Category: art


Christ Emperor

At a young age, all the way up to high school, I remember being absolutely fascinated by Asian culture, language and art. While most of my peers would jam to N-Sync, Eminem and Nirvana, I contemplated the sounds of the koto and shakuhachi flute. I remember having an old, yellow Xerox copy of John 3:16 in Japanese on my bedroom wall. While there really isn’t an explanation for this “Asian obsession”, it intrigues me when I look back and wonder what use it has served.

Shortly after high school, I ditched the Bible verses and Christian scene- but not my fascination with other cultures. Readers of my testimony, telling how I came into the Catholic Church, can see how something as “trivial” as foreign languages opened up a search for God. Catholicism is truly the universal faith. It has been translated into numerous languages, conveyed in countless traditions, bestowed on numberless tribes. To the Native Americans, Christ was the World-Former and Peace-Bringer. To the Germans, He was King of All, clothed in terrible splendor. To the Slavs, He was Sweet Lord, Shepard of Souls. In Arabia; “Isa Bin Maryam” messenger of God Most-High. As never before, the Jewish Messiah became the Savior of every people and nation.

In the far reaches of the Orient, Christ is an Emperor. He, who was hailed in Rome as Imperator Christus, becomes the Everlasting Sun, the Warrior-King and True Wisdom. While earlier Chinese sages were poor men who lay dead in their graves, this “Christ” is the Divine, fit to wear nothing less than the imperial gold.

imperator

So, I considered Christ, the Golden Emperor, how He can- and will conquer the East for His Holy Name. Though His envoys are powerless, forbidden to preach the Gospel in these lands, Christ shall extend a scepter over China, from every low field to each mist-curled mountain. Though His name is silenced, Christ shall be declared by the thundering Yangtze, the yellow desert tempest and the churning seas. Though His citizens are often persecuted, imprisoned and robbed of freedom, Christ shall tame the tiger and the dragon. Soldiers stand powerless against Him, their words in vain, the rule of oppression broken… feared no more.

Christ will conquer the foggy coasts of Japan. He, the Kami-No-O of a thousand angels, drives out every demon, ghost and devouring spirit. His sweet commandment shall echo there. The Holy Sacrifice will then be offered in the dark jungles of Vietnam, the Mongolian steppes, the hidden temples of Korea and gauzy Himalayan peaks. .

Okay, maybe I wasn’t thinking of all that at once… Namely, I contemplate how Our Lord descended from heaven, found great misery and wickedness on earth and delivered us from it all. His blood dyed purple the barren soil and made new life flower forth. So, how is not Christ greater than the sun, the earthly powers, all sovereignties and terrors of darkness? He is greater than the beasts of mythology, yes, for He fought them in the depths. He crushed the giant, strangled the kraken, defeated the capricious jinn and wild sprites; slew the hydra and the behemoth. Towering Olympus, He plundered. Hades, He laid to waste. The heights of Valhalla, He cleared. So, He has also devastated the false, glittering gods of Asia. The dragon, the phoenix, the spirits of men, they all praise Him. Indeed, He sits astride the dragon! That celestial dragon, old symbol of imperial might, is made His steed!

You see now, that Christ, Our Lord, far surpasses all legendary powers. In every place, He swept away the old gods. In those regions where persecution crushes hard against the Christian people, a light of justice, faith and mercy, shall kindle and crush underfoot every dark legion. China is ripened for battle. Soon enough, the Emperor shall answer His people’s cries. Just as did Israel, the East awaits exodus, awaits its conquering hero, and come morning, the sun will rise, more brilliant than ever.

 

dragon

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Picture the most beautiful sight you could ever chance upon… perhaps a snow-swept mountainside or an iridescent-feathered bird of paradise. Imagine the most luxurious scent you could ever smell… a whiff of burning frankincense, a sultry gardenia blossom. Imagine the sweetest sound you could ever hear… a virtuoso’s symphony, the tinkling of sleigh bells. Imagine the most delicious taste and the most pleasing thing you ever touched. Oh how great these things are!

