Thursday, May 31
In My Universe, Oddly Enough, This is Big News
Wednesday, May 30
Matthew G. Alderman in the latest edition of St. Austin Review (StAR)
How I ever managed to end up sharing page space with the illustrious Dr. Reid et alia is a testament to the refreshing weirdness of the Divine sense of humor, as well as Providence, but that my second printed article (after this April's appearance in Touchstone) should be amid such distinguished company, and in a magazine edited by Chesterton biographer Joseph Pearce, has been both mildly comic and deeply humbling. And also a very pleasant surprise.
But it's an article I'm quite proud of, and it's entitled "Incarnating the Mass: Rediscovering the Liturgical Beauty of Christian Architecture" and in addition to some remarks on style and beauty, as well as architectural orientation, it also offers seven concrete architectural suggestions for mainstream parishes interested in inculcating a truly liturgical spirit into their sanctuaries. Most of them aren't that difficult, either!
I hope it will offer yet another step in the long journey of renewal we all participate in as the Catholic faithful reconnect with our roots. But don't take my word for it! Pick up a copy of StAR and check it out--and Dr. Reid and Fr. Lang and all the rest--for yourself!
If you are not a subscriber but are interested in ordering a single copy (or even a couple), email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. One is just $4.95, and my article even has pictures. What more could you want?
Forgotten Architectural Styles II: New Amsterdam Revival
Collegiate Dutch Reformed Church, West End and 77th Street, 1892
Of this edifice, Stern in his New York 1900 writes:
The sense of the West End [of New York] as a new New Amsterdam was most vividly articulated by Robert W. Gibson's Collegiate Dutch Reformed Church [...] which linked the broad traditions of a congregation founded in New Amsterdam with the new spirit of Metropolitanism. Despite its modest height, the powerful stepped gable, the rigorous articulation of the masses separating church from school and providing a modest suggestion of a cloister, and the vividly-colored combination of brick, stone, terra cotta and Dutch tile contributed to the building's commanding presence. In the interior, the need to provide unobstructed sight lines for each parishioner led to a novel solution in which columns supporting the roof timbers were confined to the edges of the room, where they screened the aisles from theauditorium proper. Gibson's church was closely inspired by the Meat Market [!] in Haarlem, the Netherlands. It was a more literal adaptation of Dutch sources than previously seen in New York, reflecting the increasingly "scientific" eclecticism that came to dominate the architecture of the Composite Era later in the 1890s.While undeniably Protestant in its architectonic values, this striking structure offers some food for thought for the Catholic architect, both as a positive and a negative example.
Deriving as it does from secular Dutch examples, it is largely devoid of the liturgical elements common to the Gothic churches of the era, either at a superficial level, as with those which took a meeting-house plan and veneered it in Gothic, or more deeply, as in those high-church constructions which adopted reredoses, deep chancels and side-altars. This is hardly unsurprising, given the aliturgical quality of Dutch Reformed worship, and an intriguing illustration of how divergent theology may be reflected in divergent architecture.
As a negative example, its architecture, while handsome, is more in line with the market buildings of the Netherlands. It suggests an elegant town hall more than a place of worship, particularly in the auditorium's low massing in relation to its surrounding parish complex, the hierarchical aspect of which is somewhat (probably deliberately) frustrated. A Catholic church building should, however, always rise substantially above its outbuildings--indeed, simply raising the walls just another ten feet or so, or adding a fleche to its steeple, would render the building far more sound from the standpoint of a more liturgical ecclesiology. Still, one is struck less by the inappropriateness of designing a preaching-hall that looks like a meat market than by the remarkable splendor of a culture which could ennoble an ordinary building with such ornaments as an embodiment of civic pride.
As a positive example, the component elements of the structure offer much delicacy of detail and an intelligent, subtle treatment of color--both useful tricks for an architect trying to give greater dignity to a structure which the constraints of reality may not be as lofty or handsome as he might like. Indeed, it is remarkable how this low little building splendidly dominates its corner. The charming stepped gable is particularly wonderful, and by itself hardly Protestant or even solely Dutch in character as it appears in a number of more conventional Polish Catholic churches in Chicago, often flanked by more strictly ecclesiastical bell-towers.
