Tag Archives: Fra Angelico

Dominic in prayer

The Convento of San Marco in Florence has the most incredible frescos I have ever seen, painted by the Dominican friar, Fra Angelico, and his school.Saint_Dominic_(Detail_from_The_Mocking_of_Christ)

What is most remarkable is that the paintings are on the walls of the cells where the Dominican friars studied, prayed, and slept. They are aids to contemplation for these friars noted for their preaching. Preaching without contemplation is worth little.

In one cell there is a famous image of Saint Dominic, the founder of the Order of Preachers. He is attentively and carefully reading a book, in his lap. He is said to have carried with him the Gospel according to Saint Matthew and the Letters of Saint Paul.

But this image of Saint Dominic is only a small part of the fresco which features Jesus blindfolded, crowned with thorns, being buffeted by hands and spat upon by a disembodied head.

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Faced with this, Dominic is absorbed in contemplation, not looking at the mocked Christ, but still before God.

What could this mean for us?

My initial thoughts are that we are called to contemplate the suffering Christ but also the Word of God – so that we may absorbed in Him, in love. Not either/or – but both. Not just gazing at the wounded Christ, but trying to understand this mystery, with the assistance of the Scriptures. Most of all, this means sitting still – in tranquility.

“Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46: 10)

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Christ the Gardener

In one of the Dominican friar’s cells in San Marcos Convent in Florence, Fra Angelico painted a haunting fresco based on John 20: 11-18.

After having told Peter and John that the tomb was empty, Mary of Magdala returned to the tomb. Two angels there asked her why she is weeping. “Because they have taken away my Lord…”

Dismayed, she turns asks a man she encounters, “Where have you put him?”

It is Jesus but she doesn’t recognize him until he calls her by name. She thinks he is the gardener.

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In Fra Angelico’s fresco Jesus is a gardener, carrying a hoe over his shoulder.

Could Jesus really be a gardener?

Could he be the one risen one who seeks to restore the garden of our souls, as he gives new life and hope to Mary of Magdala?

Could he be the risen one who seeks to restore the garden of our world, torn by death and violence, so that we might live more like our first parents in the Garden of Eden?

Let us open our hearts to the gardener who prunes, fertilizes, and waters us by his death and resurrection.

Let us commit ourselves to live as gardeners of this world, seeking to bring integrity, peace, and compassion to our broken world.

Perhaps that’s how we can celebrate the risen Lord, the gardener.

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There is a longer essay by Father Peter Schineller, S.J., on his website, here. He notes that a Albrecht Dürer engraving of the encounter of Jesus with Mary of Magdala also presents Jesus as a gardener.

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