently most obsessed with!

One thing I really appreciate is how Sr. Helena witnesses to the way discovering Theology of the Body informed the way she lived out her vows as a consecrated woman.
I am convinced that TOB is key for us all to more fully live out our vocations. I know for me personally when I started to feel a nudge toward religious life I resisted because I didn't understand celibacy. I know at one point I had a conception of celibacy being the ignoring or denial of one's sexuality and an ignoring of one's desires for love and intimacy. I would complain, "God, why would you give me these desires to frustrate them...that's just plain doesn't make sense". But gradually, through studying TOB and experiencing God's personal love and desire for me through prayer...I came to understand that God didn't give us such desires to frustrate but to fulfill them, ultimately with His very self. Earthly marriage is meant to point to the Marriage of the Lamb, our union to God in Christ. Some people are called to skip the earthly sign and entrust all their desires to God for Him to fulfill. And does he ever! Only God affirms and satisfies totally...the WHOLE person, body and soul. He has affirmed me as woman. As I came to this realization my aversion to celibacy gave way gradually to this intense attraction! After tasting God's love I've come to know that He's more than enough to satisfy me, all of me. God desires our total gift; body and soul, and gives all of His self to us. I desire to give Him all my love and for Him to be my only Love. But then on the other hand...if God is calling to marriage, though if this is His will He'd have to tweak my desires because my heart is set on Him alone as my Lover, I'd have a solid foundation because any healthy relationship must be grounded in God. Married couples must also recognize God as their ultimate fulfillment or there is the danger for them to expect their spouses to fulfill them totally, something only God can do, leading to big problems!

So thus having an understanding that God is our ultimate fulfillment makes living out your vocation, wether it be consecrated celibacy or marriage, possible through His grace. The question becomes...what is the best way for you personally to spend your love? You come to know this through opening your desires to to God and letting Him reveal to you who you really are, what you are made for...which vocation would be be most fulfilling and give you the most life. Delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart...He will reveal to you your deepest desires satisfy them because it is He who gave you those desires! This involves a lot of trust, but we have to understand that God is more than worthy of our trust, and He will keep proving this to you if you let Him. Pray that that I may ever more deeply surrender to God's loving plans and I will pray the same for you!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

What piece of art reflects my vocation?

It's been a little while since I last wrote because midterm week was crazy busy for me. Now I am writing from the Franciscan University library, I'm here visiting some friends for a few days. I just want to reflect a bit on Christ's body and our bodies. I was prompted a little while ago to reflect on what piece of art would reflect my vocation. While I initially thought Bernini's St. Theresa in Ecstasy would be the best fit I then thought I needed a piece of art that more clearly expressed the redemption of the body. (This is not to say St. Theresa in Ecstasy isn't a very relevant piece of art reflecting my vocation, this is an entry for another time). I thought that Michelangelo's Risen Christ was a rather suitable piece that effectively expressed what I particularly feel called to. Both the statue (excluding that detracting sculpted cloth covering Jesus' "manhood"), and this wonderfully expressive sketch which I love.

If this piece of art doesn't express the redemption of the body I don't know what does! Love it! I'm going to be writing a paper on Michelangelo focused on this so I'll have more relevant material later to share I'm sure. It's becoming clearer to me that Jesus has entrusted the mystery of His body...the incarnation...the redemption of our own bodies through His, in a particular way to me. What makes me say this? Well there are multiple reasons, many of which can't be adequately described in words though I'll list a few reasons.

The most important...He has revealed to me His presence in the Eucharist. My spirituality is intensely's all about His precious body and my union...body and soul..with Him. I won't get into explicit detail about how He has, and continues to reveal His Eucharistic presence to me here publicly on my blog because it is an intimate sort of thing but feel free to talk to me individually. I'm very open to and enthusiastic about sharing the way God has revealed Himself to me, to an extent. There are some things for now that are to stay between me and Jesus.

The second reason, which is naturally tied up into the first reason, is JPII's Theology of the Body. I'm utterly obsessed with Theology of the Body as about anyone who's talked to me in any depth can ascertain. The Theology of the Body is I believe as Fr. Thomas Loya described to me, the answer to all of life's problems. Essentially TOB is a presentation of the Gospel that is really accessible for me and for people of today. Of course the ideas of TOB are nothing new, just JPII really presented this Gospel message through the lenses of embodiment and sexuality in a way that really resonates with the "language" of people today. I could go on an on about TOB. Since TOB is essentially the Gospel, it is essentially about redemption of the body, (and the spirit expressed though the body). Jesus took on our flesh to redeem it!

Another reason is my talent for figurative art. My art is all about the human form. I hope to reveal through my art an authentic vision of the human person (through the body naturally). In a conversation I had with Fr. Thomas a while ago, he said that the way to redeem our pornofied culture is to help others see the human body as a true artist its beauty and dignity which reveals God...who has imprinted His very image in us. I was in open figure drawing a few weeks ago, drawing a young man. I had just come back from adoring Jesus in the Eucharist. I couldn't help but think...I'm drawing Jesus. This man images Jesus.

So there you have it. My relationship with Jesus is very physical...He has given me this awareness, entrusting this to me so I can proclaim that He calls everyone to this communion with Himself. For me it's all about His body.