n.b. this is only part one, for the next few days I will try to get through the fifteen wonderful miniatures in this Book Of Hours.
Like many Books of Hours, this current addition to my stock, begins with a Calendar, for the first twelve leaves, a front and back for each month. I’ll hold off on discussing the calendar though for now and Jump right in with the first Miniature, which directly follows the calendar. It is of John on Patmos Upon first reflection it might seem strange to begin a book of devotion, with a vision of the end, but alas this teleologic approach is truly quite fitting. The book of Revelation explicitly states that it was written while John was on the island of Patmos. This is the only book in the New Testament where the place of writing is given. According to a tradition preserved by Irenaeus, Eusebius, and Jerome, John was exiled in AD 95 during the reign of Emperor Domitian. His exile ended upon the accession of Nerva in 96.
So here we have John represented in a very traditional way, he is seated on the island writing his vision. In front of John is an Eagle who holds an ink bucket for him. In the background we can see the Beast of the Apocalypse. In the traditional representations John is quite young, as here.
St. John traveled to Ephesus in Asia Minor, was exiled to the island of Patmos, wrote the Fourth Gospel and the Book of Revelation there and finally returned to Ephesus where he died and was buried. The second half of the first century was full of disasters for the early Christians. The Romans at first regarded Christianity as a new Jewish movement. Like the others it ‘was expected to disappear or survive as a sect after the crucifixion of Christ. On arriving in Ephesus, St. John was shocked to see how some Christians had compromised with pagan practices, a situation which he refers to in his first letter of the Revelation. This is addressed to the Christians in Ephesus.
The first part of the major ancient source which is thought to have narrated the arrival and first stay of St. John in Ephesus is lost. What survives relates mostly to his return from Patmos exile; how he began proclaiming the Gospel in Ephesus, his contests with both pagans and heretics among his own community, his miracles and his death there.
In the Book of Revelation St. John does not give any detailed information about the cause of his exile. He merely says that he was exiled to Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Christ (Rv1 :9). Preaching was not a capital crime which would lead to banishment. This image, leads the reader on the path to devotion and maybe even a semi mystical vision like that of John.
“Patmos” means “my killing” (Dictionary of Scripture Proper Names by J.B. Jackson). It was a sterile island. “Sterile” meaning “1. unable to produce offspring; infertile. 2. free from living . . . 3. (of plants or their parts) not producing or bearing seeds, fruit, spores, stamens, or pistils. 4. lacking inspiration or vitality; fruitless” ~ Collins).
Here is the Ontogenesis which is the central power of Catholicism. Even in desolation and in the shadow of ‘The Beast’ (Greek: Θηρίον, Thērion) the goodness of God is revealed! . Yet it is the beast that in it self reveals, it is the driving force of the negative, inspiration out of necessity. John is forced into exile by the Romans, who inadvertently stimulate him to write a revolutionary text. (go figure) As the book tells it the first beast comes from “out of the sea” and is given authority and power by the dragon. This first beast is initially mentioned in Revelation 11:7 as coming out of the abyss.
His appearance is described in detail in Revelation 13:1-10 and some of the mystery behind his appearance is revealed in Revelation 17:7-18. The second beast comes from “out of the earth” and directs all Peoples of the earth to worship the first beast. The second beast is described in Revelation 13:11-18 and is also referred to as the false prophet. The two beasts are aligned with the dragon in opposition to God. They persecute Christians and influence the kings of the earth to gather for the battle of Armageddon. The two beasts are defeated by Christ and are thrown into the lake of fire mentioned in Revelation 19:18-20.
This image of John, like the other miniatures in this book is surrounded by a border of splendor peace and plenty. On this specific frame we can find fantastically rendered flowers on fields of liquid gold and strawberries and a little bipedal faun like beast which is smiling! Prayer contemplation and devotion will frame the owner of this little book,!
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