Quite a few other examples of neo-Dutch architecture appeared in New York at the time, concentrated amid the growing neighborhoods of the Upper West Side of the city. A few examples follow.
Two Saints for the Price of One
St. Therese in costume as St. Joan
Birthplace of St. Joan at Domrémy.
Interrogtation of St. Joan by the Cardinal of Winchester. Gillot Saint-Èvre, Louvre, Paris, 1835.
Signature of St. Joan.
Church on the site of her execution, Rouen. Hasn't the poor girl suffered enough?
Sunday, May 27
All Good Things......
The words, songs, ceremonies, signs, movements of worship are all designed to open the mind and heart of the participant to this experience of oneness in Christ. One reason why I am a Catholic, a monk and a priest today is that I first went to Mass, and kept going to Mass, in a Church where these things were realized. . . . There was nothing new or revolutionary about it; only that everything was well done, not out of aestheticism or rubrical obsessiveness, but out of love for God and His truth. It would certainly be ingratitude of me of I did not remember the atmosphere of joy, light, and at least relative openness and spontaneity that filled Corpus Christi at solemn High Mass.
Merton, I think, offers us some wisdom about carrying out effective liturgy in today's Church. This is especially true when he distinguishes how it was neither "new or revolutionary" nor done out of aestheticism or rubrical obsessiveness. How often in the past 40 years we have been subjected to the "new and revolutionary" getting in the way of worshipping in spirit and truth, letting novelty itself become the norm for our celebration rather than the liturgy itself. Yet there are two sides to this coin, and as Merton points out, we also need to avoid the dangers of aestheticism and rubrical obsessiveness which can cause us to miss the forest for the trees. This especially can take the form of making past forms and norms into absolute standards rather than a leaven, and not admitting that perhaps some change to them was and is necessary. It can also take the form, in some ways, of making our communities places where people feel judged rather than welcomed, subjected to some real or at the very least perceived norms that cause them to feel alienated or unworthy.
The antidote to this, as Merton says, is "the atmosphere of joy, light, and at least relative openness and spontaneity." This does not, of course, mean a shallow embrace of the external forms of joy and openness for their own sakes. Rather, what Merton means is that celebrating the liturgy well and being a community of faith should lead to these characteristics. This, of course, does not mean that chastisement or critique should not take place - but rather, that they should only take place within these contexts. Indeed, this means welcoming others and not piling up presuppositions for entrance into the community besides those that are intrinsic to faith and morals.
This also means presuming good will on the part of others until it is demonstrably proven otherwise. Indeed, I recently saw on another blog that in the conext of praising the Insitute of Christ the King's work here near the University of Chicago, they presumed that "undergraduates are too busy studying and have more interest in cooperating with the local manifestation of liberal, heretical Catholicism in the chaplaincy than in “speaking truth to power” and trying to find something better." This is sheer calumny, and maligns the work of good people without the slightest knowledge of the context - simply presuming that campus ministries are this way. While this may reflect some people's experience, it is not the case in this one, nor should it be projected in this way simply to advance a traditionalist agenda through the means of the Institute.
Love and joy are gifts of the Holy Spirit, and we must receive them as such and live them out in our lives. I have been grateful during my time in Chicago to find them, and indeed to find them combined with the pursuit of beauty, goodness, and truth. Indeed, I have realized precisely that the beauty of the Faith is not an ideology, but a lived experience of Christ through His Church. Let us be careful of trying to construct ideologies within the Church that wrongly alienating people by setting up boundary lines that are not there (based on, say, whether one frequently attends the Tridentine Mass) but rather by inviting them to experience the love and joy of the faith precisely through our own love and joy. This is the wonder of Pentecost, and ineed the wonder of the Church at her best.
* Pentecost at Mt. Carmel
Entrance Hymn: Come Holy Ghost
Sprinkling Rite: Engl. translation of Vidi Aquam, Monica Laughlin, OSB
Gloria: Andrews New Mass for Congregations, arr. Biery
Responsorial Psalm: Paul French
Sequence: Veni Sancte Spiritus, chant
Gospel Acclamation Verse: William Ferris
Offertory: Salmo 150, Ernani Aguiar
Eucharistic Acclamations: Danish Amen Mass, Kraehenbuehl
Our Father: Plainchant
Agnus Dei: William Ferris, Missa Brevis in A Major
Communion: O Spirit of the Living God, Tye, arr. French
Closing Hymn: Come Down, O Love Divine
Friday, May 25
The Latest Photos from San Gregorio dei Muratori, Rome
Photos from the recent public recitation of the Rosary with musical accompaniment at the FSSP Church in the Æternal City can be found at the blogs FSSP in Urbe and Casa Santa Lidia, including a shot of the rarely-seen choirloft of the tiny church of San Gregorio.
Thursday, May 24
Baroque Things to Do With Cats
In order to raise the spirits of an Italian prince burdened by the cares of his position, a musician created for him a cat piano. The musician selected cats whose natural voices were at different pitches and arranged them in cages side by side, so that when a key on the piano was depressed, a mechanism drove a sharp spike into the appropriate cat’s tail. The result was a melody of meows that became more vigorous as the cats became more desperate. Who could not help but laugh at such music? Thus was the prince raised from his melancholy. ~Kircher, Musurgia Universalis, 1650And so we have Fr. Athanasius Kircher's Infamous--and distinctly Pythonesque--Cat Piano. Don't blame him, he didn't invent it, he just described it. For more, see here, here, here and here.
For more inhumane Baroque cat entertainment, there's also the catoptric cat theatre invented by the great man during those spare moments when he wasn't flying prank dragon-shaped kites over the Roman College in order to freak out the Dominicans down the street.
Francesco Borromini, San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane, Rome (1638-1641)
Images from Fr. Athanasius Kircher's Musurgia Universalis, 1650
Frontispiece to Volume I, showing a personification of music straddling the celestial globe, all under the watchful eye of God, here marked with the triple Hebrew Yodh for the Holy Trinity.
A psychedelic allegory of creation: "the Harmony of the Birth of the World" (Harmonia Nascentis Mundi), with the inscription Sic ludit in orbe terrarum aeterna Dei Sapientia ("thus plays the wisdom of the everlasting God in the earthly orb") below the keyboard. The six scenes of creation are inspired by Robert Fludd's Utriusque Cosmi, Maioris scilicet et Minoris, metaphysica, physica, atque technica Historia of 1617-1621.
Comparative chart of various animals' aural organs, rendered with Counterreformatory panache, as usual. If only today's scientific texts were as elegant!
Wednesday, May 23
John William Waterhouse (1849-1917)
St. Cecilia, 1895
I am tremendously fond of the colorful, historicizing works of J.W. Waterhouse, one of those painters like Edmund Blair Leighton that handled detailed medieval and romantic subjects with a trained academic eye towards the end of the 19th century, and now becoming oddly ubiquitous on college dorm-room posters. Like Bougereau (another favorite of mine), they sometimes skate dangerously close to dewy sentimentalism or the uncomfortable sensualist wish-fulfilment of Rosetti, but they frequently display considerably technique, a remarkable fusion of realistic detail and vivid color, and at their occasional best they have a good bit of both the vivacity of Sargent fused with the spirit of Burne-Jones. In particular, Waterhouse's painting of St. Cecilia is a tour-de-force mixing medieval stylization, impeccable 19th century realistic draftsmanship, an almost Flemish sense of detail, and the bright colors of the early Renaissance. Most of the composition is probably chosen for visual effect, but the numerous details of the landscape would have provided a feast of iconographic possibilities for Jan van Eyck, Botticelli or his brethren.
What is to be lamented in such works is a lack of subject matter that is not merely decorative. St. Cecilia is first ornamental and then only distantly ecclesiastical, in that it illustrates not a scene of the saint at prayer but a romantic snippet from a Tennyson poem. (Not much would be required to fix it but a few changes of pose, and the substitution of a prie-dieu for the saint's rather remarkable little throne!) Like the earlier Pre-Raphaelites, Waterhouse and co. attempt the revival of medieval charm without medieval religion. While I have a great admirer of the chivalric and mythological works that predominated in the world of the late-19th-century salon, such marvelous fusions of technique ought to find their higher fulfilment in the world of the liturgical.
