minima maxima sunt

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

Archive for the tag “saints”


Have a few updates I’m hoping to put out today. The last month of the calendar I completed about a weeks ago. I was very excited with this last calendar entry for a few reasons. I was looking forward to getting into new sections of a book of hours, (the gospel readings). December and Christmas are favorite times of the year and I had a lot of ideas for the art. I also planned to do some kind of Saint or Icon referencing the incarnation.

Really the first time to try drawing a Saint or human figure in the book. I know I have mentioned several times that I am a hack at this. Not really a refined artist, my calligraphy is not that great….. But drawing hands… yikes! I was happy with the Virgin Mary that I drew but those hands took several attempts to get right. I am satisfied with the final and hope this gets easier as I do plan to have more of this.

Ending the calendar I had planned for a while to have a winter scene with cardinals and snow. A simple scene of winter.

August Thistle and Rose

August was a re-visit to the Flemish art style. Flowers with shadows make the panel art seem to pop out of the page. My first try at this was in February with Oak leaves.

So the top picture is obviously a rose surrounded by gold foil, the side panel… Are doodle flowers and I’m not sure if they could be tied to an actual type of flower in existence.

On the second page is Thistle surrounded by gold and on the side panel are Geranium. These grew wild in Alaska and I had a few of these planted in my yard when I lived there. They came back every year.

July. Ivy and Peacock Feathers

For July I looked back on January. My first attempts in my book of hours were full of trial and error. I revisited what I envisioned and here is the result. I will probably continue to re-do the first part of the year in the second half to see where I grew.

Ivy with gold leaves and a few animals. I used watercolor pencils for the peacock feathers and took a quick lesson on you tube on how to make them. Overall very happy with July and seeing my progress.

First page had a huge blunder on one date where I put the Saint on the wrong day. Blotted out to cover and shows. Will start focusing on the illuminated letters going forward. I figure that once I complete the calendar and move into other parts of the hours I will allow more room for this and have some fun.

Second page had no big blunders. Mixing the gold leaves with a few greens, red berries, a bird and a snail.

February and March

February calendar went a little better. Still had a few mistakes but didn’t need to patch anything like I did in January.

I tried a few different styles in February. The first page I tried to follow the look of a Flemish Book of Hours. Focus on objects shadowed to allow them to pop out of the page. Flemish book of hours often used natural objects like flowers, plants, vegetables and even animals like fish shadowed on a flat color background.

The second half I tried at a more Celtic approach. Found a design n the web that I thought would fit in the side panel and went from there.  I also took a different approach to applying the gold foil to keep it more flat and avoid the embossed look I ended up with in January.  Because the paper is rough I still don’t get a smooth shine but I am satisfied with what I get here.

March went even better than February, still working on the calligraphy, and seems I always get one date wrong and have to redo. Regardless, I felt much more at ease completing March as the process is becoming familiar.

The pictures this month were inspired by art I saw while in Mexico recently. The suite at the resort we stayed at was right on a pond with fish, turtles, frogs and iguana. I suppose this is the first month where I had a theme that seems consistent. January was just doodling, February had oak leaves timing it together, but March is all about the fish pond.

So a little about the calendar. A book of hours started with a calendar noting the various feasts and memorials of the church. Seems like there was always a day around the corner to remember, celebrate and maybe even prepare a special meal for. There are letters next to the calendar days which allowed the calendar to function as a perpetual calendar. These are dominical letters. A simple but brilliant idea. By adding these letters, from a to g for the days of the week, a person only needed to know what letter aligned with Sunday for the year they were in, then the rest of the letters would follow and they could know which weekdays each date corresponded to. For instance if Sunday (Domingo) this year aligns with “c” then every date with a “c” next to it is a Sunday for this year. That means that “d” will note Monday’s and so on.

My New Project

After years of enjoying illuminated manuscripts I have decided to make one of my own. Way out of my league of course, as my writing/calligraphy is terrible, never used gold foil before and,  well, to be honest just about everything is a hack on this. I decided to do a book of hours, so a little research to get things right and to also update information. I want it to be true to the history but with a little post modern thrown in. image

Using some traditional and some new types of media. Gouache, gel pens, ink of India and a calligraphy set, imitation gold foil, a blank journal with leather binding from Hobby Lobby. Calendar dates are from the General Roman Calendar online and some help from the annotated book of hours, also online. And of course reviewing pictures of several illuminated manuscript studies and facsimiles I have.


