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frank van den broeke
Propagation of Faith
I described “The rise and decline of the Roman Empire” in various articles of Ancient Rome. The fundamental idea behind them is: “What’s your strength in also your weakest link”. And the Roman Empire grew by privatization, globalization and flexibility. But, as we have seen, it declined under abuse of those words.
We have seen that the peak of the empire was in the moment you have adopted emperors. Not becoming emperor, because being the son of their father, but adopted by the former emperor by their merits. (Hadrian, Trajan ...). This kind of flexibility made it for so long and so strong. It seems that the empire stood or declined by the strength of the emperor.
How different is the catholic Church. Also it’s leader is chosen (or as you can say: adopted) by the cardinals, guided by the Holy Ghost, following the needs of the Church in that moment of history. But there is also a difference with the Romans. Recently, I stumbled on a beautiful line that explains for me why the Roman Catholic Church survived it already 2000 years.
G.K. Chesterton makes this point the best:
When Christ at a symbolic moment was establishing His great society. He chose for its corner-stone neither the brilliant Paul nor the mystic John, but a shuffler, a snob, a coward- in a word, a man. And upon this rock He has built his Church, and the gates of Hell have not prevailed against it. All the empires and the kingdoms have failed, because of this inherent and continual weakness, that they were founded by strong men and upon strong men. But this one thing, the historic Christian Church, was founded on a weak man, and for that reason it is indestructible. For no chain is stronger than its weakest link.
This graffito with Pope Francis I, you can find at the exit of Metro A, Cipro in Rome , a pope who sees in the weakest people the Kingdom of God, just like saint Francis and the fulfilling of The Civitas Dei of saint Agostin.
And that is for me the reason the Church still exists. Over the centuries, many leaders in the Church were Holy men, but the history learned us also that the Church has had his weak leaders too (the infamous Borgia, the wealth of the clergy, abuse and so on) But the Catholic Church is not build on them!
Who of us can name the pope that canonized saint Francis of Assisi? or more recent: Who canonized Don Bosco? We don’t remember the names of the popes, but we know those saints!! And those are the stones on which Peter build his Church. It happens that some leaders of the Church are causing scandal, but those are the weakest link in the chain. But they are not the Church, the community of saints does it. And we are all called for sainthood.
That same idea you can find already in a lovely story in the Decameron by Bocaccio in 1340
Decameron I, novel 2 .doc
Abraham, a Jew of Paris, is the friend of Giannotto di Civignì, who for years has urged him to become a Christian. One day Abraham departs for Rome, telling Giannotto that he wants to see the leaders of the Church – the Pope and the Curia – to decide whether or not he wants to convert. Giannotto, knowing of the debauched and decadent ways of the Roman clergy, fears Abraham will never want to convert after witnessing the corruption of the Church. But when Abraham returns, he converts, concluding that if Christianity can still spread even when its hierarchy is so corrupt, it must be the true word of God.
In this caustic story, the Jew converts because he logically concludes that only a religion supported by God could prosper despite the corruption of its leadership.
Why people are going to Church?, Why are they part of a Congregation? What want they to obtain at the end of their lives? The answer is always the same: eternal life. Be it in Heaven or by reincarnation or as a spirit, the answer remains the same. The answer on the question: How to reach it?, differs. For some it will be by following the commandments, or doing good deeds, or to believe in God, and some are more practical: paying your way in: money!
Unfortunately, all those answers are wrong. Take for instance “a good life”. From the scriptures I remember that when Jesus was dying on the cross, a murderer hanged on the cross aside Him. That man never did a good deed, nonetheless, the same evening he was in Paradise. Was it only Location, location ... and timing? Money reminds us at the period before the Council of Trent, when indulgences were freely for sale.
None of those answers are right!!
Definition of Grace
There is only one way to heaven: and it’s called “Grace”. St. Agostine was one of the first to analyze it. From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, I copy here the following thoughts about “Grace”; The colored parts are those who are interesting us here.
1996 Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life.46 .....
1998 This vocation to eternal life is supernatural. It depends entirely on God's gratuitous initiative, for he alone can reveal and give himself. It surpasses the power of human intellect and will, as that of every other creature.47
1999 The grace of Christ is the gratuitous gift that God makes to us of his own life, infused by the Holy Spirit into our soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it. It is the sanctifying or deifying grace received in Baptism. It is in us the source of the work of sanctification:48 ...
