minima maxima sunt

The Small things are the Great things; as in a grain of mustard seed.

Archive for the tag “christianity”

Obsecro Te

After the Gospel readings it was common to have a set of prayers to the Virgin Mary. I have completed the first and longest of the two prayers. This is the Obsecro Te, which translates as “I beseech thee”. Devotion and prayers to The Virgin Mary date back to the earliest years of Christianity and so it’s not surprising to find these in a book of hours. The prayers to the Virgin were sometimes personalized toward the intended owner of the book of hours. I have opted to represent the prayer as translated.

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September with fish and turtles

September ended up more on the whimsical side. Was partially inspired by a recent visit to St. Augustine, Florida. Some of the seaside local art helped me along with the theme for this month.img_0472img_0473

June and Kells

I decided to try a few designs from the Book of Kells in June. I ended up looking through several old manuscripts that fall into the Insular style of art. These include the Lindisfarne Gospels, Book of Durrow, Cathach of St. Columba, and of course the famous Book of Kells. So my poor attempts at knot work fill the pages here. Will need to work on these for better consistency and in future attempts to make them smaller and more fluid.

The “J” majuscule was a copy of one found in the Book of Kells as well as the peacock on the second page. Keeping with the style of insular illumination I didn’t add any gold foil to the pages in June. Insular illumination draws from the complex designs and imagery blended with the bright and carried colors. Yellow probably being used the most, other colors include purple, red, blue and greens. Animals and people also find their way into many of the designs in these books. If you ever have a chance to look at the art from Kells or Lindisfarne, you will see many times that even the knot work is a construct of animal shapes that have been morphed into the knot work. Truly amazing art.

I am most happy with the peacock on this page. I spent a lot of time trying to get the

right right feel on this and in the end it is the main attraction for June. Looking forward to doing more of these Celtic style designs in my book of hours and with any luck my knots will get better. …

Book of hours of Bénigne Serre, 1524

Several months ago I discovered a few places that will make replicas of Illuminated Manuscripts for a very reasonable price. Below is an example of my second purchase from one of these sites. These are printed pages and have no gold foil that you would find with a more expensive facsimile, but they are complete manuscripts, beautifully bound and covered by hand and they allow one to get a sense of reading, or just looking, at a book of hours.image

In the picture above I have the book cover shown. Decoration and a leather cover on it that will still need to rest as it was recently oiled. The pages, which you cannot see, were given gilded edges. The replica is of the Book of Hours of Bénigne Serre:

“A book of hours following the liturgical custom of Rome, with a calendar containing a selection of saints for Langres. The manuscript was illuminated and dated in 1524 by a Master of Bénigne Serre, who was known by the name of his client, a highly-ranked official of the King of Burgundy. The artist was a hitherto unknown illuminator from the circle of the “1520s The Hours Workshop,” which framed the miniatures with Renaissance architecture or added naturalistic flowers and animals to borders. This manuscript contains a number of unusual images, e.g., for the Lauds of the Office of the Virgin, the meeting of Joachim and Anna at the city gate of Jerusalem replaces the usual image of the Visitation. In the 18th century, the manuscript was owned by the family Bretagne of Dijon.” More information on this Book of Hours and contents.
Above is a text page from this manuscript. The writing is in Latin and all the pages in this book have excellent designs showing flowers, animals, people and places in the side bars. Below I have a few examples of some of the full page illustrations found in this book. These would normally indicate the beginning of a section of texts, prayers or psalms. The first is the adoration of the Magi from the “Hours of the Virgin”.  Joseph is in the door of the building behind, Mary and the Christ child in center and the Magi on the right.

This next picture shows a much darker scene as Death, riding a bull, slays a man. The text starts the Office of the Dead for Vespers. These are prayers for those in Purgatory.  The text follows from Psalm 116

“1 My heart is aflame, so graciously the Lord listens to my entreaty; 2 the Lord, who grants me audience when I invoke his name. 3 Death’s noose about me, caught in the snares of the grave, ever I found distress and grief at my side, 4 till I called upon the Lord, Save me, Lord, in my peril. 5 Merciful the Lord our God is, and just, and full of pity; 6 he cares for simple hearts, and to me, when I lay humbled, he brought deliverance. 7 Return, my soul, where thy peace lies; the Lord has dealt kindly with thee; 8 he has saved my life from peril, banished my tears, kept my feet from falling. 9 Mine to walk at ease, enjoying the Lord’s presence, in the land of the living.”


