The Mother Of God Through The Ages

by Dish Staff

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The Economist‘s E.W. recently visited “Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, Idea”, a new exhibition at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC. How depictions of Jesus’ mother changed over time:

Pre-Renaissance Mary is represented as queenly: ennobled, enthroned, surrounded by angels and engulfed in celestial light. In the late Middle Ages she becomes more approachable, appearing more often in the garb of an unassuming peasant. The humanist conception of Mary gained further traction in the Renaissance: she is less empress of heaven, more mother—sewing, nursing and playing with the infant Jesus. It is a representation that is crucial to the doctrine of Jesus’s “authentic humanity”:

Mary is his link to human nature and earthly experience. Engaged in these quintessentially female activities, she also provides the archetype of Christian womanhood.

But even in the most unadorned depictions of Madonna and child, the halo is omnipresent. She is no ordinary woman, but that impossible ideal compared with which all other women must ever fall short: the perfect mother and the perfect virgin.

During the Counter-Reformation, Mary is returned to her seat of power. Catholic artists, responding to the Protestant minimisation of her part in humanity’s salvation, re-emphasised her position as mother of God. She also takes on a growing role of her own in the lives of the faithful, as the supreme intercessor between her son and those who worship him. What is remarkable, across all these depictions, is that Mary almost never gazes at the viewer. Her eyes are invariably downcast, suggesting solemnity, a soul turned inward, and the tragic foreknowledge of her son’s fate. The exhibition describes this look as expressive of her humility, though another word for it would be submissive; it evokes the age-old notion that a woman’s direct gaze is impure.

(Detail from Botticelli’s “Madonna and Child,” circa 1475-85, via Wikimedia Commons)

Will All Dogs Really Go To Heaven?

by Dish Staff

The Internet recently was filled with reports that Pope Francis said “yes.” Alas, it turns out to have been a misunderstanding:

According to initial reports Francis had been comforting a small boy over the death of his dog, when he declared, “One day we will see our animals again in eternity of Christ. Paradise is open to all God’s creatures.” Even The New York Times ran the story on the front page.

This is the progressive Francis we all know and love: he’s willing to talk about the divorced and remarried receiving communion and he boldly extends “all dogs go to heaven” beyond its customary canine-exclusive borders.

Except Francis didn’t actually say this. As David Gibson revealed this week, it was a different Pope—Pope Paul VI, who died in 1978—who gave the young boy the soothing pep talk. That’s the Francis effect: he gets the credit for every nice thing a Pope has ever said.

Tracing how the story got started, David Gibson notes that Francis did give a talk in November in which he claimed that the Christian belief in the coming of a “new heaven” and a “new earth” would mean “the bringing of all things into the fullness of being.” And then it was off to the races:

“One day we will see our pets in the eternity of Christ,” the report quoted Paul VI as telling a disconsolate boy years ago. The story was titled, somewhat misleadingly: “Paradise for animals? The Pope doesn’t rule it out.” It wasn’t clear which pope the writer meant, however.

The next day, Nov. 27, a story in the Italian daily Corriere della Sera by veteran Vaticanista Gian Guido Vecchi pushed the headline further: “The Pope and pets: ‘Paradise is open to all creatures.’” Vecchi faithfully recounted the pope’s talk about a new creation, and also cited Paul VI’s remark. But the headline put those words in Francis’ mouth, and that became the story.

The Italian version of The Huffington Post picked it up next and ran an article quoting Francis as saying “We will go to heaven with the animals” and contending that the pope was quoting St. Paul — not Pope Paul — as making that statement to console a boy who lost his dog. (That story, by the way, is nowhere in the Bible.)

The urban legend became unstoppable a week later when it was translated into English and picked up by the British press, which had Francis saying: “Paradise is open to all God’s creatures.”

Commenting on the episode, Mary Eberstadt explains why, in recent years, the cause of animals rights has been taken up by the religious:

In part, the answer is that religious concern for animals comes as a surprise only to readers unacquainted with religion—a number that’s increasing, as many surveys show. As many “nones” seem not to know, theological concern for animals is in fact longstanding, as the dietary rules of Judaism concerning slaughter are the first to show. The Catholic Catechism states that animals are “owed” moral treatment, and many Christian thinkers have agreed; theologian Charles Camosy’s recent book For Love of Animals is a useful primer here. Among others, Trappists, Cistercians, Benedictines, and a number of saints have adopted vegetarianism or otherwise debated the requirements of mercy regarding animals. Recent popes have also appealed variously for clemency toward birds and beasts. Benedict XVI, to name one, deplored the industrial creation of foie gras, to the approval of PETA.

Today’s new moral energy is also emanating from such quarters for another reason: the similarity discerned by some people between the industrial trashing of animal life via factory farms, and the industrial trashing of human life via factory abortion. When Pope Francis decries the tragedy of a “throwaway culture,” he is not only talking about fast-food wrappers or unwanted kitties—as his 2013 Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, section 214, makes clear.

