Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Praying with Mary, May 24-28, 2010

Mary Praying with Mary a Practicum
Mary, Miriam, and Mary Magdalene are a few of the Marys that have shaped centuries of prayer.  Explore ancient and newer ways of praying with them: the rosary, listening to Miriam-Mary music, and praying with art (at the Metropolitan).
Prof. Deirdre Good and the Rev. K. Jeanne Person
May 24-28, 2010. 9 am - 5 pm  Course # AT345/545.
3 credits. Practicum courses are only available for graduate credit.
This course is offered through the Center for Christian Spirituality.

Click here for more information.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

5 Scholars on the 5 Books Series: Dr. Beth Berkowitz on Leviticus Mon, April 26, 7:00 pm
Christians and Jews Imagining Difference: Leviticus 18 and ‘Their Laws’
A noted emerging scholar of rabbinic literature and Jewish law who specializes in Judaism and Christianity in late antiquity, Dr. Berkowitz teaches Talmud at JTS, and is currently a fellow at the New York University Law School.
At Stephen Wise Free Synagogue at 30 West 68th Street between Columbus Avenue and Central Park West.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Antonia Rolls' "Breast-Feeding Madonna"

Antonia Rolls' "Breast-Feeding Madonna" is such a marvelous take on "Maria Lactans" (with her breasts in the right place) that I had to post it here along with a link to the rest of Antonia Rolls' religious art. Of it she says, "My Religious works are full of questions and humour, much of which I think is missing from religion." Here are her biographical details.

Other examples of the type show Mary's breasts located in non-typical places presumably so as to discourage salacious thoughts.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Book of Mary by Nicola Slee; Marian Images and Traditions

The Book of Mary by Nicola Slee arrived on my desk this week, published in 2009 by Morehouse. I'm considering it for our May course "Praying with Mary" (online registration here). It was first published in the UK in 2007 by SPCK.
Cynthia Kittredge reviewed the book for ATR in October 2008. She says that Slee, "a theologian and poet, has taken on this intriguing, overwhelming, and overdetermined figure through a series of poems that explore different aspects of the Marian interpretive tradition and piety.

Variously earthy, ecstatic, and funny, the poems engage with the well-known motifs of Mary's faith, expressed by her "yes to God," her uniqueness. and her emblematic representation of maternal suffering and loss. Slee expands the tradition by naming denied or suppressed dimensions of Mary and giving them narrative and imaginative shape. These include Mary's companionship, not only with Elizabeth, but with other sisters through history; her sexuality; and her resistance and refusal: "Mary Says No." One section celebrates the image of Mary as an authoritative teacher and writer and another identifies her with ministry and the priesthood of women. Treating these different themes as concrete and narrative poems, rather than as speculative and deductive theology. Slee invites readers into imaginative engagement with the contradictions of the subject rather than arguing for one perspective or interpretation. Hermeneutics of suspicion, retrieval, and creative representation all contribute to the critical and appreciative treatment of Mary. Readers are able to resist sentimentalizing portraits and to identify with, praise, laugh with, and celebrate Mary. This iconic figure, viewed from within women's experience of childhood, motherhood, and aging, takes on many colors and opens up the space for women and for men to inhabit this powerful tradition in an innovative way."

The poems are striking:
Fiat (Luke 1:38)

I uttered myself
I claimed my voice
I was not afraid to quesiton

I held my ground
I made my yes
looking straight into the angel's eyes
(any slave girl could have been beaten or raped for less)

There was no mastery here
Nothing was taken from me
Everything was given

Here I am:
See me


In a chapter, "Mary Breaks Bread: Priesthood" she mentions Antonia Rolls' painting "4am Madonna" which is below. Bags under her eyes and exhausted but awake to calm her wide-awake son.

The book has much material for reflection. Much of it is provocative and sits to one side of Marian traditions in the East and West. I think I'll use it to round out already identified themes. For example, the chapter "Mary Says No" is well identified in western tradition, bursting out in songs like Ferrandini's "Il Pianto Di Maria."

"Se  d'un Dio fui fatta Madre
per vedere un Dio morire,
mi perdona, Eterno Padre,
la Tua grazia è un gran martire.

