Tuesday, February 21, 2012

St. Paul: Lost Poem of Shipwreck - Paul on His Way to Rome

Mural Painting and Poem by Abe V Rotor

I am reprinting from my collection the poem (from the original draft) that accompanies this mural: Shipwreck - Paul on His Way to Rome. The mounted copy of the poem attached to the mural might have been misplaced when the mural was transferred out of the old museum to its new location - after fifteen years.

Shipwreck - Paul on His Way to Rome, by Dr Abe V Rotor

There are crossings ahead unexpected,
no light, no guide; to the lesser, the end
of dreams and riches told but ne’er granted;
but to Paul the beginning’s yet at the bend.

There is Caesaria where the laws of men
may deny the just. There’s a friendly Malta –
goodness begets goodness in every brethren.
and there, too, a Herod, an Agrippa.

On a stormy night for Rome, Paul’s last mission
to plant the Seed in the very heart of power,
was a grave at sea, but greater was his vision,
on the weathered rock a tree rose like a tower.

To live one must almost die is reference,
but is he willing to die that others might rise?
he is truly brave, and there’s the difference
to the one who deserves to walk with Christ. ~

Rarely can paintings stand by themselves, so to speak, and tell the viewer what it is in terms of characters and events in history. Owing to the subjective nature of art, it is not unusual to miss the message if the viewer fails to appreciate its historical background, and would rely only on his personal perception. This is often the case with most works of art, more so if the situation does not warrant adequate time and effort to study the particular piece. And to think of the explosion of art forms and styles that dominate our postmodern world.

On the other hand, it is also dangerous to rely on ones own interpretation based on personal experience, and bias. In The Gleaners (a favorite painting of the SPC congregation), for example, an early nineteenth century painting of three old women gleaning leftovers of wheat harvest at sunset - all that the painter, Millet, wanted to show was a rustic country scene that evokes a romantic feeling (romanticism). But years after, Markham a political analyst and socialist, interpreted it as a serious subject, a social issue of injustice and repression. Now this is crucial to being a professor in humanities, and a curator of a museum, two posts I assumed for fifteen years.

This mural is based on the life of St Paul, bold and daring and unstoppable in our present terminology, that nothing could possibly bar his way in propagating the faith. So deep was Paul's loyalty, yet he never met personally his Master, for He was already long dead when he became His faithful servant. This scene is a proof of Paul's determination - determination on a philosophical level, with a purpose - above all, a cause. Which is the essence of the last stanza:

To live one must almost die is reference,
but is he willing to die that others might rise?
He is truly brave, and there’s the difference
to one who deserves to walk with Christ. ~
Why the painting in the first place?

As caretaker of St Paul's Museum, I wanted to focus as centerpiece the works and teachings of St Paul. There must be some other meaning, more than responsibility. I wanted the young Paulinians to learn more about St Paul's life as the Paulinian way of life, to appreciate the meaning of courage and sacrifice, of service and scholarship. (Paul wrote practically a third of the Bible.) For fifteen years with countless guests and friends visiting the museum - repeatedly for many, mostly Paulinians - the mural became a visual aid - vision of the sense and vision of the future. ~

NOTE: In response to requests, this post can can be downloaded to serve as lesson, reference, and for whatever purpose it may serve, except publication.

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