I’m beginning to think that if I don’t have an identity crisis at least once a month, I’m simply not taking in enough good art. A few weeks ago, I watched a piece of theater that has become a bit of a local staple here in Louisville: Actors Theatre’s production of Dracula. It is really one of the very few pieces of theater I have seen in recent years, but with the performance came a flood of emotions, the degree of which I wasn’t quite expecting. It threw me into a serious identity crisis that, if I were to be quite honest, I’m not entirely over. In fact, I intend not to be. Continue reading
(Cross-posted at Image of Truth)
Palm Sunday beings Passion Week (or Holy Week). The primary event the day commemorates is Jesus’ ride into Jerusalem on the Sunday before he was crucified. The work pictured, Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem by Jean-Hippolyte Flanderin, is one of a minority of painting to portray a certain uniqueness in Matthew’s telling of the triumphal entry. Matthew alone says that Jesus used two donkeys, not one, in his ride into Jerusalem:
As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:“Say to Daughter Zion,
‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”
The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,“Hosanna to the Son of David!”“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”“Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Matt. 21:1-6)
The other gospels do not include this detail. However Matthew, who focuses on Jesus most as Jewish Messiah, is careful to include it. Meanwhile, the scene features a word that we often confuse or misinterpret today. Hosanna was not merely a praise, as it is often used today, but also a cry for salvation. The crowds were, as Jesus entered Jersualem, praising and proclaiming him the Messiah that would save Israel once and for all. When this did not happen in the way they believed it would, they turned on him just a few days later. Yet, in doing so, salvation was brought in the way that the Messiah did intend… his own death and resurrection.
The Hosanna from the gospels has been set to music many times, in many styles. Sojourn Music has a setting of it on their album Advent Songs (with Christmas-themed lyrics, however we at Sojourn traditionally sing an alternate set of lyrics to the same melody on Palm Sunday). Well-known musical theatre composer Andrew Lloyd Webber has composed two Hosannas, one for the controversial rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar in 1970 and another, using the Vulgate translation of Mark 11:9, in his highly stylized Requiem Mass in 1984. This version is show below in its first live performance.
(Illustration: Jean-Hippolyte Flanderin, Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem, 1842)
Christianity has made no bigger news in the art world as of late than with the premiere of Makoto (“Mako”) Fujimura’s illumination of the Four Holy Gospels, commissioned by Crossway for the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible and released in a print edition with the English Standard Version gospels later this month. At the opening of the exhibit, Mako’s pastor, Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, introduces the exhibit and explains one of its primary pieces, “Prodigal God.”
(This posts was originally written for my personal blog, The Sojourner’s Journal, in November, 2008. It served as one of my first expressions of my discontent with the church’s modern relationship with art and the desire to engage that relationship and motivate greater art from the Christian community. Thus, it is the forerunner of this site and, as this site prepares for a soon-to-come redevelopment in its existence, I thought it would be fitting to post a personal moment of catalyst from which it was eventually formed.)
An Artistic Challenge to the Church (or, Why Does Christian Art Usually Suck?) [part 1 of many]
The modern day Evangelical Church has largely (almost completely) failed in creative endeavors such as visual art (drawing, painting, etc.), music, literature, and film. Failed might be an understatement. The church has produced very little that exceeds above a pile refuse (in the Pauline sense of that word) in any of these categories, and this is most troubling indeed. Continue reading
Renowned abstract artist and writer Makoto Fujimura has recently posted an update regarding the illuminated edition of the Four Holy Gospels (English Standard Version) being released next year by Crossway Books & Bibles. “The leather-bound bible will feature five new large works and dozens of smaller ‘letters’ paintings as drop caps,” all by Fujimura, the article reports. A PDF file is now available through Fujimura’s article previewing the artwork.
I am continually excited by the prospect of Fujimura, an extremely well-recognized artist around the globe, taking this project to task. This is a great step in the right direction from Crossway Books and the artist, charting new ground in the relationship of spirituality and the visual arts in the 21st Century and recognizing the role of art as important in Gospel proclamation, worship, and the Christian life.
This could be very big news on a couple of counts. One, this marks the return of illuminated manuscript-style bibles, and in the English Standard Version, one of today’s most popular translations at that, especially among Reformed Protestants and one of the literary progeny of the King James Version. Two, it features a surprising artist, Makoto Fujiumura, an outstanding abstract artist known worldwide for his popular and groudbreaking work, who also has been very expressive in his deep Christian faith. His style is a drastic departure for an illuminated bible, but perhaps this is exactly what an illuminated manuscript for the 21st Century looks like. Here is the press release: Continue reading