For my first month of January there was a lot of trial and error. I actually patched over a few sections to correct mistakes and cover failed attempts at the art. The adhesive for the gold foil I laced on a bit too heavy so it looks more embossed. I had a better time doing February which I will post soon with some information on the calendars in a book of hours.

The Eucharistic Prayers

thCAOT4ZN9The Eucharistic Prayers, of which there are 4 used in the Catholic Liturgy, are in my opinion, the most interesting parts of the mass. Without a doubt this is the most solemn part of the liturgy, with bells and sometimes incense, and of course the more noticeable posture of kneeling for which we catholics often get chided. However apart from the kidding or, where applicable, scorn; this is really that part of the mass where something really becomes massed.

O.k.. it was a pun but an honest one. Historically the term Mass comes from the Latin missa, which is used at the end of the service, to dismiss the congregation. Ite missa est, which roughly translates as “go you are sent”. It is the root of such words as dismissal in the English. But mass is also a word used in physics to speak to the physical properties of a substance. Gravity, matter, weight and force. In this the term mass comes from the Greek masa, and interestingly enough translates as a lump of dough or barley cake.

It is in this second meaning, which really has nothing to do with the use of the term Mass in the liturgy, that I find an interesting correlation. It is this, that during the consecration of the Eucharist in the prayers, the object is in a way massed. Not merely a representation, which we can all see in the use of bread and wine as symbols; but in truth a presentation of the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, of Jesus Christ. And this is why we kneel. The real presence of Jesus Christ, in the Eucharist, is to the church what the Holy of Holies was to the Jews, and until the completion of the communion rite, the church will kneel or stand and attend to the importance and sacredness of the moment.11-16BookOfHoursDog

I have posted the Eucharistic Prayer 1 below. It is a longer prayer than some of the others but notice the flow of it. The obvious portions from the gospels and the last supper are here, but the prayer is much larger; bringing together the church today and the church of the past. Especially in this prayer you will see names of early martyrs and saints along with the apostles, Joseph and Mary. In a wonderful way, this prayer expresses the very heart of the Catholic faith, which is it’s universalism or completeness. We see the mystical body of Christ, the church, and at the center and point of focus is Jesus Christ.

Eucharist Prayer 1

P: To you, therefore, most merciful Father,
we make humble prayer and petition
through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord: that you accept
He makes the Sign of the Cross once over the bread and
chalice together, saying:
and bless these gifts, these offerings,
these holy and unblemished sacrifices,
which we offer you firstly
for your holy catholic Church.
Be pleased to grant her peace,
to guard, unite and govern her
throughout the whole world,
together with your servant N. our Pope
and N. our Bishop, *Here the current Pope and local Bishop are inserted in place of N
and all those who, holding to the truth,
hand on the catholic and apostolic faith.

Remember, Lord, your servants N. and N. *Here the names of those the Mass is being spoken for such as recently departed members.
and all gathered here,
whose faith and devotion are known to you.
For them, we offer you this sacrifice of praise
or they offer it for themselves
and all who are dear to them:
for the redemption of their souls,
in hope of health and well-being,
and paying their homage to you,
the eternal God, living and true.

In communion with those whose memory we venerate,
especially the glorious ever-Virgin Mary,
Mother of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ,
† and blessed Joseph, her Spouse,
your blessed Apostles and Martyrs,
Peter and Paul, Andrew,
(James, John,
Thomas, James, Philip,
Bartholomew, Matthew,
Simon and Jude;
Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus,
Cornelius, Cyprian,
Lawrence, Chrysogonus,
John and Paul,
Cosmas and Damian)
and all your Saints;
we ask that through their merits and prayers,
in all things we may be defended
by your protecting help.
(Through Christ our Lord. Amen.)

P: On the day before he was to suffer,
he took bread in his holy and venerable hands,
and with eyes raised to heaven
to you, O God, his almighty Father,
giving you thanks, he said the blessing,
broke the bread
and gave it to his disciples, saying:

He bows slightly.


He shows the consecrated host to the people, places it again on
 the paten, and genuflects in adoration.

P: In a similar way, when supper was ended

he took this precious chalice
in his holy and venerable hands,
and once more giving you thanks, he said the blessing
and gave the chalice to his disciples, saying:


He shows the chalice to the people, places it on the corporal,
 and genuflects in adoration.

