Friday, April 25, 2008


In the recently completed Art History course I learned about scientific or one-point perspective painting. It originated with Brunelleschi in early Fifteenth Century Italy and was documented by his contemporary Alberti. It's an attempt to create the illusion of three dimensions in the two dimensional work of art. But it is also a way of focusing the viewers attention: an early example of it is, in fact, the three-dimensional San Lorenzo church in Florence, where Brunelleschi orients the entire structure towards the tabernacle.

One of the finest examples of this technique, now sadly in a very poor state of repair, is Leonardo's The Last Supper. The various lines of the painting, for example, the lines where the walls meet the "ceiling" and the "floor" in the painting, when extended, converge at Christ's head, the exact centre of the painting. This point is called the vanishing point, since it is where the orthogonal lines meet and disappear.

And what does all of this have to do with ecclesiology? Well, during the Pope's recent visit I was pondering the meaning of the convergence of so many people with the Pope. He isn't charismatic, like his predecessor. He is a very humble, scholarly, unassuming man. His sermons are long, difficult and challenging. There are no "Applause Here" notes in his text. His late, great predecessor paused frequently for audience reaction. Not so for papa Bendetto. You have to struggle to following the complexity of his thought. If you really want to understand his thought, you have to download and read the text.

So why are all these people drawn to this quiet intellectual? He's the vanishing point that draws our attention to Christ. He never fails to step aside, metaphorically, to point to Christ. Those who are drawn to Christ's body will sometimes find themselves focused on the Pope. When that Pope understands his role properly, he steps aside, so that they are properly focused on Christ Himself.

Credit for Photo: Joan Lewis from her EWTN blog.

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