Sunday, February 24, 2013

Anna Karenina: Part V, Chapter 22

In Part V, Chapter 22 of Anna Karenina, Alesky Aleksandrovich Karenin is alone and in despair. His wife Anna has left him for Count Vronsky, a military officer. He feels he can not endure the "weight of universal contempt and exasperation" which he sees in the faces of all he meets. At his most bitter moment, his friend the Countess Lydia Ivanovna comes to him. The warmth of her affection causes Karenin to break down.

"Dear friend!" she said in a voice breaking with emotion. "You must not give way to grief. Your sorrow is great, but you must find consolation."
"I am crushed, I am annihilated, I am no longer a man!" said Aleksey Aleksandrovich, . . . gazing into her brimming eyes. "My position is so awful because I can nowhere find support, not even in myself."
"You will find support; seek it -- not in me, though I beseech you to believe in my friendship," she said, with a sigh. "Our support is love, that He has vouchsafed us. His burden is light," she said, with the look of ecstasy Aleksey Aleksandrovich knew so well.
"He will be you support and your succor."
 Though it seemed evident that she was moved by her own lofty sentiments, and by that new mystical fervor which had lately gained ground in Petersburg, and which seemed to Alekesey Aleksandrovich excessive, still it was gratifying to hear this now. 


Our support is love, that He has vouchsafed us.

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:35-39
His burden is light

28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Matthew 11:28-30 

*All Scripture quotes are from the King James Version unless otherwise stated.

(Source: BibleGateway. Image Source: WikiPaintings)

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Anna Karenina: Part V, Chapter 11

Pilate washes his hands - Duccio
Pilate Washes His Hands, Duccio di Buoninsegna

In Part V, Chapter 11 of Anna Karenina, Anna is admiring a painting of Christ standing before Pilate by a painter named Mikhailov. (Mikhailov later paints Anna's portrait.)
"How marvelous Christ's expression is!" said Anna. Of all she saw she liked that expression most of all, and felt that it was the center of the picture, and so praise of it would be pleasant to the artist. "One can see that He is pitying Pilate."
This again was one of the million true reflections that could be found in his picture and in the figure of Christ. She said that He was pitying Pilate. In Christ's expression of love, of heavenly peace, of readiness for death, and a sense of the vanity of words. Of course there is the expression of an official in Pilate and of pity in Christ, seeing that one is the incarnation of the fleshly and the other of the spiritual life. All this and much more flashed into Mikhailov's thoughts.

...Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews?34 Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me?35 Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done?36 Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.37 Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.38 Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all.
John 18:33-38 
...what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.
1 Peter 2:20-24 

*All Scripture quotes are from the King James Version unless otherwise stated.

(Source: BibleGateway. Image Source: WikiPaintings)

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Anna Karenina: Part V, Chapter 9

Quod Est Veritas?, Nikolai Ge, Russian realist
In Part V, Chapter 9 of Anna Karenina Anna and Vronsky are living together in an "old neglected palazzo" in Italy. It is morning and they have received a visitor. It is Vronsky's friend, Golenishchev.
"Here we live and know nothing of what's going on," Vronsky said to Golenishchev as he came to see him one morning. 
"Have you seen Mikhailov's picture?" he said, handing him a Russian paper he had received that morning . . .
"I've seen it," answered Golenishchev. "Of course, he's not without talent, but it's all in a wrong direction. It's all the Ivanov-Strauss-Renan attitude of Christ and to religious painting."
"What is the subject of the picture?" asked Anna.
"Christ before Pilate. Christ is represented as a Jew with all the realism of the new school."
And the question of the subject of the picture having brought him to one of his favorite theories, Golenishchev launched forth into a disquisition on it.
"I can't understand how they can fall into such a gross mistake. Christ always has his definite embodiment in the art of the great masters. And therefore, if they want to depict not God but a  revolutionist or a sage, let them take from history a Socrates, a Franklin, a Charlotte Corday, but not Christ. They take the very figure which cannot be taken for their art . . ."

