Feast of All Saints : Join the dance!
“dance of the blessed” by Fra Angelico (XVth)
You are probably familiar with this scene “dance of the blessed” by Fra Angelico. Inspired by this work of our Dominican brother in the 15th century (end of 14th c-1455), I offer this brief meditation for the Feast of All Saints, the joyful feast of our friends in heaven.
This painting of the Last Judgment done between 1425 and 1428was commissioned by the Camaldolese Order originally sited in the church, St. Mary of the Angels, is now in the museum of San Marco, Florence. The 270 persons represented illustrate Fra Angelico’s fine technical talent as a miniaturist painter. The play of light and vibrant colors, particularly in the Paradise scene with its gold touches, transform it into a divine festivity.
In the bottom center, the sarcophagus is open and empty of Christ’s body. There are other open tombs which give a typical Renaissance perspective thatdraws our gaze towards a luminous sky where Christ is enthroned surrounded by angels and saints. Christ has conquered death! On judgment day the dead will also rise: those who welcomed his divine Mercy will receive eternal life, those who refused, eternal damnation.
Where are the blessed going? Fra Angelico adapted the Last Judgment prototype with new innovations: the blessed are dancing the farandole! Wow…we dance in heaven? Certainly…didn’t you know? Do you want to join the dance? It reflects what you sought to live on earth. There is no lone dancer, no individualism, it is your guardian angel who takes you by the hand and invites you in the joyful farandole. Pay attention, to dance it well, your steps have to be in harmony with everyone. It is a true exercise in listening, being attentive to the other and of collaboration. Therefore, listen to the Spirit, who will give you the rhythm and the melody and will lead you to move harmoniously in union with the other dancers. Wink at your guardian angel, smile at your neighbors and admire this magnificent garden filled with an abundance of trees, blossoming plants and flowers. Smell their perfume and praise the Creator. You may pause awhile, like St. Thomas Aquinas who is discussing with a Camaldolese monk, before entering the heavenly Jerusalem, where the Light of God is shining! Heaven is LOVE, LIFE, JOY, PRAISE, FREEDOM…Heaven is God himself.
Throughout the ages the saints have sought to make a dance of their life in following Christ. They offer us encouragement during this difficult time: let invoke their help as we follow their footsteps. Happy Feast of All Saints!
“They come, singing for joy! Immense fresco of joy, Love with a hundred faces seeking in the Light, the glorious icon of Jesus Christ. Praise be to You Lord of all the living!”
Sr Thérèse Marie Boillat