This last picture shows Mary as a young girl with St. Anne. This comes in the end of the book in what are called the “Suffrages”. These are prayers to Saints, or rather petitions to those saints to keep us in their prayers. The text in the picture translates: “A heavenly blessing entered into Anne, through whom the Virgin Mary was born for us.”
For more information on reproductions you can visit this website.
Golden Gryphon Productions

The Black Hours

Just when you think you’ve seen everything! That’s how I felt when first running across these beautiful manuscripts. Set on vellum dyed black, the illumination is almost visually over the top. Using both gold and silver for the text and filigree; and the vibrant blue and green colors glowing in the background almost gives me the impression that there is a cord plugged in behind the manuscript and a light being filtered through the pages.


The scene above is a depiction of the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost and below is the Crucifixion. Both are great examples of such manuscripts which are very rare. The Black Hours, which these pictures are taken from, was produced in Bruges in 1475 by Willem Vrelant.-Black_Hours-_-_Google_Art_Project












Black hours



Missa-Ashes and Asperges

There are times when the Penitential Rite is not used. Well maybe that isn’t the right way to say it. Rather the rite is replaced by another ceremony which fulfils the intent of the rite. This occurs several times during the year, most notably during the Easter season and on Ash Wednesday.

Byzantine Illumination from the book of Job.

Byzantine Illumination from the book of Job.

Ash Wednesday, which is our stepping stone into the season of Lent, is one of the most popular masses outside of the big holidays of Christmas and Easter. It’s significance is about repentance and mourning accompanied by fasting, prayer and alms especially during the Lenten season which follows. What most people come away with on Ash Wednesday is the remnant of what the day is named for, and that is ashes. After the homily, the priest will bless the Ashes, which were prepared from the palms of last years Palm Sunday,  and in a similar fashion to the Communion, the congregation will go forward and receive ashes on the forehead in the shape of a cross, (signum crucis). There is often an exhortation which accompanies this such as the minister saying to “Remember that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return.” or “Repent and believe the Gospel”

Baptism of the Lord from Belles Heures of Jean de France, duc de Berry

Baptism of the Lord from Belles Heures of Jean de France, duc de Berry

During the Easter Season and on a few other occasions through the year another ceremony will stand in place of the Penitential Rite. This ceremony is the Asperges, or blessing and sprinkling with water. It is a reminder of our baptismal vows.

The priest blesses water, and sprinkles himself and those serving then will move through the congregation and sprinkle holy water on those assembled. Often a hymn will accompany the blessing. The tie in with Baptism is clear with the use of water, but there is also a tie in with older stories from the Hebrew Scriptures. The Exodus, cleansing rituals for lepers, and even in Psalms the image of being cleansed, or purged with hyssop and blood calls to mind the very precious work Christ undertook to save us all, by the shedding of His Blood. As I take part in this blessing, seeing the flash of water from the priest and feeling the cool shock of its spray on my skin, I have to keep in mind exactly why it is water and no longer the blood of sacrificed animals we use today.

In both cases these alternate ceremonies tell us a different story but keep in with the intention and spirit of penitence, calling us to focus on different aspects of our own lives, through repentance, confession and the forgiveness of sins.

Jongleur de Dieu

Now everybody knows, I imagine, that the twelfth and thirteenth centuries were an awakening of the world. They were a fresh flowering of culture and the creative arts after a long spell of much sterner and even more sterile experience which we call the Dark Ages. They may be called an emancipation; they were certainly an end; an end of what may at least seem a harsher and more inhuman time. But what was it that was ended? From what was it that men were emancipated? That is where there is a real collision and point at issue between the different philosophies of history. On the merely external and secular side, it has been truly said that men awoke from a sleep; but there had been dreams in that sleep of a mystical and sometimes of a monstrous kind. In that rationalistic routine into which most modern historians have fallen, it is considered enough to say that they were emancipated from mere savage superstition and advanced towards mere civilised enlightenment. Now this is the big blunder that stands as a stumbling-block at the very beginning of our story. Anybody who supposes that the Dark Ages were plain darkness and nothing else, and that the dawn of the thirteenth century was plain daylight and nothing else, will not be able to make head or tail of the human story of St. Francis of Assisi. The truth is that the joy of St. Francis and his Jongleurs de Dieu was not merely an awakening. It was something which cannot be understood without understanding their own mystical creed. The end of the Dark Ages was not merely the end of a sleep. It was certainly not merely the end of a superstitious enslavement. It was the end of something belonging to a quite definite but quite different order of ideas.