Christ before Pilate
This refers to when Christ stood before Pontius Pilate the Roman Prefect who sentenced Him to execution by crucifixion.

When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death:
And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor.
Matthew 27:1-2 
The story of the crucifixion of Jesus is found in all four Gospels:
Matthew 27
Mark 15
Luke 23 
John 18-19 
Head of a man. Study of the figure of paralytic for the painting
Head of a Man, Aleksandr, Ivanov, realist painter mentioned in Anna Karenina

They take the very figure which cannot be taken for their art.
Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.
I Corinthians 10:14 

This part of the passage was confusing to me. I did not understand what was behind Golenishchev's argument. Orthodox Christians use icons, so why would one be offended by a realistic painting of Jesus? I tried to search this online from multiple angles. Sometimes, friends, the search engines fail me and there is no book on my shelf to meet the need.

Last night I thought of my friend Will, who is an Orthodox Christian. He lives several states away. I sent him a private message via Facebook. He replied within minutes. I asked him if he understood what this quote implied. He very kindly took the time to type out the following message from his phone:
I think this is the difference between the "iconic" view and the "artistic" view, in which icons intentionally try to allow the viewer to see the reflective and unreal nature of art...
Icons show the reality of the persons themselves, "circumscribing" and commemorating the incarnation, but, by their "unrealism", they point away from themselves and try to maintain the role given to them by the Church - a language for communicating the Gospel, and not as a "real representation", which might lead the viewer to idolatry.
If someone looks at an icon and thinks, "That is Christ", then it is very easy to think that "The Icon is Christ." Icons are nothing on their own, only significant because of the reality they point toward.
In this quote [from Anna Karenina], I think you see the strong Eastern dislike for the "Idolization" of Western art, which necessarily leads to a reaction, iconoclasm, which is the realization that the art is not what it represents.
After the representation has been taken to be "the thing in itself", it leads to a hatred of that deceitful "thing". This is the opposite of what icons are supposed to do!

Will's insight has whetted my appetite to learn more about the difference between these two views. He wrapped up our conversation with this blessing:

God bless as you wrap your brain around the 7th Council and a very "Unwestern" way of looking at images!

Blessings to all!  Have a great Sunday!

*All Scripture quotes are from the King James Version unless otherwise stated.

(Source: BibleGateway. Image Source: WikiPaintings)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Anna Karenina: Part I, Chapter 11

Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalene (Fragment)  - Duccio
Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalene, Duccio

In Part I, Chapter 11 of Anna Karenina, Konstantin Levin and his old friend Stephan Arkadyevich Oblonsky are enjoying a meal together at a restaurant. They are discussing two types of women -- the "pure" and the "fallen".
'You know, to me all women are divided into two classes,' [said Levin] '. . . at least no . . . truer to say: there are women and there are . . . I've never seen exquisite fallen beings, and I shall never see them, but such creatures as that painted French woman at the counter with the ringlets are vermin to my mind, and all fallen women are the same.
'But the Magdalen?' 
'Ah, drop that! Christ never would have said those words if He had known how they would be abused. Of all the Gospel those are the only ones remembered.'


'But the Magdalen?' 
This is referring to Mary Magdalene. Interesting to note is that nowhere in Scripture is she referred to as a "fallen" woman or prostitute. Tolstoy seems to have held this assumption. I was curious how this misconception began, so I did a little research and discovered this tid-bit from Wikipedia:
Few characters in the New Testament have been so sorely miscast as Mary Magdalene. From the sixth century until fairly late in the twentieth century, she has been portrayed as a prostitute. No where in the New Testament is she described in any but the most positive terms. Her reputation as a fallen woman originated not in the Bible but in a sixth-century sermon by Pope Gregory the Great.
 Mary Magdalene is a prominent character in the New Testament. In several Christian faith traditions she is considered to be a saint. She is introduced in Luke 8:1-2.
Luke 8
And it came to pass afterward, that [Jesus] went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him,And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils . . .

*All Scripture quotes are from the King James Version unless otherwise stated.

(Source: BibleGateway. Image Source: WikiPaintings)

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