Now, imagine this: that all the wonderful sensations in the world are but a foretaste of heavenly things. The pitter-pat of rain and awesome clamor of thunder are but hints of the majesty of God. Morning sunlight on your skin is but a shadow of the Blessed face of God. All our satisfied- and unsatisfied appetites are only a foreshadowing of our consuming desire for God. Our senses are gifts, love letters sent to us that we may delight in creation and look forward even more to the Creator. That first bite into a ripe mango, the caress of a lover’s hands, the rumble of a cat purring on your lap, all are reminders of a Creator deeply in love with us!

I remember reading in the Old Testament that no man has seen the face of God, for if he should gaze upon God, he would die.

“And again he said: Thou canst not see my face: for man shall not see me and live.” – Exodus 33:20.

Because God is so indescribably beautiful, more splendid than anything in the universe, we would simply die from beauty. Our sinful ugliness would quiver in the Divine Presence and not stand to live. But the amazing thing is that God took all His killer-beauty and became man! That Beauty which withstood not a slightest imperfection, descended to walk amongst abject ugliness and sin. Truly Jesus, in one of his most shattering statements, told his disciples:

“He who has seen me has seen the Father” – John 12:45.

How the Lord deigned to wrap us in divine love and terrific beauty! How Love and Beauty Himself met death so we may see the Father, He who lit stars and painted planets with His fingers, who commanded the sun to burn and rise!

Perhaps one thing about as scandalous as God becoming man was the fact that through Jesus Christ, man could become like God.

“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” – 1 John 3:2

Ponder this a moment…In the Beatific Vision won for us by Christ, we will at last see the face of God- and we will not die!! Truly these are the depths of love and beauty of which, we can readily perceive every lovely, beautiful thing in the universe is but a foretaste. More than sensuous, resplendent and enrapturing things, we were made to desire God from Whom every goodness comes. Yet God does not stand apart on account of our lowliness… He does not deprive humanity of our One Desire because of our guilt; no He brings the One Desired to us!

The greatest, happiest memory we have lived is a taste of God’s love. Whatever ravishes us: the canvas of stars above, the embraces of romance, a stirring motet, Mona-Lisa enshrined, a romp with your kids on a summer day, is a small taste of what God has stored for us. It is written in Paul’s letters that eye has not seen nor ear has heard what God has in mind for those who love Him.

stairway_to_heaven_by_tizz77

Moreso, when God enters into us, we become beautiful for it is our souls that are His desired. God stooped down into our mean existence, not a little- but all the way. God became man, suffering and wretched man, to reclaim His one desire. Thus, it only makes sense the beloved would be shaped into the image of the Lover. On earth, the Christian soul may yearn in expectation, groaning within us, awaiting the blessed moment when beloved and Lover unite. Upon our deathbeds, may we joyfully incline our ears as God whispers, in sweetest poetry, saying:

See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone.

Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come,  

the cooing of doves is heard in our land.

The fig tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.

Arise, come, my darling; my beautiful one, come with me.”

–          Song of Songs 2:11-13

I encourage everyone here to click on this link so that they will be treated to a wonderful experience. This is a project I am working on and will be contributing more to: The Cardinal Fratelli Picture Book.

 

Reverie in the Garden

It features illustrations, done by Rachel M. Gohlman (myself) and Denita L. Arnold, of various scenes from the good cardinal’s life with beautiful descriptions for each picture. When it is fully completed, it will be posted on his blog. Please click on Cardinal Fratelli’s facebook page below to see the work-in-progress and enjoy it!

 

~ The Cardinal Fratelli Picture Book ~

 

I would also like to remind those of you who are looking for a good Christmas present for a special person, that the first three volumes of the Misadventures of Cardinal Fratelli are out on Amazon.com, Kindle and Nook!