John William Waterhouse (1849-1917)
The Missal, 1902
In such a world, the wonderful little ships, the fountain, the flowers, and the Italianate towers and the saint herself would all be imbued with a deeper justification, symbolic meaning and submitted to an overarching logic which in this incarnation they appear to lack. For instance, had the The Missal been painted for an explicitly Catholic purpose, it might have been a young saint or the Madonna at prayer, and the cloister beyond seen as the enclosed garden of Mary, or at her elbow the extinguished candlestick of the Annunciation. The elements are all there, but just require something more to breathe meaning into them. One can almost imagine it as the outer door of a triptych, with the missing Gabriel on the opposite wing.
However, this does not mean we can't learn from such experiments ourselves. In fact, with all this evident beauty crying out to be utilized, it almost demands it. Perhaps we can now raise their artistic struggles to a higher level by Christianizing the inherent and definite beauty of what was before merely decorative.
Tuesday, May 22
Forgotten Architectural Styles I: Hungarian Art Nouveau
Here's a fascinating collection of photos of the now increasingly endangered synagogue of the Serbian (formerly Hungarian) town of Subotica, a stunning piece of Hungarian art nouveau definitely worth one's study. Art Nouveau is increasingly coming back into the limelight as a favorite historic style, as Gaudi and his more conventional contemporaries in the singularly misnamed Modernismo movement are given their moments of reappraisal in the sun. However, the Subotica synagogue shows such sophisticated and innovative reworkings of folk art and architecture were hardly an isolated western European phenomenon, nor is their significance confined to history--the simplified, curvilinear forms and humble brick and stucco construction of this particular house of worship could easily be adapted to modern construction processes to create a marvelous building in an unusual style that nonetheless has deep historic roots.
On a sadder note, Subotica's synagogue is now almost all but empty. Most of the city's 6,000 Jews were shipped to Auschwitz and never returned. While many are calling for its restoration as a work of cultural and artistic importance, nobody is quite sure what they should do with it if it is ever returned to its former glory.
Monday, May 21
I am reading a story about a Mormon who supposedly had an audience with Pius XII. I think it is a fabrication but I cannot be sure. One thing stands out: the author claims that at the time of this audience it was necessary to drink a glass of wine before meeting the Pope. Was this ever protocol? I can't think of anywhere better than SotHW to ask this type of thing. Here is the excerpt: "The day for the appointment arrived and John made his way to the Vatican. Apparently according to John, before having audience with the Pope, there are several small rituals one must go through, one of which included drinking a small glass of wine. When the wine was presented to him, he declined it stating that he was a Mormon and that Mormons did not drink alcohol. The aides who were taking John through this process were very embarrassed at this oversight and apologized profusely if they had offended him."
I have not heard of such a thing. It sounds to me like a gesture of hospitality on behalf of the Vatican officials, offering a drink, was mistaken as a ritualized observance by the Mormon visitor. But, that is just my guess.
Anyone know for sure?
An unusual medieval reimagining of the Amazons of Greek myth, from the Nuremberg Schedelsche Weltchronik of 1483. Scholars of the Renaissance attributed to this tribe of (apparently mythical) fighting women the invention of the battle-axe, a garbling of the Scythian sagaris. One proponent of this theory, Johannes Aventinus, has a German wheat-beer named after him, incidentally. I have no idea if it's any good.
More on the Bavarian Baroque
(Incidentally, he appears to have had a run in with our pals the Heralds.)
The Softer Side of Mother Church
First, even apart from its fantastic rocaille, the basic structure of the building itself is imbued with an extraordinary plasticity and lightness that takes the luminous hallenkirches of Gothic Germany and bends them like a coat-hanger into the compress-and-release of ovular naves and bulging transcepts, while the ornament must be read, rather than mere decadent exuberance, as an overflowing of the traditional richness of the sanctuary over the whole of the church, turning the entire interior, rather than just the chancel, into a manifestation of heaven that catches up the congregation as a whole.
On one hand, this peculiarly German characteristic may subvert the more orthodox distinction between the two parts of the church (and thus is not necessarily a good model for our current ecclesiological situation), but at the same time offers an important teaching-point that requires the normative distinction between the two in order to be appreciated. Still, it is nonetheless going to be very hard for people to miss the reredos; and while one may legitimately claim the focus may be more on the reredos than the altar itself, such concerns would excise not only Baroque altarpieces from our tradition but a good many Gothic masterpieces as well.
It is better to see the presence of the altar as extended in space through the superstructure of the reredos, which functions as a symbolic window into heaven representing the very real nexus of heaven and earth that is the altar. Like the baldachin, it's just another of many approaches to visually render the importance of the altar, which, being low to the ground, makes for a distinctly awkward object of visual veneration. To paraphrase the semiotician Umberto Eco, long low things tend to make awkward religious objects--you never heard of a cult of the sacred bannister, did you?
It is also crucial to recall the exteriors of many of these churches, especially those that stand in the foothills of the German alps, often have exteriors of a surpassing plainness, thus heightening the impression of crossing from the outside world into an independent heavenly realm.
One must recall that such extraordinary masses of plasterwork are not truly a manifestation not of a citified or effeminate love of ornament but a local, popular, even somewhat folkloric response to the more disciplined decoration of Borromini or Fischer von Erlach. While still in the realm of high art--for men like Balthazar Neumann were not unlettered craftsmen--it is a high art intimately connected to the peasant votaries who flocked to such shrines and to the symbolism that swayed their hearts.
Just as we need the hard masculinity of Romanesque or the militant womanliness of the Roman Baroque, there's something to be said for seeing solemn Ecclesia show off her cheerful, maidenly youthful side. While lacy albs are one thing, and often a bit over the top (and are often themselves are more the fruit of 19th century commercial taste than the truly traditional), architecture is wholly another. Occasionally, we can permit Mother Church to be a bit girly, after all.
Sunday, May 20
A Simple Moral-Theological Guideline
And who says television can't be educational?
More from the Golden Legend on St. Augustine
And You Thought Madeleine Bassett was Wet
He fell into the error of the Manichaens, who hold that Christ was a phantasm and deny the Resurrection, and persisted in that error for nine years, while he was an adolescent. His attachment to trifles was such that he said that a fig tree wept when a leaf or a fig was plucked.No word on pears, however.
Saturday, May 19
Yes, as in Calvin and Hobbes
Mäda Primavesi, 1912
Gustav Klimt (Austrian, 1862–1918)
What a fine St. Agnes this determined and solemn little girl might have made! The Viennese sezessionist Gustave Klimt's work is unabashedly secular in its outlook, and of its age, but its dizzying melange of realism and stylization, flowing from the solidity of her stern face into the curling brustrokes of backdrop, makes it a visual feast for the artist--especially one like me, equally intrigued by the geometry of Byzantium and the ecstatic energy of Rome.
As a former Boy Scout (I can too be outdoorsy sometimes...occasionally...well, once in a while), this has to be one of the coolest photos I have seen in a long time.
(Via the NLM).
In a recent Q & A session, Benedict responds to inquiries about his favorite horror movie by doing his famous impression of Boris Karloff in 1932's The Mummy.
Storm Damage at ND
Image Credit: WSBT Channel 2
Another view, and another story, of the damage at Notre Dame following the storm a few days ago.
Friday, May 18
The Eucharistic Augustine
"Was not Christ immolated only once in His very Person? In the Sacrament, nevertheless, He is immolated for the people not only on every Easter Solemnity but on every day; and a man would not be lying if, when asked, he were to reply that Christ is being immolated." (Letters 98:9)
"That Bread which you see on the altar, having been sanctified by the word of God is the Body of Christ. That chalice, or rather, what is in that chalice, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the Blood of Christ. Through that bread and wine the Lord Christ willed to commend His Body and Blood, which He poured out for us unto the forgiveness of sins." (Sermons 227)
"How this ['And he was carried in his own hands'] should be understood literally of David, we cannot discover; but we can discover how it is meant of Christ. For Christ was carried in His own hands, when, referring to His own Body, He said, 'This is my Body.' For He carried that Body in His hands." (Ennartiones on the Psalms 33:1:10)
"Christ is both the Priest, offering Himself, and Himself the Victim. He willed that the sacramental sign of this should be the daily Sacrifice of the Church, who, since the Church is His body and He the Head, learns to offer herself through Him." (City of God 10:20)
"By those sacrifices of the Old Law, this one Sacrifice is signified, in which there is a true remission of sins; but not only is no one forbidden to take as food the Blood of this Sacrifice, rather, all who wish to possess life are exhorted to drink thereof." (Questions on the Heptateuch 3:57)
"Nor can it be denied that the souls of the dead find relief through the piety of their friends and relatives who are still alive, when the Sacrifice of the Mediator is offered for them, or when alms are given in the church." (Enchiridion on Faith, Hope, Love 29:110)
"...I turn to Christ, because it is He whom I seek here; and I discover how the earth is adored without impiety, how without impiety the footstool of His feet is adored. For He received earth from earth; because flesh is from the earth, and He took flesh from the flesh of Mary. He walked here in the same flesh, and gave us the same flesh to be eaten unto salvation. But no one eats that flesh unless first he adores it; and thus it is discovered how such a footstool of the Lord's feet is adored; and not only do we not sin by adoring, we do sin by not adoring." (Ennarationes on the Psalms 98:9)
Did I just see what I think I saw?
Reader Nancy informs us of a recent very public POD-fest in Krakow, Poland (where else?)* in honor of St. Stanislaus's feast day (celebrated there on May 8), particularly appropriate as Cardinal Dziwisz (pronounced, as near as I can tell, something like "Gibbish") would be Stanislaus II if bishops still used post-nominal initials as they once did in more civilized times. Incidenally, Krakow is a Prince-Bishopric as late as 1912, though I do not know if the title has continued into the present century.
Anyway, the whole thing has the usual look of a good old Catholic celebration--part municipal celebration, solemn religious rite, and no-holds-barred mobile block party with incense. As James Joyce put it, Here Comes Everybody, and given that there were just as many soldiers, mayors, and quaint and colorful folk-costumed types (though felicitously lacking the usual Civil War Reenactment air of such productions) as there were priests, deacons and bishops, I can't think of a better expression of our universality.
For more shots, including pictures of Viennese Cardinal Schönborn (also another putative prince-archbishop, incidentally, and it's pronounced "Scheuuunborn," and he's apparently by blood also a Count), the Prince Grand Master of the Order of Malta, and Archbishop Nycz of Warsaw (pronounced "Chumley"), go here and here, and enjoy!
*Well, Malta, but don't tell the Poles.
Reason #456 that Catholicism is Fun
Wednesday, May 16
San Gregorio! Heinrich Ignaz Biber! Rosaries! What's Not to Like?
Our dear friends at what may be Rome's smallest church, the lovely and wonderfully dusty San Gregorio dei Muratori, will be hosting a public recitation of the Rosary with music this coming May 23rd at 7 PM. (Biber's rosary sonatas, I'm told, are extremely conducive to meditation, and are not to be missed as masterpieces in their own right.) The details, from the fine people at the FSSP in Urbe blog:
May 23rd, 2007, at 7:00 p.m. at San Gregorio dei Muratori, Via Leccosa 75 (off Piazza Nicosia), the Fondazione Elsa Peretti with the collaboration of the Associazione Pro Missa Romana is sponsoring a recitation of the Most Holy Rosary in Latin with musical accompaniment.Bound to be prayerful, beautiful, and wonderfully cozy in that little chapel, though I do wonder where they'll fit the violinist. I imagine the answer to that is worth the trip alone.
Ave Maris Stella
Francesco Soriano (1548-1621)
Canon CIII Sopra l'Ave Maris Stella
Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber (1644-1704)
Sonata del Rosario XII L'Ascensione di Cristo -Intrada
Aria tubicinum - Alemanda - Courente - Double
Anonimo (prima metà XVIII sec.)
Ach amoris dolcissima poena
mottetto per Soprano, Viola d'amore e Basso Continuo
Ach Amoris, Aria
Sed in hac poena, Recitativo
Tu o mi Jesu, Aria
Pablo Bruna (1611-1679)
Tiento de Secondo Tono por G-sol-re-ut
Sobre la letania de la Virgen
This will be the first in a series of Rosaries which will be recited at the principal Marian shrines of Rome. Elsa Peretti has dedicated these events to Our Lady and to the recovery of the sacred through the traditional rites of the liturgy. This first Rosary is in memory of Nando Peretti.