maria montessori
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simona@mariamontessori.ro



INTERESTING TO READ... september 2012

Questions on faith
 
I started reading the Bible 5 years ago. 
At the time, I was looking for answers, but looking back I realise that apart from the answers I was hoping to find, reading the Scriptures opened my taste for music, art, sciences, and not only. Little by little, I started returning to my passion: education. 
Thus, the Bible helped me discover the beautiful things, bring my passions to life, find out and learn about things I had sometimes disregarded.  
That is why I believe biblical education is important in schools, and, in fact, it was not long ago that I have come across a book that reinforced this belief. I render the quote in full, even if it is a bit more than what I have gotten you used to so far.
 
"Why is it that we teach about the classical Greeks in school, and the Bible is studied much less, though it is fundamental in the understanding of Western art? The question in itself is simple, but it supposes various precautions, including, last but not least, that of avoiding confusion with the "religious education class". We are not talking about introducing an optional subject, but a compulsory one for all pupils, as it provides necessary and irreplaceable information.
A while ago, Umberto Eco wrote an often quoted fragment in a weekly publication, which seems to anticipate this question:”Why is it that pupils have to know everything about Homer's gods and almost nothing about Moses? Why do we teach the "Divine Comedy” and not the "Song of Songs”? Ever since the 19th century, another "laic”, Francesco de Sanctis,  in his work, "Youth”, showed surprised that 'the bible did not reach our schools, where they often make us read so many frivolities, though it is so important in cultivating the religious spirit, which is the highest expression of morality".
 
His discourse did not concern the religious education class – which should have the bible as main reference -, but the general knowledge and ethical education the school offers. As a Canadian literary critic, Northrop Frye (1912-1991), stressed, the Holy Scripture is "the great code” (this is the title of his work on this topic, published in 1982), the fundamental key towards the understanding of Western civilisation. We have to study the Old and New testament in depth, in order to be able to decipher our own literary, artistic, and social roots.
If we stop at figurative arts, we wonder whether the topics can be deciphered, and the allusions and messages expressed along many centuries of Western art can be grasped without resorting to the iconographic repertoire represented by the pages of the Bible.
Marc Chagall stated that Bible is "the colourful alphabet in which not only I, but almost all painters sank their brushes along the centuries”. In fact, the Holy Scripture is "a garden of symbols, images, and stories”, populated with a large number of characters and brightened by the light of mystery, as the poet T.S. Eliot defined it. This is the garden thousands of poets, writers, sculptors, philosophers, and even contemporary film directors(let us only quote "The Gospel According to St. Matthew”, by Pier Paolo Pasolini, or "Genesis: The Creation and the Flood”, by Ermanno Olmi) went to.

It is beyond doubt that the interpretation and rendering of biblical words were not always flawless. In some cases, there were even alterations and actual reversals of the meanings of text. Let us only quote the example of Jov, presented in the art as an icon of patience and suffering, while removing the central part of the book, a dramatic meditation on how faith is put to test, and on the real face of God.
It is, however, beyond doubt that art, literature and culture in general brought closer, updated, and even transfigured biblical pages, bringing them to life, in all their power and splendour, before millions of people. There are numerous examples, and each of us could list some. I would only like to evoke the power music has in bringing to life and powerfully rendering the Calvary narrated in the Gospel According to St. Matthew (how could we not remember Bach?), or in giving purity and intensity to the prayer in the Psalms (how could we not think about Gregorian chants?).

"Intrebari privitoare la credinta” – Gianfranco Ravasi, 2010