This week we continued our study of Matthew’s Gospel, particularly his concern to prepare the disciples for their mission at the end of the Gospel. Jesus appears to the eleven disciples in Galilee on a mountain and, as the glorified Son of Man, says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt 28:18-20).
With this as our guide, we focused our study on the 5 great teaching discourses in Matthew, especially the famous Sermon on the Mount (5-7), which proclaims God’s eschatological blessing on those who long for and work for the kingdom and the demands of law as Jesus interprets it. We also studied Peter’s increasingly important role in the Gospel, especially the blessing Jesus gives him after he has confessed Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of the living God. “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. and I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (16:17-19)
We noted that this text eventually becomes the basis for the bishops of Rome, as successors to Peter, exercising a teaching role in the whole of the Roman Catholic Church. We also read carefully Jesus depiction of the judgment of the nations where the sheep and goats are separated on the basis of their reception of Jesus’ disciples who are hungry, thirsty, estranged, naked and in prison (Matt 25:31-46), the very fate Jesus warns them about in the missionary discourse (10:16-42). Later in the semester we will visit the Basilica of St. Peter’s which is built on the site of a basilica begun by Constantine, the first Chrisitian emperor, who built above the spot where the apostle Peter was buried after his martyrdom close by.
Last weekend the PC students went on an excursion trip to Pompei, Sorrento, and the island of Capri. By all accounts, it was a wonderful trip. Two of our students–Joseph Graziano and Nicole DeMatteo–took the opportunity to hike Mt. Vesuvius, the volcano that destroyed the city of Pompei in 79 AD.
This week we continued our study of Matthew’s Gospel, particularly his concern to prepare the disciples for their mission at the end of the Gospel. Jesus appears to the eleven disciples in Galilee on a mountain and, as the glorified Son of Man, says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to […]MORE
This week our New Testament class completed its study of Mark’s Gospel and began to read Matthew. We visited San Luigi Dei Francesi, the French national church in Rome, which has in its Contarelli Chapel three famous Caravaggio frescoes of St. Matthew: the altarpiece of St. Matthew and the Angel, showing Matthew half-kneeling at his writing table and looking toward the angel in the air behind him for inspiration to write the gospel, the Calling of Matthew at his tax office, and the lengendary Martyrdom of Matthew as he is pulled from an altar while celebrating the Eucharist.
This week we had the good fortune to be joined by Dr. Arthur Urbano who is in Rome as part of his sabbatical research project on the art of the catacombs, particularly the early portrayals of Christ and the apostles. Dr. Urbano pointed out that the depiction of the Inspiration of Matthew was consistent with Dei Verbum, the Dogmatic Costitution on Divine Revelation from The Second Vatican Council. Caravaggio portrays Matthew in his red robe looking up to the angel over his right shoulder for inspiration, but he is also a true human author, as he has his pen in his own hand and it is not being guided by the angel as in an earlier now lost version.
We also were able to do a close reading of the Call of Matthew. The text in the Gospel is extremely brief. “As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax office; and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he rose and followed him.” (Mat 9:9)
Caravaggio, using his brilliant chiaroscuro technique, has captured the moment of the call before Matthew has responded. He has light streaming into a dingy dark room from the right hand side just above the head of a young Jesus whose hand is extended toward a bearded Matthew whose face is bathed in the incoming light. Jesus’ hand gesture is reminiscent of Adam’s in Michelangelo’s Sistene ceiling. He and Peter, who is in the shadow just in front of him and also pointing to Matthew, are dressed in the garb of 1st century Jews and are barefoot. In fact Jesus’ feet are already turned to leave the room, having given the call. Matthew and the others at the table are dressed in Renaissance clothing: elaborate hats with feathers, tights, swords, doublets with puffed sleeves, etc. The two young men nearest Jesus are looking at him, but the elderly man and the young man at the far left of the painting are absorbed in counting money and have no awareness of Jesus. Matthew is famously pointing to himself with his left hand in an extension of Jesus’ gesture, as if to say, “Who, me?” He still has his right hand on the money at the end of the table, but his legs under the table are preparing to rise and follow Jesus. The painting is a brilliant illustration of the moment of the light of grace summoning Matthew to abandon his attachment to money and follow Jesus’ call.
