Monday, July 06, 2009

Art in private chapel is a meditation on following Christ, pope says


By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The private Pauline Chapel in the Apostolic Palace is a place for the pope and his closest aides to contemplate their call to follow the crucified and risen Christ and to lead believers in hope, Pope Benedict XVI said.

The pope inaugurated the newly restored chapel -- decorated with Michelangelo's murals of the conversion of St. Paul and the crucifixion of St. Peter -- during an evening prayer service July 4.

The prayer service was attended by members of the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums from the United States, England and Ireland. They donated the $4.6 million needed to restore the private papal chapel.

"Solemn celebrations with the people are not celebrated here. This is where the successor of Peter and his collaborators meditate in silence and adore the living Christ, present especially in the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist," the pope said in his homily.

"The Eucharist is the sacrament in which the whole work of redemption is concentrated: In Jesus the Eucharist we can contemplate the transformation of death into life (and of) violence into love," the pope said.

Pope Benedict said it was interesting to note that Michelangelo depicted St. Paul as an old man when he was converted on the road to Damascus, even though the apostle probably was only in his 30s.

The artist's choice recognizes that maturity in faith comes from being enlightened with divine grace, the pope said.

The face of St. Peter in the mural on the opposite wall, the pope said, is not that of a man in pain, but of a man who is searching for someone or something.

"He realizes precisely at that moment the culmination of following" Christ, the pope said. "The disciple is not greater than the master, and now he will experience all the bitterness of the cross, the consequences of sin that separates us from God, all the absurdity of violence and lies."

Pope Benedict said the chapel invites the pope and his aides "to meditate in silence on the mystery of the cross, which accompanies the church to the end of time, and to welcome the light of faith, which -- thanks to the apostolic community -- can extend to the ends of the earth the missionary and evangelizing action entrusted to it by the risen Christ."

See also from Zenit, "Pope Shares Art-Inspired Meditation."


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