Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Another Splendid Cope and a Thought about Beauty

Some more vestments were submitted to me. Of them, this cope was particularly edifying:

It is worth mentioning a catechetical point here. At times, there are some who consider beautiful vestments and the like as somehow inappropriate, either for reasons of poverty, or for other reasons (noble simplicity, and so on).

It is worth meditating upon Benedict's teaching about beauty, and one cannot help but put to mind Dostoyevsky's famed expression that beauty will save the world.

Beauty is a problem only if it is distorted in such a way as to make it narcissistic; even then, the problem is not with beauty itself, which exists as a reflection of the Divine, but simply with our approach to it.

A proper approach (and it is important that we make this approach) would see us clothe the sacred mysteries in beauty so that we might render to God the fruits of our labours in a way befitting the dignity of the sacred realities which occur in each and every Mass -- in short, making it of itself a part of the act of worship, surrounding that which is primary in this regard: the mystical re-offering of Calvary. It is further catechetical and evangelical. It is catechetical because the presence of beautiful things, be it the building, ornament, apparel or music, imparts to people the sacredness of what is going on and what we impute to it, reflecting in a sensory way the worth of the mysteries celebrated. It is evangelical because this catechism of beauty has the power to stir the human soul in the way a breathtaking landscape does. This can not only be an aid to conversion but it can be a spiritual aid in our ongoing battle to conquer sin in our own lives, and it can further inspire, especially in the young, a sense of the dignity and worth of these things, including the vocation of the priesthood.

If one asks, "where are the social implications of the Gospel in all this?", it is worth bearing in mind the spring from whence that flows. The social implications of the Gospel spring from our worship of God, and further are a fruit of our sanctification. When one helps bring these things to bear, one precisely creates the foundation and source from whence all else properly flows.

One might also say, "but not all can afford such things as these" and this is true. The splendour of St. Peter's Basilica will be hard met elsewhere, as will small rural parishes have more difficulty meeting the levels of large urban parishes -- all things being equal. However, we aren't speaking of specifics, we are speaking rather on the level of principle, and on that level, all must do what they can, and as their means allow them, to provide for the most beautiful and fitting worship possible.

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