In the afternoon, thanks to Arthur, we attended a moving performance of the contemporary German opera “Augustinus – A Musical Mosaic” at Castel Gandolfo in honor of his holiness Benedict XVI who was in attendance and seemed to be very moved by the performance. The event was part of a conference on Augustine’s City of God sponsored by the diocese of Wurzburg. We thought we were simply going to a tour of Castel Gandolfo, but leave to Arthur to lead us to such a moving event.
This week our New Testament class completed its study of Mark’s Gospel and began to read Matthew. We visited San Luigi Dei Francesi, the French national church in Rome, which has in its Contarelli Chapel three famous Caravaggio frescoes of St. Matthew: the altarpiece of St. Matthew and the Angel, showing Matthew half-kneeling at his […]MORE
This week the New Testament class began our study of Mark’s Gospel and visited the Capitoline Museums to examine the nature of Roman religion and the imperial cult which provides part of the context for the New Testament world. Although these museums have wonderful Renaissance frescos, we focused on the rich collection of artifacts (statuary, fasti, frescoes, sarcophagi, pottery, etc.) from Republican Rome through the Empire and the beginnings of Christian Rome. We saw the famous bronze she-wolf with Romulus and Remus; the reconstruction and remains of the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus, honoring Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva; fragments of the Fasti, records of Roman magistrates and of triumphs of the great captains of Rome; beautiful statuary like the Esquiline Venus and the boy with the thorn in his foot; busts of the Roman emperors and the Greek and Roman poets and philosophers; the famous equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius in gilded bronze; and the remains of a colossal statue of Constantine who with the Edict of Milan (313 AD) ended the Roman persecution of Christians.
We were all impressed with the beauty, craft, and realism of the rich Roman artistic tradition which was inspired by Greek and Roman mythology, and even, in the latter period, Egyptian influences. We also noted how military power, religion, and politics were inseparable in imperial Rome. For example, we took a close look at three splendid large reliefs taken from the triumphal arch to celebrate Marcus Aurelius’ victory over the Sarmatian and German tribes. In one he is in the act of conquest with Roman soldiers but is also dispensing clemency to prisoners kneeling at the foot of his horse. In another he is in a triumphal procession up the Capitoline, carried in his chariot with winged Victory above him and a trumpeter preceding him. In a third as a hooded Pontifex Maximus in front of the Temple of Capitoline Jupiter he is burning incense in a tripod, before sacrificing an unsuspecting bull.
Christians and Jews lived in this Roman Empire that mandated the worship of the emperor and the gods of the Roman state which of course contradicted the faith in the one true God of Israel and the saving death of Jesus, God’s Son. In the New Testament we find several attitudes toward Roman imperial rule. In Mark 12 (and also Matthew 22 and Luke 20), when Pharisees and Herodians attempt to entrap Jesus about paying taxes to Caesar, Jesus, knowing their hypocrisy, requests that they show him a denarius and then asks, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They respond, “Caesar’s”, and then he says, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” This response seems to indicate that one should be able to be a citizen of the Empire and pay its taxes but also be loyal to the one true God of Israel. In seeming contrast to this view, in Romans 1:18-32, Paul condemns pagan polytheism and idolatry when he argues that philosophers should have been able to reason from the order and beauty of creation to the eternal power and wisdom of the one God. He goes on to state that the moral decadence of the pagan world is punishment for its idolatry. The author of the Jewish Book of wisdom makes a similar argument (see Wisdom 13-16). But in the same Letter to the Romans Paul tells his Christian readers to be subject to governing authorities, to pay taxes, and be good citizens. At the end of the course, on the other hand, we will see that Book of Revelation, written during a period of persecution probably at the end of the 1st century AD, sees the Roman state’s use of violence to coerce Christians to worship the state and emperor (Revelation 13-14) as the work of Satan, associated with dragons, ten-headed beasts, and the city of Babylon which is destined to fall (Rev 18).
