Meet my friend Quarantine! A study on St. Michael the Archangel (and the plague)
Saint Michael the Archangel, is repeatedly depicted in the Bible as the “great captain,” the leader of the heavenly hosts, and the warrior helping the children of Israel. Early in the history of the Christian Church he came to be regarded as the helper of the Church’s armies against the heathen and against the attacks of the Devil. He holds the secret of the mighty “word” by the utterance of which God created heaven and earth and was the angel who spoke to Moses at Mount Sinai” (Acts 7:38). The numerous representations of Michael in art reflect his character as a warrior: he is shown with a sword, in combat with or triumph over a dragon, from the story in the Book of Revelation (Apocalypse). At first glance people sometimes mistake him for the dragon-slaying St. George, especially when he carries a shield with a cross, but of course Michael always has wings and George never does. (This iconographic type relates to the opening episode in salvation history: The angel Lucifer rebels against God and is driven into Hell with his companions. Lucifer becomes Satan, and his formerly angelic companions are now the demons that will seek to avenge their defeat by assailing mankind.)
On a more general note, especially in the Middle Age, St. Michael was invoked to guard lands and people from (very frequent) plagues, and celebrated in gratitude once the plague was eradicated. For this main reason, this year I realized that Saint Michael had lots to deal with a renewed thinking on the situation the whole world is currently facing due to COVID-19.
All of us have been told that the months we spent in lock-down had to be hyper-productive: don't waste any time, just keep DOING something - be it training, reading, writing, cooking, baking! It is true that we have all experienced a deep trauma - whether it has been an emotional one (regarding our fears, uncertainties or, for those who had any, mourning) or a "practical" one (being unable to move and travel, loosing a job and being deeply worried about the future economic crisis we all are about to impact). Therefore I believe we didn't HAVE TO (nor need to) feel engaged in an activity, we would just need to go through this and be nourished by the love and compassion of our families, friends and loved ones, leaving some space to meditation and acceptance, in the hope of overcoming this moment. Back in the days this was simply called a prayer, as we just shared a different vocabulary, though filled with the same needs.
As for me, I was unable to DO anything, while quarantined. I have been spending the whole time on my own, it has been hard. My meditation was channeled in this St. Michael and the drawing technique, but it took months and I had no urge. I am happy to share this work today as a simple gesture of hope and intimate adaptation to something bigger than all of us, just what the pandemic has actually been.
The canvas has been donated to the city of Castiglion Fiorentino (near Arezzo, Tuscany) of which St. Michael is Patron Saint and where my family has its origin.
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