2001 The preparation of man for the reception of grace is already a work of grace. This latter is needed to arouse and sustain our collaboration in justification through faith, and in sanctification through charity. God brings to completion in us what he has begun, "since he who completes his work by cooperating with our will began by working so that we might will it:"50
2002 God's free initiative demands man's free response, for God has created man in his image by conferring on him, along with freedom, the power to know him and love him.
It was the free response of the murderer on the Cross at the grace offered him by Jesus, that made that brought him in Paradise that same evening.
The painting of Caravaggio on the left is St. Matthew, while writing his gospel. Caravaggio had to change the original version (on the right).
As we can see, originally, the Angel hold the hand of St. Matthew. But he had to change it! In that way he would make publicity for Calvin, who was predicting “predestination”, and so eliminating the free will.
In the final version, now the angel is inspiring, and st. Matthews free response on the grace of the Lord is writing his gospel.
Grace became something like the battle between Pepsi Cola and Coca Cola: it’s all Cola, with small variations.
And the Lord is extremely generous with “Grace”: it is for the whole of mankind: Jews, Roman Catholics, Protestants, Moslims, Hindoes etc. And it is for FREE!
Why we have than religions & congregations?
They offering the way you have to follow to heaven. To obtain the full of grace, there are boarders on the road to Heaven: what is allowed and what not. What you have to do and what not. Every religion is telling you that if you want to reach Heaven, you have to remain within the boarders of the road. For Jewish people it is the Ten Commandments, for Roman Catholics it is the gospels, the doctrine of the Fathers and the Tradition. For Muslims, it’s the Koran.
By offering you this guidelines, your church or congregation is charging you something. It depends of course of the quality and materials they are using for the paving of the road which is the amount you have to pay. If I was member of the scientific church of Tom Cruise, I would say that is a very expensive way to Heaven. As mormon or muslim I am not allowed to drink wine on my road to Heaven. Thanks God, I am Roman Catholic !! I can drink a good glass of wine on my road .... but if I would be a binge-drinker, and losing the control of my wheel, going out of the road; then there will be a tribunal waiting for me. That’s called the confessional. After I’m paying my fine -my penitence- they are bringing me back on the road.
Now the Roman Catholic Church had in the Western World for over 1500 years a monopoly on “grace”. And as we know, grace is a free gift of God. And those who are selling what’s for free, are good salesmen.
And suddenly in 1517, competition came on the market: Martin Luther.
Luther taught that salvation and subsequently eternity in heaven is not earned by good deeds but is received only as a free gift of God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ as redeemer from sin and subsequently eternity in hell. His theology challenged the authority of the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church by teaching that the Bible is the only source of divinely revealed knowledge from God and opposed sacerdotalism by considering all baptized Christians to be a holy priesthood.
His first attack was the practice of indulgences in his , a grant by the Pope of remission of the temporal punishment in purgatory still due for sins after absolution. The unrestricted sale of indulgences by pardoners was a widespread abuse during the later Middle Ages. The sales of them made it possible to build the St. Peters Basilica .......... when there were only 18 000 inhabitants in Rome.
These 27 : There is no divine authority for preaching that the soul flies out of the purgatory immediately the money clinks in the bottom of the chest.
More about this theme in my article: Protestantism & Catholic Reform.
He claimed that he was much cheaper: you didn’t have to pay your way to heaven anymore! Was it right that a rich man got easier in heaven than a poor man? Refusing the tradition of faith brought him in conflict with the Church of Rome.
The Catholic Reformation
Of course, you can understand that the Church of Rome got in panic by this various movements. Very soon after was called together the board of the company: the Council of Trent. It lasted from 1545 until 1563.
And the Pope was furious. He wanted to know what was going on with those protestants. When he heard that they were translating the bible in the vulgar language, he thought it was a good idea, and asked one of the cardinals to do the same .... but without forgetting the copyrights. But when those opponents told that you could receive grace without the help of the Church and even questioning the position of the Pope, he said: “This must end! Is here someone present who can help me?”
Someone raised his hand and said: “I am Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits and also their General. I have a whole army ready for You.” “Ok” replied the Pope, “but how you will do it?”
“No problem”, was the answer. “We just have wrote the lyrics of two songs that will become famous in the future: The fist one is: We are the Champions ... of the World”. The pope liked it and decided to make the St. Peters Basilica the biggest church in the world, in a city with only 20 000 inhabitants. They wanted to send the message to the competition that they were not defeated. They would be still the biggest. The second song was: “We have the whole world in our hands ....”, what resulted years later in the colonnade of Bernini on St. Peters Sq.
