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  • Annotations and Meditations on the Gospels. Volume 1, The Infancy Narratives, and: Annotations and Meditations on the Gospels. Volume 3, The Resurrection Narratives
  • Mark A. Lewis, S.J.
Jerome Nadal . Annotations and Meditations on the Gospels. Volume 1, The Infancy Narratives. Trans. HomannFrederick A.. Philadelphia: St. Joseph's University Press, 2003. xii + 184 pp. + 23 b/w pls. + CD-ROM. append. illus. tbls. $39.95. ISBN: 0–916101–41–X.
Jerome Nadal . Annotations and Meditations on the Gospels. Volume 3, The Resurrection Narratives. Trans. Frederick A. Homann. Philadelphia: St. Joseph's University Press, 2005. xv + 182 pp. illus. $39.95. ISBN: 0–916101–47–9.

This first English translation of Jerome Nadal's Annotations and Meditations on the Gospels should attract the attention of researchers across a wide range of fields of Renaissance Studies. Art historians will want to consider the images which surround the meditations from the point of view of their influence on later [End Page 877] Baroque compositions. Historians of sacred oratory will find a good example of the tradition of the Ignatian "composition of place" meditations within the tradition of the devotio moderna. Theologians and scripture scholars will want to compare the quality of scriptural exegesis in relation to its many sixteenth-century contemporaries. Even historians of the Reformation will want to look at the treatment of the magisterial reformers and the scriptural arguments used to refute them, yet another element embedded in this rich text. St. Joseph's University Press, who have published this important work in translation, promise a third volume (actually volume 2) which will treat the Passion Narratives. (The editors explain in the preface of volume 3 that since the second volume, The Passion Narratives, is the longest and most complex, that they decided to leave it to the last. In the same way, Nadal's preference for the infancy narratives was a reason for its publication in the first volume.)

Among the many important elements of Nadal's work, two aspects bear further review. The first concerns the question of the influence of the engravings executed for this text on the iconography of later baroque art. In his introductory study in volume 3, Walter S. Melion notes the importance of Nadal's book for popularizing even unconventional scenes from his meditations. Melion asserts, "In fact the Annotations and Meditations was revered as a canon of subjects to be consulted by painters such as Pieter Paul Rubens, whose Raising of the Cross of 1610 . . . clearly emulates the print by Hieronymous Wiericx" (24). The connection between this iconography of the sacrifice of Christ and the sacramental presence of Christ in the sacrifice of the Mass demonstrates the transition of a theological idea through scriptural meditation to arrive finally at a visual communication of the preaching it was meant to inspire.

In his article "Grabadores flamencos y la Compañìa de Jesús" (Archivum Historicum Societatis Iesu 73.145 [2004]), Fernando Garcia Gutiérez, S.J., also suggests that the influence of these images from the Gospels commissioned by Nadal spread well beyond Europe. Because the Jesuits carried Nadal's Annotations and Meditations to their various missions, the art there soon reflected these compositions. Gutiérez demonstrates this for the Japanese Christian art of the sixteenth century, and one could imagine similar comparisons being made with the art of other areas of Jesuit missionary activity. Gutiérez also points out that as early as Francisco Pacheco's Arte de la Pintura (1649) artists began to explore the influence of these engravings on contemporary artists.

From this first point, concerning art history, comes the second point, concerning the importance of imagination in the meditative dimension of the modern devotion. It is the Ignatian "composition of place" from the Spiritual Exercises that most directly influences Nadal's work. Ignatius's concern for the excercitant to be present at the scene of a Gospel event certainly emerged from his own reading of the Vita Christi of Ludolph of Saxony, and certainly other works of the devotio moderna encourage having a perception of the Gospel scene. The emphasis that Ignatius placed on being aware of the details of the scene was not for their own sake...


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