The wonder of the early growth of Christianity is that it did not initially spread through the Empire by the use of power but through the proclamation of the saving truth of the gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection. It is also ironic that in the Middle Ages and renaissance, the rich tradition of Greco Roman art will be used to celebrate the saving mysteries recorded in the stories of the Old and New Testaments.
This week the New Testament class began our study of Mark’s Gospel and visited the Capitoline Museums to examine the nature of Roman religion and the imperial cult which provides part of the context for the New Testament world. Although these museums have wonderful Renaissance frescos, we focused on the rich collection of artifacts (statuary, […]MORE
On Wednesday September 12, the students and I visited the Roman Forum as a way to explore the Greco-Roman context for the New Testament. We had a wonderful tour guide, Nicoletta Messini, who met us at the monument to Victor Emmanuel II in Piazza Venezia and walked us down the Via dei Fori Imperiale to the Forum. As we approached the Forum she pointed out to us the Mamertine prison just outside the Forum on the northwest side where, according to tradition, Peter and Paul were imprisoned before their deaths by martyrdom. This observation immediately linked all that we would see to the context of the NT in Rome. The two apostles probably walked through the Forum when it was at the height of its magnificence in the early days of the Empire (1st century AD).
Once we entered the Forum, Nicoletta explained that it was the center of political, religious, economic and social life from the founding of the city in 753 BC through the period of the “kings,” the Republic (509-31 BC), and the Empire until the city was sacked by Alaric in the early 5th c. AD. We saw many of the major sites: the huge Temple of Emperor Antoninus Pius and his wife Faustina, the Basilica Aemilia, the Temple of Julius Caesar where his body was cremated after his assassination in 44 BC, the Sacra Via (the central road that runs through the Forum and was the route for triumphal processions), the majestic Curia or Senate House with its various artifacts including the 4th c. column base showing the suovetaurilia (the sacrificial bull, ram and sow), Temples to Vesta, Saturn , Castor, etc. Throughout the tour Nicoletta continued to stress how religion, government and social life were integrated in pagan Roman and how the Romans were open to new cults like that of Isis and Mithras, but did not accept the strict monotheism of both Judaism and early Christianity and therefore emperors periodically persecuted Christians for failure to honor the Roman gods or the emperor’s cult. She also pointed out to us the irony of how many of the originally pagan buildings became Christian churches: the library constructed by Vespasian became the Church of Ss. Cosmas and Damian and the Temple dedicated to Antoninus Pius is the church of S. Lorenzo in Miranda.
For most of the students the tour ended with a close look at the triumphal Arch of Titus at the summit of the Sacra Via on the eastern end of the Forum just before the road descends to the Colosseum. This arch celebrates Titus’ victories in the Jewish War and the sack of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. On one underside of the arch, we were able to see the relief depicting a triumphal procession bringing to Rome the altar of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem decorated with trumpets and the Menorah (the seven-branched golden candlestick). This event, of course had enormous repercussions for both Jews and Christians. It marked the end of Judaism as a sacrificial religion and led to the Rabbinic Judaism of late antiquity that still persists today. For Christianity, it was the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy of the Temple’s destruction (see Mk 13, Matt 24; Lk 21) which would inaugurate the woes and challenges of the Messianic Age.