P: The mystery of faith.

C: We proclaim your Death, O Lord,
and profess your Resurrection
until you come again.
When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup,
we proclaim your Death, O Lord,
until you come again.
Save us, Savior of the world,
for by your Cross and Resurrection
you have set us free.

P: Therefore, O Lord,
as we celebrate the memorial of the blessed Passion,
the Resurrection from the dead,
and the glorious Ascension into heaven
of Christ, your Son, our Lord,
we, your servants and your holy people,
offer to your glorious majesty
from the gifts that you have given us,
this pure victim,
this holy victim,
this spotless victim,
the holy Bread of eternal life
and the Chalice of everlasting salvation.

Be pleased to look upon these offerings
with a serene and kindly countenance,
and to accept them,
as once you were pleased to accept
the gifts of your servant Abel the just,
the sacrifice of Abraham, our father in faith,
and the offering of your high priest Melchizedek,
a holy sacrifice, a spotless victim.

In humble prayer we ask you, almighty God:
command that these gifts be borne
by the hands of your holy Angel
to your altar on high
in the sight of your divine majesty,
so that all of us, who through this participation at the altar
receive the most holy Body and Blood of your Son,

may be filled with every grace and heavenly blessing.

(Through Christ our Lord. Amen.)

Remember also, Lord, your servants N. and N.,
who have gone before us with the sign of faith
and rest in the sleep of peace.

Grant them, O Lord, we pray,
and all who sleep in Christ,
a place of refreshment, light and peace.

(Through Christ our Lord. Amen.)

To us, also, your servants, who, though sinners,

hope in your abundant mercies,
graciously grant some share
and fellowship with your holy Apostles and Martyrs:
with John the Baptist, Stephen,
Matthias, Barnabas,
(Ignatius, Alexander,
Marcellinus, Peter,
Felicity, Perpetua
Agatha, Lucy,
Agnes, Cecilia, Anastasia)
and all your Saints;
admit us, we beseech you,
into their company,
not weighing our merits,
but granting us your pardon,

through Christ our Lord.

Through whom
you continue to make all these good things, O Lord;
you sanctify them, fill them with life,
bless them, and bestow them upon us.

Through him, and with him, and in him,
O God, almighty Father,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
all glory and honor is yours,
for ever and ever.

C: Amen

John the Eagle

Eagle Symbol of John

Eagle Symbol of John

The Apostle John has a Feast day on the 27th of Dec. He is understood to have written the last of the Gospels which were included into the canon of scripture, and is also credited with three epistles and the Book of Revelation which concludes the New Testament.

Like the other Gospels, Johns has a focus, an idea that is built into the telling. Matthew wrote the Jews, Mark focused on ministry, Luke to the gentiles and these three writers all tell a very similar story. Johns gospel takes a very different turn, and focuses on theology. Keeping with the other gospels, John uses the framework of Jesus’ life. But John digs in deep,  bringing to the fore front the sacraments like baptism and the eucharist. He uses the events in Jesus life to key in on these strange christian practices, not only to show us they come from Christ but to explain what is really going on spiritually. Baptism is being “born again” or “born from above” (John 3) ; the Eucharist is the real presence, the Body and Blood, of Christ (John 6).

John on Patmos. The Eagle brings him ink.

John on Patmos. The Eagle brings him ink.

It is important to note that there is no Last Supper mentioned in the Gospel of John. Instead the narrative from Chapter 6 takes it’s place, explaining the same concept in a more dramatic way. It seems that even during Johns life, there must have been some confusion or misunderstanding about the Blessed Sacrament and John puts the whole argument out for all to see. He doesn’t dice any words, doesn’t bend left or right, he puts it all out there; Jesus’ claim, the reaction, Jesus’ re-affirming, the reaction again and even to the point where the 12 questioned Him. Jesus remains firm on this, and John makes it known.

John was the youngest Apostle, often pictured without a beard. He is the only original apostle to die a natural death; all the others were martyred. His writings conclude the book of Gospels (Evangelion), the epistles, and the book of the New testament, and the entire canon of Scriptures which the Church acknowledges.

