Historically speaking, Jesus the man expressed no interest in the fine arts. He was a member of an impoverished, subject people who worked to live and were forbidden by sacred law from making visual images of people. How then did the church that follows him become so deeply involved in the arts? Georgetown English professor John Pfordresher proposes three explanations-adaptation, imitation, inspiration-but settles quickly on the third as the cornerstone of his book: 'Jesus continues to be actively present whenever his followers gather.' It follows that Catholic art (Pfordresher defines catholic as that historically continuous community of Christian believers that is the Catholic Church) is the direct consequence of the Creator Spiritus 'shaping new forms out of the elements of daily life.' After laying out the basics of Catholic belief, Pfordresher discusses the implications for the Catholic imagination and studies the imaginative aspects of Jesus' teaching, tracing the ways in which his expression and understanding of reality entered the minds and imaginations of the generations that followed. But the most absorbing aspect of Pfordresher's examination is the feast of examples he offers up to narrate this evolution: the autobiographical writings of Saint Paul, the architecture and fresco paintings of eastern Syria and catacomb Rome, lyric poetry from Spain, the Irish-Celtic Book of Kells, the Utrecht Psalter, and the Heiland epic from the Saxons of northern Germany. 333 pp.
An Eighth Day View:
This richly illustrated book traces the development of a specifically Catholic imagination from its roots in the thought-world of Jesus to Catholic art at the end of the first millennium.