Monday, January 7, 2008

Being Cross Over a Crucifix

What are the artistic boundaries for a crucifix? Can a crucifix be made 'beautiful'? Ought a crucifix even try and appear 'beautiful'? I know the old "felix culpa" bit and even understand it some--but I don't like it. Crucifixion is ugly and trying to make it something else can only distort belief.

I visited the Catholic church near where we are staying. The setting is beautiful and the many clear windows in the church bring the outside in. That may or may not be a good thing for worship--unless one is a Druid--but the "crucifix" that dominates the sanctuary is pretty insulting. I know this has been a controversial ornament for years but really--a Bolshoi Jesus??? Don't give me all those silly stories about how this Jesus is reaching down from the Cross to pull us up--forget it! He was on that Cross alone. And he didn't look like Nureyev while he was suffering. I post these pictures to show how screwed up people can get when they are more concerned with being "cutting edge" than with fostering prayer. I find it offensive because this "crucifix" tells a lie, not the Truth. And there has certainly been enough lying going on in the Church that every trace of it ought to be pointed out, exposed, light shone on it and then throw it on the heap to be burned.

What else does one expect to find in a Catholic church? What about a statue of Mary? (And NO! Catholics don't pray to statues or worship statues) What did I find in this church? Some faux folk kinder art that is supposed to be the Theotokos. It looked like a Hindu goddess or some ancient Mayan doll. How in the world can something that is so identified with a type of religion that Christianity has been the Good News to overcome be the style in which Mary is portrayed? Another insult to the believer. But to voice disapproval is to risk being called 'non-inclusive' or western chauvinist. I call it for what it is: another attempt by non-believing clerics and committees to undermine the beauty of art when it is used to lift the soul to God.

I would laugh at how ridiculous it all looked if it weren't so sad.

Who can blot out the Cross, which th’instrument
Of God, dew’d on me in the Sacrament?
Who can deny me power, and liberty
To stretch mine arms, and mine own Cross to be?
Swim, and at every stroke, thou art thy Cross;
The Mast and yard make one, where seas do toss;
Look down, thou spiest out Crosses in small things;
Look up, thou seest birds rais’d on crossed wings;
All the Globes frame, and spheres, is nothing else
But the Meridians crossing Parallels.
Material Crosses then, good physic bee,
But yet spiritual have chief dignity.
These for extracted chemic medicine serve,
And cure much better, and as well preserve;
Then are you your own physic, or need none,
When Still’d, or purg’d by tribulation.
For when that Cross ungrudg’d, unto you sticks,
Then are you to your self, a Crucifix.
As perchance, Carvers do not faces make,
But that away, which hid them there, do take;
Let Crosses, so, take what hid Christ in thee,
And be his image, or not his, but he.

John Donne

1 comment:

T said...

I totally agree with you, Toccata! Enough is enough. I want our beautiful awe-inspiring spiritual tradition back.