Sunday, May 12, 2013

A great discussion on the reception history of John 20

Recently, I sailed into a lecture room to do an Adult Education forum in a nearby church on the reception history of John 20 as "Ban and Blessing" continuing their theme of resurrection in the post-Easter season leading up to Pentecost. All the chairs were set up in front of a screen. In the centre of the room stood the LCD projector on a podium with all the connecting cables out and ready for my lap top. They had a Thunderbolt connector which connected to a Thunderbolt port on my MacBook Air. And we had sound through the sound cable connected to two loudspeakers. When the associate priest arrived, I was ready to demonstrate images and sound for the presentation. She introduced me to the IT guy whom I thanked profusely.

This is the way life should be.

I gave an overview of the presentation. How is it, I asked, that in the reception history of John 20, two contrasting strands of ban and blessing emerge: "Do not touch me!" and an encounter with Jesus in the garden?

We begin with a discussion of the composition and motifs of Titian's Noli Me Tangere: Imagine you had never seen this painting before, I suggest, what do you notice? We discuss colors and lines, the tree and the path to the village. We notice the half naked man with an implement in his left hand and the clothed woman reaching towards him. We try to determine if he has any scars from the nails on the cross (the image is small).

Then we go back in time to the Biblia Pauperum of the Middle Ages and discuss this image below with three panels. We discuss typology and prefiguring.

We notice cruciform halos (nimbus) around the head of Christ. And we notice a halo around the head of the woman in the centre panel but not around the head of the woman in the right panel.

We discuss landscapes and buildings, walled gardens, lanterns and jars, gardening implements and facial expressions. And the inscription recording the woman's speech in the right panel: I have found him whom my soul loves; I will hold him and I will not let him go.

Then we discuss the Song of Songs and the use of motifs around searching and finding the beloved in the garden to expand the scene of Jesus and Mary encountering each other in the garden. I play a motet, "Maria Magdalene stabat ad monumentum flores" and we discuss musical interpretations of John 20.

Finally we return to Titian and discuss how this single painting could be seen as blessing and ban at the same time.

This is indeed the way life can be at an adult education forum with good discussions and great energy. 

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