The LION & the CARDINAL by DANIEL MITSUI


The LION & the CARDINAL
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28 July 2012


TREE of LIFE and DEATH from the SALZBURG MISSAL



Ann W. Astell:
A colorful illustration, painted by Berthold Furtmeyr and found in the third volume of a five-folume missal (circa 1481) commissioned by Bernhard von Rohr, Archbishop of Salzburg, vividly depicts both the juxtaposition and the coalescence of these arboreal images. Entitled Eva und Maria, it shows a single, central tree, which can easily be identified as the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil by the serpent curled around its trunk. Eve, standing naked to the left of the tree, distributes its apples to sinners, who approach her, as it were, in a Communion line, at the end of which looms a skeletal death-figure. The same tree, however, doubles as the Tree of Life, for eucharistic hosts flourish in its branches like white blossoms, intermingled with the fruit. A crucifix hangs on the right side of the tree, to associate the wood of the cross with the tree's branches and trunk. Christ's body on the cross parallels in its position a skull that appears opposite it, on the tree's left side. Taken together, the cross and skull signal the saving power of the Hosts and the mortifying effect of the apples. Mary, dressed in blue and wearing a crown on her haloed head, distributes hosts to a line of saintly commnicants who approach her at the right side of the tree. Mary's action thus mirrors Eve's at the left... Adam's naked body, symbolically joined to the tree trunk against which he rests his head and around which he reaches his arm, points to Jesus' body above, stripped and nailed to the cross, and thus to Christ, the Son of Man, as a New Adam. Adam's apparent, apple-induced sleepiness recalls Christ's death as a sleep before His resurrection, but also God's fashioning of Eve from a rib taken from Adam's size, while Adam slept. By extension Mary appears at Adam's right as the new Eve, the sinless, bridal fruit of the New Adam's atoning sacrifice.

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