As we begin to study Mark’s gospel this week, we will be challenged to reflect on the striking difference between Roman culture with its emphasis on status, order, and power and the preaching of Jesus who, when the disciples wanted the privilege of sitting at his right hand and left in his glory, said:
“You know that those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk 10:42-45)
On Wednesday September 12, the students and I visited the Roman Forum as a way to explore the Greco-Roman context for the New Testament. We had a wonderful tour guide, Nicoletta Messini, who met us at the monument to Victor Emmanuel II in Piazza Venezia and walked us down the Via dei Fori Imperiale to […]MORE
This Wednesday the students and I visited the Basilica of S. Clemente, named for the 3rd successor to St. Peter as the bishop of Rome and now served by the Irish Dominicans. S. Clement is famous for his important Letter to the Corinthians in which he uses rich OT examples of the dangers of jealosy and rivalry and the humility of Christ as the suffering servant to settle disputes over leadership in the Corinthian Christian community. According to legends, Clement was exiled from Rome to the mines in the Crimea where he was drowned in the Black Sea for preaching the gospel to the miners. Again, according to the legend, his body was miraculously preserved in a tomb at the bottom of the sea which was revealed annually with the ebbing of the tide. Centuries later, Sts. Cyril and Methodius, the apostles to the Slavs, rescued the remnants of the body and returned them to Rome where they were eventually buried at the site of the original Church.
San Clemente served a a good introduction to Rome as a layered city. Below the present medieval church is an early Byzantine era church (4th-5th c.) and below that a pagan 1st c. pagan level. These were discovered in the 19th and 20th centuries due to the courageous work of several Dominican priors.
The ground level is a beautiful medieval church with a famous apse mosaic of Christ on the cross as the restored Tree of Life and the Vine who gives life to the branches including the Blessed Mother, St. John, and the doctors of the Western church. We read the pertinent Biblical passages which are the basis of this rich symbolism: Genesis 2-3, Ezekiel 47, John 15, Revelation 22. The schola cantorum in the front middle of the nave was in the original Byzantine church and has important early Christian symbols of the fish, dove, and vine on the pillars. There are also beautiful side chapels dedicate to St. Catherine, an early Christian martyr from Alexandria, St John, Sts. Cyril and Methodius, and the Rosary.
Going down one level, we entered a Byzantine era church built in the late 4th and early 5th c. and continuing in use until the upper church replaced it. It has a wide nave and two side isles which preserve frescoes of the Ascension, Christ descent into Limbo, the Madonna and Child, and scenes from the life of S. Clement and St. Alexus.
At the lowest level, we came to the first century Roman street level where there are the remains of a temple dedicated to the Persian god Mithras. We saw the entrance porch of the temple, the room for the meals and the altar of Mithras with the engraving of his act of slaughtering a bull by plunging a large knife into his neck. This cult was limited to males who went through several stages of initiation and was popular with Roman soliders during the first 3 centuries of the Christian era. Just below the temple of Mithras was the remains of a 1st c. Roman house, thought to belong to the family of Flavius Clemens, a relative of the emperor Domitian and a Christian martyr.
Pictures were not allowed in the interior so we took a class picture in the medieval courtyard at the entrance of the Church.
This Wednesday the students and I visited the Basilica of S. Clemente, named for the 3rd successor to St. Peter as the bishop of Rome and now served by the Irish Dominicans. S. Clement is famous for his important Letter to the Corinthians in which he uses rich OT examples of the dangers of jealosy and […]MORE
All of our students have arrived safely in Rome and have been attending orientation activities. Unfortunately, 3 of the students have had baggage problems, but the CEA staff is working with them to get the baggage delivered. The picture is of 5 of our PC students in the grotto outside the lovely CEA center.
Our first activity will be a rare visit on Sept 2 to the Jewish catacombs in Rome on the Via Appia near where many of the Christian catacombs are located. Thanks to Arthur Urbano, I learned of a free set of public tours of the Jewish catacombs of Via Randanini. From Paul’s Letter to the Romans and the Acts of the Apostles (28), we know that there was a fairly large Jewish community in Rome as early as the mid 1st century. The visit will give us the opportunity to discuss the Jewish roots of Christianity, the care for the buried body, as opposed to pagan cremation, reflect Jewish belief in resurrection which began in the two centuries before Christ (see Daniel 12, Wisdom 1-3, 2 Maccabees 7). Student interest was high for this visit and some of our students’ roommates will accompany us. If photos are allowed, we hope to post some after the visit.
