My email box is under siege by people who want me to comment on the recently restored ancient Roman fresco that feminists and members of COW… no… the Women’s Ordination Conference… that’s WOC… claim as evidence for the ordination of women.
Look, friends… here is the deal.
In a chapel of the 2nd century Roman catacombs of Priscilla on the Via Salaria, there are 3rd century frescoes. They are in poor condition even though they have been recently restored.
In the “Greek chapel”, so-called because of some inscriptions in Greek, you find, above, a Good Shepherd, a peacock (symbol of eternal life, because the ancients thought peacock flesh didn’t decay). Nearby is the most ancient known depiction of Mary and the infant Jesus. There is also a fine depiction of the biblical scene of the three youths, their arms raised in the “orans” or praying position, in the fiery furnace, an symbolic illustration of our trust in God and His salvific care for us. In another section, there is a phoenix, a symbol of resurrection.
The “orans” position, arms raised in an attitude of prayer, was a pagan gesture adopted quite naturally by Christians. In ancient art, a figure standing in this attitude is usually a symbolic depiction of the soul. In a Christian burial site, it would connote the soul’s longing for and attainment of eternal life.
On one side of the Greek chapel there are several figures seated on the far side (from our view) of a table. On the ground on either side are several containers of some kind. On the other side, are the three youths in the fiery furnace.
In the center section you face, there is an “orans” figure standing in a robe falling to mid calf, head covered with a shawl much like a Jewish man’s tallit, without a beard and with disproportionately large hands. On the right there is a figure, probably female, seated on a low-backed chair holding a fairly active infant. On the left there is an older man and two smaller figures, probably young men, who are hard to distinguish. The older man is seated. He could be wearing a palla, a cloak over a white tunic. One of the young, standing figures is holding up something round, on a cloth or platter, hard to tell. It may be a loaf of bread. The older figure’s hand is extended toward the round object. It looks like what could be a Eucharistic scene.
Some people, in their fevered imaginations, make this out to be a kind of concelebration of the Eucharist, priests behind the table, assisted by deacons in the presence of a bishop. I don’t see the connection. Moreover, how do the youths in the furnace fit, if the left and central frescoes are connected?
If the right side of the central fresco, wherein the large “orans” dominates, is a Eucharistic celebration (why the smaller figure would hold the bread in that moment is hard to say), what is with the figure on the right, the woman seated with a baby? She is seated in such a way not to be facing toward the supposed Eucharistic celebration, but away, which suggests that the left and the right are not related. The seated woman is gazing pointedly back to the left, but at the “orans” figure, not the Eucharistic scene.
It could be that the family had painted an image of a woman who died in child birth, that the “orans” figure in the center is an expression of her prayer and ours for ourselves and for the dead, and that the Eucharistic scene connects our eschatological and salvific aspirations to the “bread of life”.
The problem is, when you look objectively at the fresco for a while, you can’t make out anything about the seated figures in the frescoes to the left of the central fresco. You can’t tell what sex they are. Some claim one is a woman. Fine. On the other hand, there is no indication that they are clergy of any kind. The fact that they are seated at a table does not mean that this is the Eucharist. There is no evidence that they are doing anything other than eating a meal. That it is in a catacomb suggests that the meal was special, and that it concerns eternal refreshment (refrigerium) and life. It also calls to mind that early Christians not rarely had meals in cemetery’s and catacombs, a practice that persisted from some centuries.
People are conditioned, it seems to me, when they see figures seated as if for a meal on the far side of a table, to think, “Hah! Last Supper!” and therefore “Eucharistic meal” and therefore “Women were priests!” On the other hand, off the top of my head, the fresco could alternately depict the Wedding at Cana, Christ turning the water in the vague containers to wine. Why that would be in a catacomb, I am not sure, but it looks rather like. Perhaps the donor of the paintings wanted to recall the happy day of his marriage and the wife he lost to child birth. Perhaps the “orans” figure is him praying and mourning. Perhaps the youths in the furnace show how he feels now. Perhaps the Good Shepherd, above it all, shows Christ holding him on His shoulders, a lost sheep, lost without Christ.
Whatever it is the frescoes depict, I don’t think anyone can reasonably conclude that they depict a Eucharistic meal with a female presider.
It is far more likely that we see symbolic representations of the family’s hopes for those interred therein, along with a depiction of the Christian soul in an attitude of petitioning and glorifying prayer, thus prompting the viewer to do the same for those buried within.
Just as most of the nasty things written about Pius XII had their origin in a single vicious play, The Deputy, the claims made about the Priscilla fresco find their origin with a feminist named Joan Morris (who also promoted the loony fable about “Pope Joan”). Writers have been running with both fables ever since, footnoting them as if they were true.
These rocks definitely prove that someone was there and left her Barbi doll (or perhaps Fulla doll) behind.
In fact, this photo proves that the Women’s Ordination Conference (WOC!) is really from Mars, not Venus, thus overturning decades of serious research about the differences of women and men!
“But Father! But Father!”, you are asking with good reason, “Why is that Barbi alone? Where is the wymynpryst who was playing with it? Your theory is ridiculous and you hate Vatican II. Vatican II wanted women priests!”
This is easily explained.
The wymynpryst ran off at the approach of Curiosity!
She left the doll there and ran off because she was embarrassed to have been caught by male technology (you know, rovers… get it? “rovers“?…. have that long thing that sticks out). Furthermore, she was about to be caught playing with a ghastly icon of the oppression of women! It was more than she could bear, so she dropped her doll and skeedaddled.
We, however, have the definitive proof in that photo. It is incontrovertible.
I only ask that you footnote this blog when you write your scholarly papers about this electrifying discovery, which is sure to be prompted by Google to the very top of all your search pages…. just like the fact that the fresco in the Catacombs of Priscilla prove that women were ordained.
We also know that there are iguanas on Mars. But that is the stuff of another post.