Oh Lord, purify me, make me a chalice in which you dwell, offer your sacrifice in me and spread your love through me. Let me shine like gold, adorn me with the jewels of virtue that I may always be open to you. Fill me. Overflow me. Let me be like that most perfect vessel, the Singular Vessel of Devotion, She to whom I cry for protection against the Evil One. I ask this for your glory, for the vessel is nothing without the sustenance inside, the cup nothing unless it is filled. Oh Lord, purify me.

Give me a word, Abba

Friday, March 29, 2013

Desire and Passion

We all want control. 

In some sense, all of us, no matter how introverted or phlegmatic, want control. We want the world to run the way we think it should. We want people to behave. We want Wrong to submit to Right. We want Peace not Strife (or do we?)

All this seems to dominate our interactions with each other. We grow angry over injustice, then we have to speak up for true justice and if others don't agree? We run them them over with our just anger. It's a world of competition where each competing "justice" just tries to out-yell the other. We are, one might say, a passionate people. Passion comes from the word "to suffer," but I have the distinct feeling that all our passion is causing much more suffering in others than it is in ourselves. In fact, I think we're rather a masochistic society; we rather enjoy suffering. 

We enjoy working long hours on projects about which we are passionate. We enjoy working out to the point of exhaustion. We enjoy the rough and maybe painful love-making so often promoted in our culture. 

But it's all about control, in the end. We want to control not only the outcome of a project, or our bodies, or someone else's body, but also how much pain we feel and when. We will not submit to advice, to reason, to someone else's needs, or to anything outside our own minds boiling over in passion. 

We all want this control. In reality, however, what we desire is desire. 

Desire is the strong urge to be lost in something. It depends on the value of that thing, or person desired, not the control over it we have. Yes, we want to have the thing desired (a sunset, a beautiful Gothic building) but what we truly desire to have is only attainable in giving yourself over for the sake of the thing. When I stepped into St. Thomas on Fifth Avenue in New York, I did not feel the passion of wanting to possess the beauty in order to control it...in order to use it in my own designs. I just wanted to sit in the church contemplating the beauty. I almost didn't want to take pictures, knowing full well that to possess an image of something will always be as ashes before the experience of the thing itself. 

This desire, the desire to be with the thing (or person) desired, but not to control, is exactly how our relationship with God should be. We should not limit him in our passion for a cause, nor should we try to control his action in the world. We are meant to be his instruments, not he ours. We should not take our human causes and put God's stamp of approval on them where he did not put it. 

But even less should we try to separate what is God's will with what is true, good and beautiful. To do that is to say, "Here, God, you can go in this box. I'll keep an eye on this box." If we do this we miss the point. We are once more trying to control when we should be submitting. 

And the irony? In passion, we are not even in control, though we really really want to be. And in desire, we submit so that we are free. We are "slaves to passion" but if we truly desire the good, we are free to do what we want. Let us forget control, then. If we desire the good and let it guide us, our projects, our causes will become easier, simpler. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

A little question of Apses

The Apse in Question
My sister, blogging at Niggle's Sketchbook, recently posted about a certain apse painting which was painted by a graffiti artist. She thinks it's beautiful and elevating and I don't particularly.

The fact that it has the ability to lift the mind to God (whether it's mine or my sister's) means that there is some merit to it. Because I don't see it as clearly as she does, that means I have to blog about it.

Thinking further about the apse in question, I realized that it's what Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI might call a "first step in a movement toward a different way" of considering "urban" art. It's by no means perfect and by no means the best which can be done in graffiti. Nevertheless, it is moving in the right direction and when I first saw it I thought, "How cool that people are getting back to the traditions of symbolic painting.

Speaking of which, icons and apse mosaics/paintings are probably my favorite form of religious art, so I have pretty strong feelings about it. I've also done a lot of thinking on the subject. Even in early Christian iconography there were poorly done icons and brilliantly done icons.


This is somewhat crude.


Compared with this.

Or this.
And this is modern AND traditional.


The poorly done ones were not bad in the sense that they broke down the faith of the believer. In fact, they could be used very well by the early Christians to pray with reverence to God.

I don't think this quite captures...something...
The fact is, I don't like the style of the apse painting. It's crude and cartoony and seems to exaggerate aspects of the painting for no reason. Then again, I've never seen it in person, so who am I to judge? I do think, though, that this doesn't show the full potential of the art form and that the style was chosen because of the penchant of modern liturgical artists to be somewhat abstract and cartoony.

All in all, I believe this to be a wonderful first step in a movement toward a renewed sense of the sacred by elevating a "low" art form for the glory of God. I just hope that future graffiti artists will go beyond what is expected by the current trends of liturgical art.