Ah me infelice! Ahi lassa!
Il mio Figlio divino,
da un discepol tradito,
da un altro ancor negato,
dai più fidi fuggito,
da tribunali ingiusti,
come reo condannato,
da fragelli percosso,
trafitto dalle spine,
lacerato da chiodi,
crocifisso fra ladri,
dal fiele abbeverato,
dal mondo vilipeso,
dal cielo abbandonato. E ancor non basta
se da barbare squadre il bel suo Nome
fra le bestemmie ancor non deggio udire?

Ahimè ch'Egli già esclama ad alta voce,
Angeli non l'udite?
Padre l'abbandonasti? Almen Tu, Santo Spirito,
soccorri quella divina fronte
in cui desian specchiarsi
l'angeliche del Ciel squadre, sì pure
già sparsa di mortal mesto pallore,
sopra il petto l'inchina Ei muore, Ei muore!

Sventurati miei sospiri
se quest'alma non scioglierete,
molto poco voi potete
molto lieve è il mio dolore.
Atrocissimi martiri
che in umor gli occhi stillate,
poco è il duol se non stemprate
tutto in lagrime anche il core."

Here is a medieval version of The Lament of Mary.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Promiscuous women responsible for earthquakes, says Iranian cleric +Update

According to the BBC, an Iranian cleric Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi blames earthquakes on promiscuous women. "Many women who do not dress modestly lead young men astray and spread adultery in society which increases earthquakes," he said. Tens of thousands of people have died in Iran earthquakes in the last decade. Mr Sedighi was delivering a sermon on the need for a "general repentance" by Iranians. "What can we do to avoid being buried under the rubble? There is no other solution but to take refuge in religion and to adapt our lives to Islam's moral codes," he said.

Yesterday, the Washington Post noted that Iran's Shiite clerics have more broadly asserted that earthquakes are a punishment from God for immorality.  However, seismology experts are not pleased by the inexpert analysis.
"Belief in God is very good, but we should not put all responsibility on his shoulders," Bahram Akasheh, a professor of geophysics, said in an interview. Akasheh is Iran's most senior expert on quakes. He has been studying the ground beneath Tehran for more than 35 years and foresees a bleak future for the capital. Tension has been building along the fault lines for years. There is, he says, a 70 percent chance of a magnitude-7 quake, eventually. He and other scientists have expected such a tremor to strike for the past decade based on previous seismic patterns in Iran.
"Half of the population will die, there will be a complete breakdown of all infrastructure, nearby dams will break, large fires will erupt. Tehran will become completely uninhabitable," he said. "There is no way of really avoiding this. We can't save this city."

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Iraq's Forgotten Conflicts (Mandaeans and Christians) with Edward Stourton

From the second century, Christianity has been in Iraq. Radio 4 broadcasts "Iraq's Forgotten Conflicts" with Edward Stourton, discussing the current plight of Christians who are regularly attacked, as well as that of other groups including Mandaeans and Yezidis, in a post-invasion Iraq that also includes Sabaeans and Shabaks amongst other groups. Arbil in Northern Iraq has become a Christian and Mandaean sanctuary for those not leaving the country. Less than 5,000 Mandaeans remain inside Iraq. Their survival is doubtful. A priest explained that Mandaeans always emphasize peace and peaceful living in society. Mandaeans cannot bear arms so compulsory military service is a challenge. Crimes against Mandaeans in Iraq are not investigated. Yezidis believe they are descendants of Adam not Eve. According to the report, in 2007 a car bomb attack killed 200 at one time.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Spring Sale for $13.50pb and free shipping. (Many other good books on sale too!)
"Good's edited book is both a challenge and a delight. The challenge is watching ten competent scholars working carefully with a multitude of languages and religious traditions to bring a fresh assessment of the woman named Mary Magdalen. The complexity of the endeavor is captured in the book's stated intention, Rather than revisiting her singularity, Mariam, the Magdalen and the Mother argues that the Miriamic roots of her composite identity and prophetic vision are prominent in all religious traditions of the first five centuries of the common era. The delight of the book is discovering the relationship of the names Miriam, Mary, and Maria, and the relationship of the women bearing these names. The scope of the book widens with essays dealing with Mary in Gnostic gospels, Islam, and Manichaeism. This work has copious footnotes, an impressive array of works cited, and a useful index. It would be a difficult task for the general reader, but advancing students, scholars, and professionals will find it revealing and rewarding. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper—level undergraduates and above. —A. L. Kolp," —Baldwin-Wallace College , 2005nov CHOICE