But, based on those to ideas, the Church went further and created a Catholic Reform against the Reformation of the Protestants. It became a new way to promote grace. And the Church did it by ....... paintings, architecture, literature, sculptures, music a.s.o.
Whatever existed in art, became from that day Public Relations of the Truth. At the Spanish Steps in Rome, they erected a building housing the missionary-activity of the Catholic Church until today. Very rightful, the building is called: De propaganda fide: propagation of faith or publicity of faith!
The whole missionary activity is nothing else than a massive Public Relation Machine, trying to convince you, that their road to Heaven is the best on. And the Roman Catholic Church used everything they could: all the arts, like described by Severino Boetius around 500 A.D.: He made a division of seven disciplines: First the Quardrivium: Arimethics, Geometrics, music and astronomy.
Then there is a Trivium: Grammar, logics and rethorics. From that day, all the arts will be used for the “Propagation of faith”.
And wasn’t it Ignatius of Loyola who said: “The principal end of myself in the conquest of India... has been the propagation of the holy Catholic faith” It’s the Baroque !
What is the “pure” Baroque?
The art that was a consequence of those thoughts is the Baroque. But if the Baroque is a PR-system (Public Relations), than we can compare it with something we know today: the ads on the television. The photo aside is token from internet without commercial purpose. When you see an advertisement of a deodorant on the screen, unfortunately, you can’t smell the freshness. So, what they have to do?
They using the techniques of sublimation. By the perfect body, the smile, the blue sea and white beach they create the feeling of freshness. But in his highest form, they create that feeling in your stomach that you are not happy anymore if you don’t buy the product. If you feel exactly the same freshness that the actor is feeling on the screen, you want the product.
If today, you are in a business-meeting, and you don’t have an Apple tablet or phone, you are not successful. If you want to belong to that cast of people , you have to buy it.
After all, the scope of advertisement is that YOU are becoming the actor.
And that’s the purpose of the Baroque Art. Through all the arts, they want to transmit the feeling that you will be unhappy if you are not following their way to heaven. Every stone, every gesture on a painting or sculpture invites you to to the same. You are becoming the actor!!!
And this is the fine line between renaissance and the baroque art.
The fountain of the Turtles in Rome at piazza Mattei near the Ghetto is maybe the best to explain the difference between renaissance and Baroque Art.
The fountain was made in 1586, at the end of the Renaissance, by Giacomo della Porta, one of the (many) architects of the St Peters’ Basilica. In a time that the whole of Europe was in turmoil in the question of protestants vs roman catholics, the Inquisition gained force and books and ideas got on the Index, being suppressed by the Church, Giacomo della Porta made this beautiful fountain. It’s not as massive as the Trevi fountain, but for sure, it’s more gentle. In bronze, four beautiful ànd naked adolescence boys are surrounding a marble bowl, lifting on hand in the air, and posing one foot on a dolphin. If you ever would make yourself an idea how beautiful the Greek Adonis or Narcissus must have looked like, here is the perfection. Wasn’t it the purpose of the renaissance to copy the roman and greek models?
And so they stood there for over seventy years. The baroque art took his inspiration from the renaissance, but made the boys the actors of the scene. Gone is the static position of the four boys when the bronzes turtles around the upper basin, usually attributed either to Gian Lorenzo Bernini or Andrea Sacchi, were added in either 1658 and 1659, when the fountain was restored.
Now the boys are the actors! They have to help the turtles to get the water from the upper bowl. The former static position became an active movement. As spectator, you would like helping them in their task. And thàt is what made the baroque.
An as soon Luther started, competition for Luther came on the market: Calvin. He was even cheaper than Martin Luther: Die Reine Gnade; Only Grace !!!
From now on, we wouldn’t need priests anymore. Everybody has to read the bible by himself.
On the left the title page from the final edition of Calvin's magnum opus Institutio Christiane Religionis, which summarises his theology.
He went further than St. Agostine against Pelagius about predestination and claimed the following: "All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestinated to life or to death."
Where for us is remaining than the free will? (See St. Matthew of Caravaggio above). He neither accepted the authority of the clergy: everybody is his own priest
Council of Trent
Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza, Borromini, Rome: Every stone has a spiritual meaning ... follow the link, clicking on the image
Fountain of the Turtle, Piazza Mattei, Roma, Giacomo della Porta 1586 + adds of Bernini