"The Madrid Annunciation"

by Fr. Larry Fraher  |  12/21/2023  |  Images of Faith

On this Fourth Sunday of Advent, cycle B, the Church presents us with the powerful stories of both the Annunciation and Mary’s Visitation to Elizabeth. The Annunciation was a favorite of Catholic artists, especially the great Fra Angelico. The Madrid Annunciation (tempera on panel, c. 1435, Madrid: Museo del Prado) is one of the classic depictions of the event by this great master.


“Saint John the Baptist Bearing Witness”

by Fr. Larry Fraher  |  12/14/2023  |  Images of Faith

Today’s gospel for the Third Sunday of Advent, Cycle C, again proclaims the role of John the Baptist as an essential player on the stage of Salvation History. This week’s pairing of Old and New Testament readings also makes it clear that the action upon the stage of human history is directed by the Holy Spirit. Annibale Carracci’s early17th century work, “Saint John the Baptist Bearing Witness” (oil on copper, c. 1600, New York: The Metropolitan Museum), may offer some assistance as we continue our Advent preparation.


Second Sunday of Advent: "Saint John the Baptist Preaching"

by Fr. Larry Fraher  |  12/07/2023  |  Images of Faith

On this Second Sunday of Advent, Cycle B, we begin consecutive Sundays focused on the preaching of John the Baptist. Luca Giordano’s late 17th Century painting, Saint John the Baptist Preaching (oil on copper, ca. 1695, Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art), may help us with some visual cues to understand our call in this initial Advent encounter with John.

The image depicts John the Baptist traditionally, with the camel-hair garb, and the thin staff with a cross at the top, a common symbol associated with him, along with the red drape of the martyr. His halo, marking his holiness and the fact that he is the central figure in the image, offers a less traditional glow about his head and shoulders rather than the normal disc or circle above the head.


First Sunday of Advent: “Keep Watch!”

by Fr. Larry Fraher  |  12/01/2023  |  Images of Faith

“It’s a busy time.” “I am worn out from all the running around.” “Sometimes it feels like one thing after another.” These are common phrases in the lexicon of most of us as we approach the Holiday Season each year. We have things to do, tasks to accomplish, and guests to entertain. On this First Sunday of Advent, however, we are invited to shift our focus. Christ reminds us, as we begin our journey to the manger, that we must keep watch.


"The White Crucifixion"

by Dr. Larry Fraher, Ph.D.  |  04/01/2023  |  Images of Faith

As Catholics we are abundantly familiar with images of the Crucifixion. We wear them on necklaces, hang them on our walls, and reverence them in our churches. The image of Christ crucified is one of the most sacred that we have, for it is the pinnacle of our faith. God, who has become one with us, now shares in our ultimate destiny, death, so that this destiny may be changed and the Divine nature of Christ becomes our new destiny in and through His resurrection.


"Raising of Lazarus"

by Dr. Larry Fraher, Ph.D.  |  03/25/2023  |  Images of Faith

Depictions of today’s Gospel are plentiful. Most present a motif where the viewer is seeing the events from outside of the tomb of Lazarus. The Saint John’s Bible illumination of the Raising of Lazarus, completed by Donald Jackson in 2002 as a part of the first hand-written and fully illuminated manuscript since the invention of the printing press offers a unique presentation of the story that both challenges and calls us to deepen our faith in Christ, and move toward a renewed sense of mission.


"The Man Born Blind"

by Dr. Larry Fraher, Ph.D.  |  03/18/2023  |  Images of Faith

El Greco’s masterpiece, Christ Healing the Blind, clearly portrays much of the story that we hear in today’s Gospel. Painted about 1570, the artist, a Catholic seeking to further the agenda of the Catholic Church in response to the Reformation, helps the viewer to know the primacy of Christ as he incorporates aspects from stories of healing the blind, not just from the Gospel of John, but also from Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Through his composition, we are presented with a visual call to let go of our vision, to see Christ, and to know that the Son of God comes to create sight in us.


"The Samaritan Woman at the Well"

by Dr. Larry Fraher, Ph.D.  |  03/11/2023  |  Images of Faith

Sébastien Bourdon’s Christ and the Samaritan Woman offers us an interesting depiction of the story. Where most others focus on the first interactions between the woman and Christ, this painting focuses on the post-encounter events presenting the Samaritan woman as the evangelist for her village. Seen in blue and white, standing next to the reclining Christ, she is pointing Him out to those from the town who have come to see Jesus. The apostles observe, gathered together in the lower left corner of the painting, John in the red, and Peter in the white, seemingly disinterested and facing the viewer as he pulls at a loaf of bread.


"The Transfiguration of the Lord"

by Dr. Larry Fraher, Ph.D.  |  03/02/2023  |  Images of Faith

There are some paintings of biblical stories that give rise to a genre. Certainly, the Transfiguration of the Lord may be considered one of these. Most will be familiar with the very famous 16th Century painting of the Transfiguration by Rafael housed at the Vatican. Rafael’s painting set the standard for the genre by presenting the painting in a diptych, the Transfiguration on top, and the story immediately after in the Gospel of Matthew on the bottom. Cristobal de Villalpando, a 17th Century Mexican Baroque painter, applied the diptych model in his presentation of Moses and the Brazen Serpent and the Transfiguration of Jesus. The immense altarpiece (28’ high) invites the viewer to understand that the covenantal relationship established with Abraham is fulfilled completely in the life, passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.