—From St. Francis of Assisi by G.K. Chesterton

Several years ago while transitioning back to the catholic faith, I discovered G.K. Chesterton. Actually this discovery had a lot to do with beginning my journey back to the ancient church. Chesterton was in many ways like a C.S. Lewis but on steroids, and as a lover of Lewis’ writings it wasn’t too hard to jump into the vastness of this man known as the Apostle of Common Sense.

Chesterton has two books which touch on the lives of saints from the Middle Ages which are a must – read for anyone interested in this time in history. One is on St. Thomas Aquinas and the other on this Saint, who must be the most popular outside of catholic culture.

Retablo of St. Francis

It is not uncommon to see statues of Francis adorning gardens, or hear of the Saint held in patronage by modern movements that want to tie in the deep passion of this man to their cause. In fact Francis has become a “saint for all seasons”, if you will, in our modern world; finding patronage among environmentalists, rebels, reformed churches, gays and lesbians, and nature worshippers. But like it or not, the fact is that Francis was catholic, and catholic in the fullest way. He and his followers became fools to the world, and troubadours for God, even if they are more commonly understood as troubadours to the world and fools for God. They lived in poverty, accepted the celibate life, fed the poor, and lived among the sick. The lepers caused no fear, they brought them food and cared for them. Begging was not a shame but a denial of power; they were mendicants in order to spend their time serving others, and their passion may have helped wake up the world of their day, much as it woke up the Church to areas of neglect as it struggled in its task to hold together the whole of western Europe after the collapse of the western Roman Empire.  In the end the greatest point that can be made about Francis is that he was simply a Catholic Saint.

Chesterton’s works can be found on the web and many of his books are available for free on iBooks if you have. If the excerpt above has peaked your curiosity about Francis and maybe even more of Chesterton, then know I give my highest recommendations for both.


October from the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry

Of the four months that still retain the Roman numbering for their names, October might be the one most easily recognized as having an association with the number eight. Other words based off the Roman word octo, such as every kids favorite sea creature, the Octopus, may have helped to make the tie in. (O.K. Sharks may be more popular than the octopus). Octagon, Octave, and Octuplets, may have also tipped off many. The old Roman calendar did not contain January or February, which meant the year only had ten months, making october the eighth.

From my childhood and to this day, the autumn has been my favorite season. Even naming the month of October sends a stream of nostalgia into my thoughts. Cool brisk mornings, leaves changing color and the cap off of the month; Halloween.

The Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry offers a grand view of the Louvre in the 14th century. Standing tall beyond the walls it is the backdrop for another Calendar in this famous Book of Hours. In the forefront we see fields being tilled and sowed; and an archer stands beyond. In the distance, people are walking on the waterfront of the Seine under the massive walls that surround the Louvre.

The Louvre was originally built as a fortress in the 12th century. In the 14th it was turned into the palace we see here. The palace would eventually be demolished and several new phases of developement would take place over the next centuries. Around 16th century is when the Louvre begins to make it’s trasition into it’s current state, being used to host galleries and artistic salons. In 1793 the Museum Central des Arts is opened by the post revolution government.

The Louvre today.

Today the Louvre is one of the worlds largest museums, displaying among many wonderful pieces of art, the famous Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci, the Venus de Milo, and the Supper at Emmaus by Rembrandt.

The feasts on the General Roman Calendar celebrated during the month of October are:

1. Therese of the Child Jesus, Memorial
2. Guardian Angels, Memorial
4. Francis of Assisi, Memorial
5. Faustina Kowalska, virgin, Opt. Mem.
6. Bruno; Bl. Marie Rose Durocher (USA), Opt. Mem.
7. Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sunday
14. Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sunday
15. Teresa of Jesus, Memorial
16. Hedwig; Margaret Mary Alacoque, Opt. Mem.
17. Ignatius of Antioch, Memorial
18. Luke, Feast
19. Isaac Jogues, John de Brébeuf and companions (USA), Memorial
20. Paul of the Cross, Opt. Mem.
21. Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sunday
23. John of Capistrano, Opt. Mem.
24. Anthony Claret, Opt. Mem.
28. Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sunday

St. Matthew and the Angel

Mathew and the Angel

St. Matthew was one of the twelve apostles of Christ mentioned in the Gospels. He is noted as being a tax collector an occupation which even then wasn’t a very popular. Matthew was called by Christ to come and follow and so he did. He becomes a disciple, one of the twelve, and along with the others is given authority to bind and loose. He is at the resurrection, ascension and the descent of the Holy Spirit. But then we lose sight of him except through various traditions and legends.

It is believed that he may have travelled into the east and Persia for a time. It is also thought that he travelled to Ethiopia (Asiatic Ethiopia which was south of the Caspian Sea in Persia) and this may be a possible location for his martyrdom as Matthew is mentioned in the Roman Martyrology; “S. Matthæi, qui in Æthiopia prædicans martyrium passus est”. The popular belief has him preaching in Judea for about fifteen years then to heading out into the east which would be consistent with the martyrdom.

The Gospel Symbol from the book of Kells

Matthew is attributed with writing a gospel during his time in Judea and this sets him as one of the Four Evangelists, along with Mark, Luke and John. The symbol associated with Matthews Gospel is that of an angel or winged man. This can be seen in Iconography and art throughout the centuries. One claim concerning the symbol was that the first story from the gospel is about an Angel appearing to Joseph in a dream. Others that the winged man represents the humanity of Christ, because the gospel contains the genealogy of Christ. It may also signify the Jews as the people Matthew was writing to. The Gospel was claimed to be written by Matthew while in Judea and was reported as being written in Hebrew. The Gospel seems geared to speaking to the Jews in it’s terms and idioms, being careful to not offend by using terms like the Kingdom of Heaven as opposed to the term Kingdom of God which is used in the other Gospels. Modern scholars tend to believe that someone else wrote the gospel, most likely a Jewish Christian, but not the apostle.

The feast of St. Matthew is September 21st. He is the patron saint of: Accountants; bankers; bookkeepers; customs officers; security guards; stock brokers; tax collectors; Salerno, Italy.


The story of the christian faith can sometimes be a very narrow story, especially when Tradition is overlooked in light of the written word. In the ancient church, the word wasn’t something confined to just the Bible but to the apostolic authority passed on from Christ Himself. In fact the very reason we even have a Bible is because of Tradition in this sense, and the rejection of tradition in many ways has left us in the dark about much of the christian faith. I would bet that if you asked a person on the street about St. Peter, Paul, Mary, or even John, they would at least recognize the name as one surrounding the story of Jesus Christ; but if you asked the same person about St. Bartholomew, they would probably not even know that he was one of the very apostles of Christ. This is because there is not much said about him in the Bible; but if we look into tradition, even tradition that isn’t dogmatic, there is a tale to be told about this Saint.

St. Bartholomew’s tale, like most of the apostles, ends in martyrdom, that ideal which was essential in the early church and would be considered insane today. An ideal that leaves many christians who must at the least see the whole foundation of their faith resting on the shoulders of the One Crucified, cringing at the consequences of holding the faith to the point of death, but was desired by many in those early years of the church and to this day. His story begins where all the stories of the apostles really begin, and that is with Christ “sending them out” in the great commission. The word apostle translates to “one who is sent” in Greek, and it is here that the transition from disciple to apostle occurs, and where the story of Bartholomew begins.

Bartholomew is said to have travelled as far as India, and may have left a copy of the Gospel of Matthew there, written in Hebrew. This comes from Eusebius and also from Jerome, both writers from the 4th century. In other stories He is said to have preached in Mesopotamia, Persia and Armenia of which he is considered the patron saint and where he was martyred.

One tradition holds that his martyrdom was by beheading and another that he was flayed alive and crucified. This later tradition can be seen in the art and iconography surrounding the Saint as he is shown holding his skin or wearing it like a stole, a priestly garment. I was reminded of the parable of Jesus concerning wineskins, and thought how this would play into such symbology. As mentioned earlier, the idea of martyrdom isn’t a popular one today, but in ancient times even the most gruesome deaths were seen as almost a badge of honor, and grounds for instant sainthood, but I think the point is that the such stories are meant to shock us. The traditions grew to remind us, to make us consider, to speak for those who’s voices were silenced. The fact that a story is grotesque may cause us to cringe, but it is certain to cause us to listen.

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