We are a small Episcopal Church on the banks of the Rappahannock in Port Royal, Virginia. We acknowledge that we gather on the traditional land of the first people of Port Royal, the Nandtaughtacund, who are still here, and we honor with gratitude the land itself and the life of the Rappahannock Tribe. Our mission statement is to do God’s Will in all that we do.

Good Friday art – Andrea Di Bonaiuto

Andrea Di Bonaiuto
Road to Calvary, Crucifixion, and Descent into Limbo, c.1365, Fresco,
Spanish Chapel, Santa Maria Novella, Florence

Commentary by Paula Nuttall for theVCS.org

“Located opposite the entrance, the fresco dramatically confronts the visitor. Dominating the scene at top centre, Christ hangs on the cross above a multitude of figures, the two thieves to either side, all three figures prominent by virtue of their pale forms silhouetted against the dark sky.

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The Stations go up…

The Stations of the Cross were put up on Wed., Feb. 28. Thanks to Catherine and Larry for their labors:

These are Mary Peterman’s drawings from 2019 that we put on posters for Easter, 2023.

The Stations of the Cross began as the practice of pious pilgrims to Jerusalem who would retrace the final journey of Jesus Christ to Calvary.

Later, for the many who wanted to pass along the same route, but could not make the trip to Jerusalem, a practice developed that eventually took the form of the fourteen stations currently found in almost every church. This allowed people to follow the way in their hearts as they meditated on the last hours of Jesus’ life.

The stations can be walked in a small group or in solitude. Meditating on the words for each station, and on Mary’s watercolors, will be a spiritual experience that will deepen your relationship to Jesus and your faith.

Walking the stations of the cross also remind us that Jesus lived and died as one of us, and knew horrible suffering. As we travel with him through his last hours, we come to know that Jesus travels with us in our hours of greatest need.

Here is a gallery from last year of the complete set :

(full size gallery)

Rafael’s Transfiguration – the Story of a Painting

Raphael (1483-1520) was a master painter of the Renaissance. Raphael considered the Transfiguration to be his greatest masterpiece though he died before he could finish it at age 37. A student finished it.

In his final delirium he asked to see his painting for the last time. His friends brought it to him, and placed it on the bed in which he died on Good Friday, 1520.

Giorgio Vasari, the sixteenth century Italian painter, writer, historian said of the painting that is was “…the most famous, the most beautiful and most divine…”

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Journey of the Magi (1459)


“Benozzo Gozzoli created Journey of the Magi for the Medici family in Italy in 1459. The Medici were members of a Florentine confraternity that celebrated the journey of the magi to Bethlehem every five years by parading the streets of Florence.

“The Medici often commissioned artworks depicting the magi to display their association with the confraternity. The landscape in the painting resembles Florence, and includes castles and villas owned by the Medici family. Some of the prominent figures in the painting are portraits of Medici family members, such as Piero the Gouty (on the white horse at the left, leading the procession), Cosimo (riding the donkey behind Piero), Piero’s children, Guiliano and Lorenzo, and Benozzo himself. The Florentines in the procession can be identified by their red costumes. The landscape is repetitive, unifying the composition and giving the painting a tapestry-like effect. Tapestries were prestigious commodities in renaissance Europe. Benozzo successfully combines the patterning of tapestries with a Florentine interest in broad panoramic landscapes, strongly modeled figures, animals seen in perspective, and attention to detail in this painting. ”

6th Century Mosaic exposes the Magi

From The Visual Commentary on Scripture
by Timothy Verdon

“As a subject in art, the Adoration of the Magi illustrates the events described in Matthew 2:1–12 and elaborated in the liturgical festivity known by the Greek name of ‘Epiphany’ or ‘Manifestation’. The central meaning of the Adoration for Christians is in fact articulated in 1 Timothy 3:16, which says that Christ, the Messiah promised to the Jews, was also ‘proclaimed to the gentiles, believed throughout the world’.

“Matthew’s Gospel was written for a Jewish public, and his account of Wise Men ‘from the east’ bringing gifts to honour the child whose ‘star’ they had seen rise realizes Isaiah’s words to the Chosen People: ‘The nations will come to your light and kings to your dawning brightness’ (60:3 NJB).

“A sixth-century mosaic in the church of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo at Ravenna suggests this inter-cultural message, showing the Magi clothed in garments that would have looked exotic to a Western audience, wearing ‘Phrygian’ (Anatolian) caps, and advancing with their gifts among palm trees. The mosaic, which gives the Wise Men’s traditional names—Balthasar, Melchior, Gaspar—, is part of a larger programme, and visitors to Sant’Apollinare see the Magi approaching figures of Mary and the baby Jesus, in reference to Matthew’s statement that, when the star they followed halted, they finally saw the Child and his mother (Matthew 2:10–11).

“Behind the Magi in the Ravenna mosaic, we see a procession of female martyrs who also advance toward Christ. These evoke a further meaning attributed to this event by Christian theologians. One of the gifts brought by the Magi, myrrh, was an unguent used to embalm the dead, and Christ’s manifestation to all nations was thus seen to include the mystery of his death: an interpretation legitimated by Matthew’s insistence on King Herod’s attempt to eliminate the baby Jesus, killing all infants of the same age (Matthew 2:13–16). The women martyrs following the Magi in the mosaic had shared Christ’s death.

Arts and Faith- Advent 4, relating art and scripture

Commentary is by Daniella Zsupan-Jerome, director of ministerial formation at Saint John’s University School of Theology and Seminary.

