©Michele L. Catanese
* The phrase 'a ray from heaven' and the entire quote come from a letter written by Vincent van Gogh to his brother Theo in 1882. The letter is found in Van Gogh's Letters: The Mind of the Artist in Paintings, Drawings, and Words, 1875-1890, edited by H. Anna Suh; page 69.
Note: The next post will be on December 4.
1. This is one of my photos taken in Taormina, Sicily, Italy, a decorative sign on the wall outside a granita shop. Granita is a type of ice, not gelato, but more of a Sicilian version of what some call Italian ice. It is very tasty and refreshing. This shop had other sweets, (dolci), espresso, and the like. These tiles are typical of ceramic work done by Sicilian artisans and are found all over the island. I chose this photo because it depicts a place of many delicious treats, reminding me of my childhood: my Sicilian relatives would come with baked goods which only were indulged in during the holidays. To find out more on granita click here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Granita
2. This is a painting of the wise and foolish virgins,(of unknown origin.) I like it because of its simplicity, but also because it depicts the separation of the virgins: the wise with their lamps burning are on one side and the foolish with their empty lamps are on the other. This is in keeping with the final teaching in the chapter where this parable is found (Matthew 25) in which Jesus spoke of the separation of the righteous on his right like sheep and the selfish on his left like goats.
3. This is an icon called Mary Most Holy Mother of All Nations by Fr. William Hart McNichols. I chose to use it here because it is the most beautiful icon I have ever seen. Keep in mind that taste is subjective and what moves one may not move another. However, I also chose it because this is a fabulous example of what I was describing: an inspired response to a vision, if you will. I say this because an icon is the result of a religious experience; all iconographers pray intensely over the work they do. You can purchase a copy of this icon in one of many different formats at http://frbillmcnichols-sacredimages.com/featured/mary-most-holy-mother-of-all-nations-080-william-hart-mcnichols.html. If you want to order some other cards or gifts, you can check out his entire website at http://frbillmcnichols-sacredimages.com/ (Remember, I gain nothing from making this suggestion except the joy of sharing the work of Fr. Bill.)
4. This painting is also the response to a vision, as it were. This painting is called Seascape near Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer by Vincent van Gogh. (1888) I chose it for this place in the blog as a reference to the quote which was written in a letter four years prior to this painting, but the painting is nonetheless appropriate. I grew up by the water and therefore I can understand how the beauty of the sea can evoke a sense of the infinite and therefore, of God.
5. This is a painting of Christ the King by Blessed Fra Angelico. I chose it because I love how Jesus is looking intently at the world, depicted as the globe, with His hand raised over it. I like to think He is blessing the world, but it is quite possible this is a scene of judgment in which He might be ready to separate the sheep from the goats. But do not forget that with judgment also comes mercy. Thank God!
6. This is a brilliant painting called The Bonaventure Pine by the artist Paul Signac. (1893) It is painted in a style called 'pointillism.' The technique is the usage of dots of color (the paint used here is oil) to construct the larger image. If you enlarge the painting, you can see the individual dots which work amazingly to create and define all the subjects being depicted in the foreground and the background. There are no brushstrokes, only dots of color. I chose it because it reminded me of the discernment needed, the closer look involved to grow in wisdom. The wise (spiritually) are able to connect the dots, so to speak, to see both the individual as well as the collective picture. Here are two wonderful explanations of this painting if you are interested: