Friday, December 21, 2007

Tradition and Modernity

Thanks to our friend Martin for passing along this link to an article about the new artwork commissioned for the new lectionary in Italy. While on the surface it is only about an aesthetic judgment, I think the issue is much broader and opens up many avenues for exploration.

It wasn't so long ago that I myself would have been one of those angered by this artwork and grousing about the incompatibility of it with Sacred Scripture. However, recently my idea of Beauty has been broadened. If Christ cannot come down and speak to modern man - at the place where modern man lives - what good is He? How one-dimensional and powerless is a God and a faith that cannot respond to the tough questions posed by modernism, by existentialism, by idealism, by any-ism? A singular quality of true Christianity, on the contrary, is that it has the ability to meet all of reality head on and transform it with beauty.

4 comments:

Freder1ck said...

Thanks for this article, Partrick. I'm reading it in complement with the Wilken article (see my post, Christian culture reborn

The iconoclast heresy is not just about art, but about the incarnation. It's always a terrible shock that the Word becomes flesh not only long ago, but here and now - in our contemporary human circumstances. Caravaggio, a sinner, was moved by Christ present and he expressed this boldly in his paintings. And pious Catholics have yet to forgive me for this terrible offense to their sense of decorum.

We are modern. We are abstracted. We are alienated. This is our modern circumstances. Can the Word become flesh now among us? Or must we escape modern paganism to the glorious Roman paganism in order to hear the announcement of the angel Gabriel to Mary?

Wilken notes in his article the first move of Christ becoming flesh in culture: Christians discovered a deeper significance in signs that were used in the culture.

I also think of the novel I Am Asher Lev. Only Christ's death could offer a point of view that could make sense of 20th Century domestic anguish in Queens, NY. The human cry is alive in every age. If many of the illustrations are tentative or failed, so what? Christ's presence is not determined by our successes and accomplishments. And those Christians who would turn away from the human needs of our age as expressed in contemporary art may find themselves turning away from the sufferings of Christ in our midst...

Patrick said...

freder1ck, thanks for stating more clearly what I fumbled around with! This is it precisely!

Freder1ck said...

Thank you Patrick!

Your post is clear, simple, strong. But I couldn't resist emphasizing the importance of what you said with my own rant. And like you, I'm facing my own preconceptions and presuppositions about beauty, about life, about Christ. What amazes me is the fact which is changing us and giving us this different perspective!

Greg said...

Patrick and Frederick: As one who is professionally involved in the arts, it is very moving to me to see your intense engagement with these questions. Bless you for sharing your journey with others. And Merry Christmas to all at Cahiers Peguy!