John Collier’s contemporary depiction of the Annunciation brings the story of Mary’s encounter with the angel Gabriel into our present reality. Collier’s The Annunciation stands on the shoulders of Tradition, depicting the encounter in such a way that includes the standard symbols of the past. We see Mary and the angel face-to-face, Mary holding a book as a symbol of her piety. We see the lily as a symbol of her purity, the painted window as a symbol of her virginity, and the dove perching in the background as the symbol of the Holy Spirit. These symbols are the familiar language of many Annunciation scenes and connect this work to those from the great masters of the past.

While using these familiar elements, Collier retells the story for our present day: Mary is a young schoolgirl with a ponytail, still in her uniform, and she lives in a suburban neighborhood. Her shoes are playfully untied—she must have just slipped back into them to come to the door. In bringing together past and present, Collier invites us to see the Gospel scene not as a distant story but as one unfolding in our lives here and now.

As the story unfolds, the encounter between Mary and the angel reveals even deeper meaning. Mary is a young schoolgirl with untied shoelaces, but she is also a figure of strength, steadfastness, and faith. She looks squarely at the angel, who in contrast bows reverently before her, paying homage to God’s grace manifest in his lowly handmaid. The angel’s presence is subtly liturgical—in his dress and posture, he resembles an acolyte serving at the altar, ready to adore the presence of the Lord who will in a moment become flesh in the body of this young girl. The angel-as-server is a beautiful reflection of Christ’s bodily presence in our midst, first welcomed through the faithful “yes” of Mary. Standing at the door with Mary and Gabriel, we are at a liturgy, gathered into one Body to encounter the real presence of Christ in our midst. Like Mary, we are called to say “yes” to this moment and offer ourselves to await his arrival.

Arts and Faith- Advent 3, relating art and scripture

Commentary is by Daniella Zsupan-Jerome, director of ministerial formation at Saint John’s University School of Theology and Seminary.

On this third Sunday of Advent, we witness the prophetic call of St. John the Baptist to prepare the way of the Lord. Anton Raphael Mengs’ Saint John the Baptist Preaching brings us face-to-face with John, as he addresses us with expressive gestures. Mengs’ portrayal is intensely psychological, inviting us to encounter John’s deep conviction, prophetic presence, and sense of urgency. John’s penetrating look, coupled with his raised arms, make a burning appeal for us to listen, to look for “the one among us whom we do not recognize,” and to wait attentively for the coming of him whose sandal this prophet is not fit to untie.

In this portrayal, Mengs dares to move St. John the Baptist away from more traditional interpretations. Rather than the heroic portrayal of a martyr, the serene portrayal of a devoted servant recognizing the Lord, or a dutiful prophet preaching to a crowd, Mengs shows us a John who is caught up in emotion. This John is making his passionate appeal stirred by the dangerous knowledge of Christ coming, dying, and rising. In this image, John exists not in the historical moment of Jesus’ early ministry, but in the post-Resurrection reality of the Church that now awaits the final coming of the Risen Lord. The red shroud draped across his body and the cross-shaped staff to his right hint at this. The shroud is a symbol of his martyrdom, and the staff points to the crucifixion of Christ. Here John comes to us not as the wild preacher in the desert, but as the saint who has lived the whole story, who exists now in God’s eternal presence, and who intercedes for us as we continue to watch and wait. He is not the light, but he now dwells in it—demonstrated by Mengs by illuminating his body brightly from above.

St. John’s intercession is as intense as his preaching was—a voice that is still crying out with urgency, this time for the Lord’s Second Coming. His urgent voice comes before God filled with love for the Body of Christ, a love that seeks desperately to rouse this Body to readiness.

Arts and Faith- Advent 2, relating art and scripture

Commentary is by Daniella Zsupan-Jerome, director of ministerial formation at Saint John’s University School of Theology and Seminary.

The voice of John the Baptist crying out in the wilderness and gathering great crowds invites us into the Second Sunday of Advent. Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s St. John the Baptist Preaching captures this moment as he presents a wooded wilderness embracing a colorful crowd. Left of center is John the Baptist, clad in camelhair, though we have to search the scene to find him. Instead of standing as a dominating figure, John is one of the crowd, one of the people who serves his peers with prophetic passion.

For Brueghel, the crowd itself seems to be the dominant figure. It fully saturates the landscape as one body that reveals its diversity only upon closer inspection. A chief way Brueghel shows that diversity is through hats, hoods, and headdresses—each signifying a different culture, vocation, or profession. Brueghel shows not only the mix of people that might have been present in the region, but the great diversity of all of humankind as the intended recipients of the Good News that John is heralding. John prepares the way of the Lord to go beyond boundaries, starting with the colorful cavalcade of people who come to hear the prophetic message.

The body of the crowd becomes vertical, as people all around the perimeter climb the trees to get a better view. Sitting on branches, they foreshadow the story of Zacchaeus the Tax Collector, a figure of conversion and repentance from the Gospel of Luke. Thus, the tree climbers also underscore the message of conversion that John is preaching. Ascending the trees also foreshadows the cross itself as the ultimate place of reconciliation.

In the background, we see a clearing in the woods that presents a vista of a river, a walled castle, and misty mountains. This is an invitation to see beyond the immediate message to the possibilities of God’s ultimate home for us. The river, evocative of Baptism, is especially important as it winds like a road into the mysterious beyond.

We too are called to look beyond and see ourselves as part of a body of people who are gathered by the Good News. Like John, we are also sent to share the Good News so as to help open the horizon of possibilities that lead us all into God’s eternal love