Classes begin on Monday with an introduction to the NT and a site visit to the layered Dominican Basilica of San Clemente on Wednesday.
All of our students have arrived safely in Rome and have been attending orientation activities. Unfortunately, 3 of the students have had baggage problems, but the CEA staff is working with them to get the baggage delivered. The picture is of 5 of our PC students in the grotto outside the lovely CEA center. Our […]MORE
Welcome to the PC in Rome Blog for the Fall Term 2012. The students and I are in the last stages of preparation for the wonderful opportunity to study for a semester in Rome. We are making decisions about packing, financial arrangements, etc. and are filled with a combination of excitement and maybe a little apprehension about the adventure of living and studying in the Eternal City for a semester.
The core course that each student will take and that I will have the privilege of teaching is entitled The New Testament in the Eternal City. We will be reading most of the New Testament: the four Gospels and Acts, several of Paul’s letters, including his important Letter to the Romans, 1 and 2 Peter, and the Book of Revelation. In virtually every one of these books that are the written foundation of the Christian faith we will discover archeological and artistic links to the City of Rome. Therefore, in addition to our careful reading of the New Testament texts, we will be visiting numerous sites in and around the city: San Clement and the Roman Forum, the Jewish Catacombs near the CEA Global Campus, the Capitoline Museum and the Imperial Fora, the Scavi di S. Pietro and S. Giovanni dei Fiorentini, S. Luigi dei Francesci, S. Maria Maggiore, S. Giovanni in Laterano, S. Croce in Gerusalemme, S. Maria del Popolo, S. Sabina, the Pantheon, S. Paolo furori le Mura, S. Pietro in Vaticano, the Colosseum, Ss. Cosmas e Damiano, S. Pudenziana, and the Catacombs on Via Appia.
Throughout the semester, with the help of the students, I will be posting reflections on and photos of our exploration of the New Testament in Rome. Please follow us here at PC in Rome. You can also sign up for email updates on the right column so you will be notified of our updates. Below is a picture of the CEA Global Campus in Rome where our classes will be held.
Welcome to the PC in Rome Blog for the Fall Term 2012. The students and I are in the last stages of preparation for the wonderful opportunity to study for a semester in Rome. We are making decisions about packing, financial arrangements, etc. and are filled with a combination of excitement and maybe a little […]MORE
Patrick V. Reid, Ph.D. is a professor of Theology at Providence College. Since 1977 he has taught courses in Biblical Theology, Old Testament, and New Testament on both the undergraduate and graduate level, and all four semesters of the Development of Western Civilization course for both honors students and regular students. He has published three books–Readings in Western Religious Thought: the Ancient World, Readings in Western Religious Thought: The Middle Ages through Reformation, and Moses’s Staff and Aeneas’s Shield— and several articles in scholarly and popular journals on the Old and New Testament and the Roman Catholic Lectionary. He also does a weekly column on the Lectionary for The Rhode Island Catholic paper.
Patrick V. Reid, Ph.D. is a professor of Theology at Providence College. Since 1977 he has taught courses in Biblical Theology, Old Testament, and New Testament on both the undergraduate and graduate level, and all four semesters of the Development of Western Civilization course for both honors students and regular students. He has published three […]MORE
In the fall of 2011 the inaugural group of students arrived in Rome to begin their studies at the Providence College/CEA Center for Theology and Religious Studies in Rome! Under the guidance of Faculty Resident Director Dr. Dana Dillon (FRD 11-12), students spent four months exploring Italy, learning about the New Testament in the Eternal City, and living like Romans.
For more on what our 2011-2012 group did in Rome, check out Dr. Dillon’s blog!
In the fall of 2011 the inaugural group of students arrived in Rome to begin their studies at the Providence College/CEA Center for Theology and Religious Studies in Rome! Under the guidance of Faculty Resident Director Dr. Dana Dillon (FRD 11-12), students spent four months exploring Italy, learning about the New Testament in the Eternal […]MORE