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Biblical Images and Secular Representations: April 15th Center for Jewish History at 6.30pm

"Biblical Images and Secular Representations: The Performance of Antiquity in Contemporary Israeli Culture" Yael Zerubavel, Rutgers University.

The Bible contributed to the shaping of Israeli national identity and culture during its formative years and the early decades following the foundation of the state. Biblical images, symbols and themes were reinterpreted, secularized, and transformed in Israeli official iconography, literature, art, and popular culture. Although the Bible has been politicized and its role debated within Israeli culture since the 1970s, recent cultural developments indicate a new surge of secular interest in it. The discussion of the changing attitudes toward the Bible provides a distinct lens to understanding major trends within contemporary Israeli culture.

Center for Jewish History at 16. W. 16th Street. Admission: Free, reservations suggested, RSVP via e-mail or 212-294-8330 x. 8816

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Hours of Catherine of Cleves until May 2, 2010

Last Friday night, we went to the Pierpont Morgan to see one of the current exhibits and discovered that entrance is free from 7-9pm. I recommend the exhibit showing the Hours of Catherine of Cleves. Here is the review of the New York Times from January. The Morgan website has the online digital facsimile edition here. Not sure what a Book of Hours is? Here's an overview. A hypertext Book of Hours is here  and you can scroll down for the Hours of the Virgin Mary. 

The exhibit was quite beautiful. The 157 miniatures (two on each page) themselves accompany the prayer texts and encourage devotion. Particularly noteworthy are the details of the borders (with butterflies, dragons, birdcages, fish, plants and vines) around each. Of the book itself, the Morgan Museum says:

The Hours of Catherine of Cleves is the greatest Dutch illuminated manuscript in the world. Its 157 miniatures are by the gifted Master of Catherine of Cleves (active ca. 1435–60), who is named after this book. The Master of Catherine of Cleves is considered the finest and most original illuminator of the medieval northern Netherlands, and this manuscript is his masterpiece.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Jeanette Winterson talks about her book "Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit

Jeanette Winterson talks about how she grew up in a northern working class community and wrote her book twenty-five years ago, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. Having started writing sermons at the age of eight, she says, "I'm still an evangelical, I'm still trying to change the world...It really upsets me that I can't be Dean of St Paul's."
On the Bible--"I want to let the (biblical) text be expansive..its helpful to retain the symbolic world and not explain it because that's reductionist."

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Prof Phyllis Trible to speak at GTS on April 29th

Professor Phyllis Trible will speak on the creation narratives of Genesis 2-3 as part of NT 179: Female and Male in Early Christian and Gnostic Traditions.  The event is scheduled Thursday April 29, 3:30-5:20 pm in Sherred 1B and all members of the community are welcome.   Professor Trible, a past president of the Society of Biblical Literature, is a leader in the text-based exploration of women and gender in scripture.  Her works include God and Rhetoric of Sexuality (Overtures to Biblical Theology)Texts of Terror: Literary-Feminist Readings of Biblical Narratives (Overtures to Biblical Theology)Rhetorical Criticism (Guides to Biblical Scholarship Old Testament Series)Hagar, Sarah, And Their Children: Jewish, Christian, And Muslim Perspectives.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Review of Starting New Testament Study (UK edition)

This is the first review I've seen of the UK edition. It's from Scripture Bulletin January 2010.

