From Arthur Rowe's book The Essence of Jesus, chapters 5 and 6, how did the early and medieval church use art and drama in its Christian devotion?

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According to Rowe in chapter 5, the essence of Jesus in the Middle Ages was found in the art, music and drama of that period, and not in "political and military power struggles." If we want to find out how people experienced Jesus, we have to look at the arts. In a time before the printing press, when literacy was not widespread, Jesus' story was told through  displays of painting, music, and miracle plays, as well as through processions, pilgrmages and poems about Jesus that were recited in public squares.

Paintings that depicted Jesus in scenes from his life hung in private homes and churches to help people focus on Jesus during their worship and devotions. Often these paintings were quite lush and filled with synbolism that pointed to Jesus' power over death or his divinity. Other paintings showed scenes from Jesus' earthly life, such as the raising of Jairus' daughter or the feeding of the five thousand.

Processions and pilgrimages were used to spread the gospel and demonstrate that vast numbers of ordinary people worshiped Jesus. Miracle plays about Jesus performed in public squares acquainted or reminded the masses of the stories of Jesus' life. Plays like the Chester Miracle Cycle added explanations to familiar Bible stories, such as why the Magi brought the gifts they did to the baby Jesus. This level of detail made Jesus' life more real to people. 

In chapter 6, Rowe discusses the impact of the Reformation that swept across Europe in the late Middle Ages, splitting the church into Catholics and Protestants. Both Protestants and Catholics continued to use paintings, poetry, processions, and drama to spread the word about Jesus and to help people worship him. Painters from Rubens to Rembrandt provided vivid rendering of Jesus' miracles, passion, death, and resurrection, sometimes placed into contempary settings that would help make these stories seem present to people in their own lives. 

An outpouring of poetry and drama marked the end of the 16th and the 17th century. Poets like Robert Herrick and John Milton celebrated Jesus in verse. Milton wrote long, complex poems. Milton's most famous poem, Paradise Lost, covered the events that led to humans being expelled from Eden and ended with the proclamation that Jesus would be born, be cruxified, resurrected and then return again to earth in a second coming. In contrast, George Herbert wrote short, simple poems that expressed his love for Jesus.

In both periods, art, music, poetry and drama were key ways the essence of Jesus was conveyed, and these endeavors led to the creation of some of the greatest works of art and literature in Western civilization.

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