Icon by Nita Leland
Icon by Nita Leland
Artist: Unknown Italian Artist (Unknown - Unknown)
Title: St. Catherine of Sienna
Medium: Tempera on panel
Dates: late 15th Century
Staten Island Museum
Artemisia Gentileschi (July 8, 1593 – c.1656)
And Caravaggio, middle left.
Flannery O’Connor, ”Some Aspects of the Grotesque in Southern Fiction”
There has to be a way of saying “I’m agnostic but I was raised Presbyterian” that captures the idea that even though I am not (and never really was) a practicing Christian in the sense that I had faith, I still grew up going to church and going through the motions and living in the culture of white middle class Protestant Calvinism—without actually having to say all of that. What I’m trying to express is a sense of Christian culture without the assumption that I am in any way a practicing Christian. A way of saying that no, I don’t believe, but Judeo-Christian iconography and spiritual poetry still resonate with me, because that is how I was brought up.
I’m thinking about using ‘lapsed Presbyterian’ the way my college roomies described themselves as lapsed Catholics. Because it was a significant portion of my upbringing even though I was never a willing participant. Flannery O’Connor’s phrase “Christ-haunted” rather than Christ-centered seems particularly accurate right now; I think we could expand that to describe American culture as a whole, not just the southeast (although some regions moreso than others).
He came back shriveled.
Only the furrow behind him in the yellow sand
showed that he was moving.
From their perches the lookouts reported:
something is coming out of the desert.
They gathered on the border.
They pulled him into the world of green.
I am the one you sent, he said.
It was like pincers talking
when he spoke.
Then his head slumped down,
impaled on a willow wand.
He’s not one of us, they thought,
and gazed at his doggish tongue
licking the grass.
What news from the Forbidden, they asked.
It’s all true, he shivered,
and the pincers of his mouth closed shut.
They dropped water onto his tongue and demanded:
Isn’t there a garden on the other side?
Isn’t everything we don’t have in that garden?
Everything you know is true, he rustled.
This isn’t the one we sent, they said,
and slit his vein.
Then the slow grey liquid came oozing out of it,
they were sure
he was a hostile being.
They left him there. (His ribs thinned to
sticks of brushwood.)
They chose a new messenger.
-Dane Zajc (trans. Veno Taufer and Michael Scammell)
Saint Augustin,1645-1650 -detail- Philippe de Champaigne.
Félicien Rops, Sainte-Thérèse
I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the iron’s point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart, and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it. The soul is satisfied now with nothing less than God.
-The Life of St. Teresa of Jesus, of the Order of Our Lady of Carmel (trans. David Lewis)