And guess who thought dogs definitely wouldn’t go to heaven? The Pope Emeritus:

Francis’ predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, already tackled this topic — and reached a conclusion that might anger some dog lovers. For the now-retired Pope Emeritus, an animal’s death simply “means the end of their existence on earth,” and that they “are not called to eternal life.”

Waters’ World, Ctd

by Dish Staff

A NSFW clip from Pink Flamingos:

Jerry Saltz celebrates John Waters as not only “one of America’s best moviemakers, [but] also an outstandingly original artist”:

No one gets the cross-section of showbiz and fandom like him. In giving us these extraordinarily particular individuals and distinct visages — both psychological and visual — Waters gets you to know in your bones that the more we are part of a vast crowd of people who idolize someone or something, the more alone and special we feel in our idolization. These are the tribal roots of his art — maybe of all art: the mad adoration and the giving-up of self in order to become more of one’s self. In the same way that Hamlet is so deep that each of us has our own understanding of Hamlet, Pink Flamingos is so specific, if demented, that each of us who reveled in it has our own version of Pink Flamingos. Waters also makes great, telling text-pieces, little index cards with “to-do lists” made up of scores of items, all written in and then crossed out in teeny writing in an orderly fashion. This is one busy, smart, anal-retentive, driven, deeply squirrelly artist.

Saltz goes on to say that he particularly loves that “Waters identifies as a dual citizen of Gotham and his home Baltimore”:

He has said, “I’ll ask myself, ‘What do I feel like doing this weekend? Do I feel like going to a redneck biker bar in Baltimore that I love, that totally accepts me, and where anyone else who went there would get beat up? Or do I want to go to an art opening in New York?’ I love doing that, too … I never go in the middle. That’s my success, because I never have to be in the middle. I never have to be around assholes.” … I love that Waters is one of us, one of those celebrities you see walking around town and feel secretly pleased with yourself for living in such a cool city. Spotting his visage, those alert, beady eyes, and that gentleman-dandy decadent-lecher thrills me with the presence of a true Bohemian prince of the city.

Previous Dish on Waters here and here. Last Christmas, we covered the director’s favorite holiday cinema here.

Down And Dirty On Broadway

by Dish Staff

Laurence Maslon looks back to musical theater’s lurid past:

Coded references to risqué and sexual matters were catnip to the lyricists Lorenz Hart and Cole Porter. In the case of Pal Joey, Hart found a soulmate (and drinking buddy) in the book’s writer, the equally louche John O’Hara. Within the first 15 lines of the show, during which an aspiring nightclub singer is quizzed by a prospective manager, there are references to cocaine, alcohol, pederasty, and one-night stands. In this show, which Richard Rodgers wrote was the first musical “to deal with the facts of life,” the eponymous nightclub singer becomes the kept man of a wealthy socialite, while cheating on his more innocent girlfriend. The singer and the socialite rhapsodize about their affair in a song called “Den of Iniquity,” where they brag about the power of a radio broadcast of Tschaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” to heighten their sexual activity.

When Porter came to Kiss Me, Kate in 1948, the newer brand of musical, with its stricter narrative form, gave fewer opportunities for the naughty one-off numbers that made his reputation in the late 1920s, but with songs such as “Brush Up Your Shakespeare,” he gets away with murder (or “murther,” if you are Shakespearean purist): “When your baby is pleading for pleasure/Let her sample your Measure for Measure” and “If she says your behavior is heinous/Kick her right in theCoriolanus. (Shockingly, this last couplet made it into the 1953 film version; someone was napping over at MGM.)

A Short Story For Saturday

by Dish Staff

This weekend’s short story is Tim Parks’ “Reverend,” just published in The New Yorker. You can surmise the subject matter from its title, which has autobiographical significance for Parks. In an interview, he had this to say about the story’s relationship to his own life:

Reams could be written about the autobiographical links, of one kind or another, in pretty much all of the fiction I have written. If anyone were interested, that is. Let’s say that the distance fiction allows—talking in the third person, declaring from the start, “This is not me, these are not people I know”—enables me to meditate on experiences close to home, on characters like myself, like my father, without being swept away by them. There is also a constant and, I hope, exciting tension between memory and invention, an awareness that, even when you try to say exactly how something was, it is still largely reconstructed through memory and language; it is still a “creative” act.

How the story begins:

After his mother died, Thomas started thinking about his father. All too frequently, while she was dying, there had been talk of her going to meet him in Paradise, returning to the arms of her husband of thirty-two years, who had died thirty-two years before she did. This would be bliss.

Thomas did not believe in such things, of course, though it was hard not to try to imagine them, if only to savor the impossibility of the idea: the two insubstantial souls greeting each other in the ether, the airy embrace. She had been ninety at death, he sixty. There would be some adjustment for that, presumably, in Heaven. The madness of it confirmed one’s skepticism.

Keep reading here. Read the rest of the interview with Parks about the story here, and peruse previous SSFSs here.