Thursday, July 30, 2015

An Artist's Prayer

The Crucified Christ by Fra Angelico circa 1395-1455

While perusing my news feed on Facebook, I came across a post by a brother Lay Dominican, Robert Curtis.  (My brother, by a different mother, but still my brother.)  He posted a poem he found in National Review, December 2014.  It's about another brother.  (See above parenthetical explanation.)  The poem is about Fra Angelico.  Fra Angelico was born Guido di Pietro. When he entered the Order of Preachers (Dominicans) he was given the religious name Brother John of Fiesole.  He was an artist.  He painted like an angel, hence the nickname Fra Angelico.  His painting was his prayer to God.  His work preached the Word.

Angelico’s Crucifixion
By Lee Oser

Tempura and gold on wood, circa 1445
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Fifth Avenue
Here is faith’s erotic life.
Prayer’s unfallen touch, whose brushstrokes hold
Strange virtues even now to halt
And hush our steps beneath the Cross of Love:
Magdelen staggers at the foot,
Her hair and dress a flame, her back to us; 
In rapt obedience in her mantle’s
Quiet blue, Mary seems small for her fate;
By hours the painter would have prayed
Like Dominic, as if his knees were stone, 
Low as the earth His blood does stain,
Adoring heaven’s patience without pride;
Knowing that truth becomes a book,
Augustine reads, his mother simply sees; 
The Lord’s beloved disciple sways
As one whose heart for joy or sorrow broke;
Francis, Thomas, Elizabeth
Perfect the number of this hallowed guild,
Who light a place where loss is gold,
So bent by love we hesitate to breathe---
Or else might feel perversely pressed
To scatter those proud saints like little birds
And batter down those brutal boards
And glide away with head bowed like a priest.

·         Found in National Review, December 2014.

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