- Annotations and Meditations on the Gospels, Volume III: The Resurrection Narratives
Shortly before his death in 1556, Ignatius of Loyola asked Jerome Nadal (1507-1580) to write a book of meditations on the Gospels keyed to their Sunday and feast day sequence in the Roman missal. The founder of the Society of Jesus also requested that the book be illustrated. Nadal, one of the most peripatetic members of a decidedly peripatetic order, devoted what little free time he had to this task between 1568 and 1576. The result is the Annotations and Meditations on the Gospels, initially published by Martin Nunius in Antwerp in 1593/95. Diego Jiménez, Nadal's secretary and later literary executor, oversaw the project through its completion. Although originally written for Jesuit seminarians, the book's sponsors, including Pope Clement VIII, who provided a sizable publication subvention, insisted that it be available to a much broader Latin-reading audience, such as candidates for the priesthood. Nadal's masterpiece soon became one of the seminal devotional treatises of the Catholic Reformation. A second edition appeared in 1595 and a third in 1607. Its success was due in part to the harmonious integration of Nadal's often poignant text with the equally moving set of 153 accompanying engravings created by the Wiericx (Wierix) family workshop of Antwerp. [End Page 318]
Much to its credit, Saint Joseph's University Press decided to publish an English translation of the Annotations and Meditations on the Gospels. Given the length of Nadal's text and the complexity of the project, the book is being issued in three parts. Volume 1 on The Infancy Narratives appeared in 2003 with Melion's lengthy essay (pp. 1-96) on the history, devotional methodology, and significance of the Nadal-Wiericx enterprise. ACD-ROM containing all 153 engravings scanned from the 1607 edition was included. Volume 2 on The Passion Narratives, by far the longest section of the book, will be published last.
In his preface to Volume 3 on The Resurrection Narratives, Frederick A. Homann discusses the historical use of Latin within the Society of Jesus and, more broadly, by the Catholic Church. He notes some of the challenges involved in translating Nadal's words and his meanings into standard American English. Homann briefly explains Nadal's use of the Latin Vulgate Bible and his exegetical procedures. Here, as in volume 1, Homann's translation seems smooth, accurate, and eminently readable.
Walter S. Melion's essay (pp. 1-32) focuses on Nadal's understanding of Christ's Resurrection narratives as a series of "sensible signs," such as his bodily appearances to Mary Magdalene or his disciples. These visual prompts inspired Nadal to structure his own text around the perceptible evidence of the accompanying engravings. Or as Melion puts it, his text "examines Nadal's sense of the relation between historical sights seen and the image of truth his meditative program implants"(p. 3). He briefly explains the structure of Nadal's text, specifically how it links Ignatius' practice of "seeing the place" or making oneself present with the engraved image, each of which is marked with letters that sequence or control the viewer's movement through the narrative. These letters in turn are keyed to the accompanying annotations and the more extensive meditations. Melion next offers detailed readings of the Resurrection and Pentecost prints for the opening and closing chapters of this section of Nadal's book. Since the Synoptic Gospels do not narrate the Resurrection, Nadal faced the difficult challenge of deciding what to include. Melion persuasively proposes that Nadal viewed the Resurrection as a redemptive stream in which the viewer reads the engraving and the accompanying text as a rising by stages from sin and death to a new life. In his analysis of the Pentecost, Melion returns to Nadal's understanding that sensible signs "make visible the lineaments of faith"(p. 11). Melion's essays here...