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  • Devin O'Donnell

From Big to Little

Remember the Roman cognomen "Paulus"? It means "small." Before Paul's conversion we hear of a proud and zealous man named Saul, which means "big." After he is confronted by the Lord, on his way to persecute those who followed "The Way," Paul suffers a great change. What was once "big" God now makes "small," just God raises the valleys and puts down the mountains. Conversely, what was small in Saul (humility, for instance, or love) God, in His violent interruption, makes Big in the new life of Paul. Such things are worth remembering, especially given that tomorrow is the feast day of The Conversion of Paul.


Where would the world be without St. Paul? For he is the apostle to the gentiles, who challenged Peter's scruples about the Levitical law. (One wonders if we might not have bacon.) But in light of considering these aspects of St. Paul's life, this feast focuses in on his conversion. Note, for instance, the emphasis on Saul's blindness. We can see this amplified in Caravaggio (on the left), especially in his use of light. Note his ability to create the "slow-motion" depiction of the event. Note the pleading of heaven: "Saule, Saule, quid me persequeris."


On the right, we have El Greco's depiction of St. Paul. You might be tempted to say of this depiction of St. Paul, "Wow, look at the existential features in this portrait, the cloven beard, the elongation of face, limb, and digit—as if time we stretching him gaunt and thin." But you might be wrong to say all that. For existentialism did not exist in the 16th-17th century. What is revealed is Paul's intensity and his piety. El Greco was known as the painter of realism.


Here is the agenda for today.



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