Thursday, September 5, 2013


A parishioner made an interesting observation the other day.  It was the end of Eucharistic adoration.  She had spent some time adoring Our Lord who was exposed on the altar in a fancy monstrance.  “You removed the Blessed Sacrament,” she said, “and left the door open on the monstrance and just set it to the side as though it didn’t mean much more than a gum wrapper.”  (At least that was the gist of what she said.) 
The beauty of the monstrance became absurd – its meaning gone.  That which it was meant to glorify and to which it was designed to draw attention was taken away and it became beauty without purpose.  The sun rays and jewels no longer pointed to something greater, but became beauty unto itself without purpose like a body from which the soul has departed.  It may still be beautiful but so what?
I’ve often thought that about beautiful Church objects in museums that no longer serve their purpose: monstrances, reliquaries, chalices . . . At least illuminated books still glorify Scripture and prayer, but these other objects have lost their meaning.
Should art, in general, always point beyond itself?  If it is just beauty for beauty’s sake, is it not then a technique waiting to be applied?  Can beauty really have meaning on its own or does it become absurd changing us into not much more than a wild bird that likes to collect shiny objects?  Beauty should have the power to move men’s souls, not simply tickle his fancy.  If it simply tickle’s his fancy, then it is pretty – if it moves your soul, it is a reflection of the Divine which is the source of all True Beauty and it is that which feeds us.


Anonymous said...

I have been privileged to be a parishioner for all my life at what I think is the most stunning church in the Diocese (Akron St. Bernard - although St. Sebastian is exceptionally beautiful). Every time I walk into it, I am surrounded by elegance and beauty, and I can't help but stare at the altar and then let my eyes wander to the ceiling. It reallly is breathtaking.

That said, all of that is superficial compared to the true presence of Our Lord in the tabernacle.

I think the people who worked so lovingly to create my church and its furnishings did so with the intent to glorify God and to give Him the finest, most beautiful home they could manage. And I am grateful for that every day.

Over the years, we have had antique candlesticks stolen, priceless chalices dented and scratched, and stained glass weakened and damaged by age. We have been merged and unmerged. While that is all regretable, what matters is that the parish survives and is thriving and continues to worship God, with much thanks to our outstanding priests.

As you say, my parish - both the church building and the people - move my soul and I am blessed.

W.C. Hoag said...

"To speak of beauty is to enter another and more exalted realm--a realm sufficiently apart from our everyday concerns as to be mentioned only with a certain hesitation." -- ROGER SCRUTON, Beauty

Anonymous said...

So I have been scouring your blog this week in hopes there'd be conversation on Syria. Did I miss it? Or is it too new for comment? Are Catholics obligated to follow the Pope's stance? Should we be fasting Saturday? Do you have a position? I am still contemplating, as you may imagine.

Nan said...

The unused church goods still have meaning; they reflect the makers vision of how the Blessed Sacrament, Precious blood or relics of our saints should be housed. They're objects of art on their own, although no longer used for their true purpose.

Do you know that after St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow was finished, Ivan the Terrible had the architect blinded? So he couldn't create anything more beautiful.