Starting New Testament Study: Learning and Doing.
Bruce Chilton and Deirdre Good, London: SPCK 2009, pp. ix+174

There is a rising demand, from many quarters, to know more about the New Testament, and especially what kind of thing it is, and what one may sensibly say about it. Here now is a perfectly sensible book to put in the hands of those who are starting the critical study of the NT, looking both at the 27 individual books and at their cumulative impact; the authors tell the story of how the New Testament developed, and exercises at the end of each chapter (the best part of the book, in this reviewer’s judgement) help the neophyte reader appropriate the text; the great advantage of these is that they drive the reader back to the text and to other relevant ancient documents. Chapter 1 offers sensible accounts of Source Criticism, Social Scientific Criticism, Redaction- and Tradition- Criticism, as well as Reader-Response approaches, and it includes some helpful thoughts about dictionaries and concordances, and some 101-level reflectionson theories of translation, as well as very helpful directions towards on-line dictionaries. Chapter 2 offers an intelligent outline of Jesus and his social world, and his several ‘environments’, although they are not all of equal weight, since they are listed as: rural Galilee, the Baptist movement, the towns visited by Jesus, Herod Antipas and the Temple in Jerusalem. Chapter 3 shows the authors as strikingly confident on Pauline chronology, without indicating the complexities of it, and put forward the interesting idea that in Colossians and Ephesians Timothy (the author, in case you had not guessed) preserves Paul’s poetry which otherwise would have remained purely oral. Sadly, not a shred of evidence is offered for this very striking notion (although there are some useful indicators in the bibliography). Chapter 3 is good on the usefulness of the gospel genre, though once again assertion triumphs over argument built on evidence, though the authors do admit that ‘scholars can and do differ on their findings’. They are also notably confident on the reconstruction (and early date) of Q. In general one would have to say that our authors are sound enough on the gospels, without ever giving the feeling that they inhabit them; it may be significant that they give to the Gospel of Thomas as many pages as they do to any of the canonical gospels. The bibliographical indicators in this chapter offer, however, a reasonably wide-ranging account of current approaches to the gospels. Chapter 4 is on the Catholic and apocalyptic writings, and was perhaps
the best chapter in the book, very interesting on James (though too allusive in its conclusions), and decidedly helpful on the Synoptic Little Apocalypse, and they are correct to stress the disagreements within the NT about the details of the end-time. And the book ends with a helpful glossary.

So it is a helpful piece of work, and will do no harm if put into the hands of beginners in academic study of the New Testament; but in the end I found myself wondering why it was written. The excellent section on apocalypse needed more copy-editing to make its meaning(s) a bit clearer, and chapter 1 was sometimes needlessly obscure. In the end, the reader is left with a feeling of slight disappointment that two such well-known NT scholars should have written in (apparently) such a hurry, so that what might have been a distinguished book is less than it might have been. There is the occasional exaggerated claim, for example on John the Baptist and Merkabah mysticism (p. 30), and one or two claims that a newcomer to NT might regard as better founded than is in fact the case; probably the book will do no harm, but a beginner will not be aware how speculative are some of its claims.

Nicholas King SJ Campion Hall, University of Oxford

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

St Albans Psalter: Mary Magdalene--Apostle to the Apostles

John 20:18; Mark 16:9-10

Mary Magdalen is in profile isolated commandingly in her own rectangle while the eleven apostles crowd together under an arch. Mary is telling the disciples that she has seen the risen Lord (John 20:18). The apostles look amazed, clutching books and raising their hands.

At this date Mary Magdalen’s announcement to the apostles is rare in western art, although it is depicted in Byzantine manuscripts like Florence, Laurenziana MS.Plut. VI.23, f97. The Gospels of Henry the Lion (c1175, formerly Gmunden) derive their iconography from the St Albans Psalter formula but the scene is accompanied by speech scrolls in which the apostles ask ‘Dic nobis, Maria, quid vidisti in via?’ and she says ‘Sepulchrum Christi viventes (et) gloriam vidi resurgentes’. These words, composed in the 11th century, were incorporated in the liturgical Easter play Quem quaeritis by the 12th century (Young, 1933, 149). This is another indication of drama influencing the fresh iconography of the St Albans Psalter. (AP, 63, pl 115)

Mary’s authoritative role as ‘apostle to the apostles’ derives from her witness of Christ’s risen body in the previous scene. Christina’s visions of Christ, both as a baby and pilgrim, give her similar authority, particularly over Abbot Geoffrey.

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