Art as Commentary

[Thanks go to Jasmin Borja for sharing related thoughts she and Professor Miller had on the St Albans Psalter.]

Biblical art, whether musical or pictorial, acts as a commentary on Scripture, especially in what it juxtaposes or omits as it organizes strands of thought.

One musical example is Psalm 2 in Handel’s Messiah climaxing in the ‘Hallelujah’ chorus (depicting Christ’s Resurrection) and then winding down to ‘I Know That My Redeemer Liveth’ and the resurrection discourse from I Corinthians 15. The representation is well worth remembering, far superior to any decontextualized ‘Hallelujah’ chorus you’ll ever hear.

Pictorially, I shall mention the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris, where painted high-relief scenes are carved into the backs of the wooden choir stalls. On the left, starting deep in the choir, are scenes from Mary’s visit to Elizabeth (above, at left) all the way up to Jesus in Gethsemane; on the right, stretching into the recesses of the choir, are Christ’s resurrection appearances and the Ascension. The omitted parts, of course, are the height of the Passion and Resurrection, which locate themselves dramatically in the reading of word and the administration of the Sacraments. This too, I thought, was brilliant.

In linguistics terms, the competence of Christian liturgy and art is divine, in the Son, who is the Word; but the performance is human, set as it is in the Church.

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One response to “Art as Commentary

  1. Pingback: Publican in Notre-Dame « Cogito, Credo, Petam

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