John is often pictured as or with an eagle, which is the Evangelical symbol for the apostle. The eagle soars high above, it was said that the eagle could look into the sun, and such perspective and mysticism fills Johns Gospel. As such it gets a little extra attention. Readings from the Gospel of John are read at mass during the Easter season and in the Tridentine mass the ceremony concluded with a recital of the first chapter of John.


In principio erat Verbum et Verbum erat apud Deum et Deus erat Verbum.

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.


Cosmas and Damian in a Letter from an illuminated manuscript.

Sts. Cosmas and Damian are names you may recognize from the Eucharistic Prayers in the Liturgy and the Litany of Saints. They are among a very few that have such an honor, and like the other Saints mentioned, they are from the very earliest years of the faith. They are recorded as being martyred around the year 287 during the persecutions under Diocletian. They were crucified, then beaten and finally beheaded.

Cosmas and Damian were twin brothers who were also physicians. They provided their services accepting no payment, which is what the term “Unmercenary” refers to. Not only did this do much to attract people to the Christian faith, but it also landed them as the patron saints of surgeons and physicians. They are also patrons, of dentists, child protectors, barbers and against the plague.

“In communion with the whole Church, they venerate above all others the memory of the glorious ever-virgin Mary, Mother of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ, then of blessed Joseph, husband of the Virgin, your blessed Apostles and Martyrs, Peter and Paul, Andrew, James, John, Thomas, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon and Jude: Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, Cornelius, Cyprian, Laurence, Chrysogonus, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian and all your Saints: grant through their merits and prayers that in all things we may be defended by the help of your protection.”

From the Communicantes

The Ball and the Cross/Stephen of Hungary

St. Shephen King of Hungary by Ladislav Nemeth

O.K., so maybe you know my affinity for G.K. Chesterton, and picked up on the title of one of my favorite books by the “Apostle of Common Sence”. The Ball and the Cross is a fiction that plays out a debate. The story starts as a bit of classic fantasy just like you would expect from the 1920’s, but then shifts to the main characters which are a Roman Catholic and an atheist, who having vowed to kill each other in a dual, end up hashing through the arguments, debates and perspectives until they develop a mutual respect for each other and become friends. The clash of the ancient faith and enlightenment skepticism are often offset by other world-views and philosophies which the main characters encounter in their attempts to begin their dual.

St. Stephen of Hungary

The naming of the book has to do with an old christian symbol knows as the Globus Cruciger, which translates as cross bearing orb, or in Chestertonian, a ball and a cross.

It was while looking into the history of St. Stephen of Hungary that in noticed the Confessor King was holding one of these objects, in an icon as well as a statue. The globus cruciger is often seen in the hands of leaders from the middle ages and on. It represents the world, (the globe) and the authority of Christ (the cross). As early as the 5th century this symbol can be found in religious art or writing, and later on would top off church buildings. It is also noteworthy that the world is a globe and not some flat slab or disc; another proof to debunk the flat earth myth.

St. Stephens feast day is August 16th, in the current roman calender, and he lived from 1001- 1038 AD. He is one of several Confessor Kings, or Kings that confessed Christ and are considered Saints, and like some of the other Confessor Kings, he was a warrior as well as a contemplative.  A sort of King Arthur to Hungary, he would bring the country out of the turmoil of rebellion from pagan princes and turned Hungary into a christian nation.

Some may find it strange the idea of a confessor king. Too often the cry of church and state is applied to the medieval church which really misses the point. In fact too often the church and state did not see eye to eye. Emperors were excommunicated and  popes were imprisoned. The tension which existed between the Church and State flies in the face of claims of modern critics who use such church/state stereotypes to push their own idiology/state agendas today. There was a balance then between the civil government and the church, and while the two often did find the time to work together, they also protected their own authorities from control by the other. Much of this would change after the reformation, though to some extent existed in the Eastern Roman Empire, as kings, and Caesars would also take on the responsibilities not only of the empire or state but also of the church, and it is here that the blending of church and state become apparent. Even in cases where the church and state overlapped, it should be understood within the time; after all christianity was the common belief and world view of the middle ages.

Stephen, like the other confessor kings were men who walked in both worlds. Like the ball and the cross, they are symbols on a personal level of the world and the cross, of people who are living in the world but not of it but caught up into a unity of ideas. Like any person of faith be they pauper or king, Stephen walks in two worlds, he is a king who lived his faith, he holds authority over his domain, and yet found his own world the domain of the King of Kings.

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