10 May 2016

‘Humility is the gift of the Holy Spirit …
and may grip non-Christian artists’

A large reproduction of Marko Ivan Rupnik’s icon in the courtyard of Clarendon Street Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Patrick Comerford

The promised early summer has yet to break through in Dublin. The heavy rain today means seems to indicate that, despite the beautiful sunsets each evening, it may be some weeks yet before we can sit out in the evening with a glass of wine in the garden in the evening, or have dinner outdoors.

But after a heavy-going and demanding academic committee meeting in Trinity College Dublin this morning [10 May 2016], it was pleasant to browse for a short time in a book shop in Dawson Street at lunchtime and then take a stroll in the back streets of Dublin, between Dawson Street, Grafton Street and South Great George’s Street.

It is a sure sign of the economic recovery that is benefitting Dublin that the cafés and bars in these side-streets are bustling once again, with full tables out on the footpaths. The liquid lunch may never return, but the cash economy is certainly a benefit for one sector of the economy, and the promised upturn in tourism numbers should make this a very busy, bustling area this summer.

And yet, despite the glitter and glitz of the boutiques and the wine bars, it is interesting to stumble across a vibrant Christian presence in this part of the city centre.

Johnson’s Court is one of these fashionable laneways that run between Grafton Street and Clarendon Street. On the south side of this narrow street, the Westbury Mall has its own particular style. But on the north side of the street, a tall narrow, Spanish-style gateway leads into a courtyard and the steps that ascend to the side entrance into Saint Teresa’s Carmelite Church on Clarendon Street.

Facing the shoppers and tourists at the moment is a large-scale reproduction of a mosaic by the Jesuit artist and theologian, Father Marko Ivan Rupnik, in the Chapel of the Irish College on the Via dei Santi Quattro in Rome. This mosaic, behind the altar, is in the style of traditional icons of Christ, his right hand raised in blessing and the Bible in his left hand open at the words “I am the Good Shepherd.”

Dr Marko Ivan Rupnik, a Jesuit priest, was born 28 November 1954 in Slovenia in 1954. He studied philosophy in Ljubljana, fine arts in Rome and theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University of Rome. His doctoral dissertation was on ‘The Theological Missionary Meaning of Art in the Writings of Vjaceslav Ivanovic Ivanov.’

He is the director of the Centro Aletti in Rome and teaches at the Pontifical Oriental Institute, the Pontifical Gregorian University and Saint Anselm Pontifical Liturgical Institute.

Speaking to Greg Kandra of his work as an artist in the liturgical sphere, he quoted the Russian Orthodox theologian Pavel Florensky (1882-1937) who said: “Truth revealed is the Love and Love achieved is Beauty.”

He added: “That’s it, the artist is attracted by Beauty, which is Love achieved, that is Easter. He can have by grace the humility to let the Mystery fertilise him. Those who work with this Mystery can’t do other than welcome it, give it space in their lives and let it go to work.”

As we prepare to celebrate Pentecost next Sunday [15 May 2016], I was interested to read Father Marko say: “Humility is the gift of the Holy Spirit, that bloweth where it listeth and may grip non-Christian artists also. It is a matter precisely of theological humility. The more mature the artist is in the knowledge of receiving this gift the more he will be dispossessed of his work and its production will not be the sphere of his self-affirmation, but of his humble service. Only in that way can the work be handed over to the many and the many will recognise themselves in it. With art it’s like with love: one demands humility and action. The more humble one is, the more one is veined with love. The more one involves oneself personally, the more one is universal.”

Emphasising the need to be very familiar with the Word of God, he points out that Nicene II says “art is a translation of the Word of God.”

Sunset in Knocklyon last night (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

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