The Sarabite: Towards an Aesthetic Christianity

There is a continuous attraction, beginning with God, going to the world, and ending at last with God, an attraction which returns to the same place where it began as though in a kind of circle. -Marsilio Ficino

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Two Quotes in Contrary Motion

Part I- In his deepest being, man still retains a memory of [the sacred], as after the first "fall" his ancestor, the primordial man, retained intelligence enough to enable him to rediscover the traces of God that are visible in the world.

-Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane, p. 213

This of course I have inferred on this blog many times before. We are in our deepest beings creatures who seek the one, the true, the good, and the beautiful, and this can only find its summit, I have argued, in the sacred. This is the only hope we have in our messed-up postmodern world.

For our postmodern interlocutor, what I have said is logocentric, sexist, racist, homophobic and [fill in this sentence with whatever "reactionary" epithet you can think of]. No matter how much filth man piles onto his nature, he is still made in the image and likeness of God. Our task is to dig through that filth and find the "divine spark" (St. Gregory the Theologian) that lies at the heart of every being born of woman.

2. For Luther, the word of God is not primarily a text; it is first and foremost an oral event- the act of preaching. The scriptures are the written form that the word has taken as a necessary aid in the ongoing proclamation of the church. But, as Luther stated, "the need to write books was a serious decline and a lack of the Spirit which necessity forced upon us; it is not the manner of the New Testament."

-Frank Senn, Christian Liturgy: Catholic and Evangelical, p.303

As a life-long Roman Catholic (with certain impromptu stops in the Christian East), I never could understand Protestantism. And I never will. It's something in my heritage; even though some of my aunts and one uncle converted to evangelical Protestantism, my blood is too Latin to understand the cold religion of the Germanic and Anglo-Saxon North. There are places, however, that I can intersect some of the ideas of Protestantism, and this quote is one of these moments of understanding.

Can anyone else observe that what Luther is saying here contradicts 99% of what Protestants believe now? If I am not too rusty in my theology, what Luther is referring to here is kerygma, the time when the Gospel is being proclaimed for the first time. The whole "turn with me, brother" attitude of all of the strictly Protestant services I have attended seemed too rationalistic and made God so distant. No wonder, not even Luther thought that things should be this way. It is the living proclamation of the Word that constitutes the Church, not the text.

The Anglican Church in Hollister had very much this feeling of proclaiming the Word. I entered Anglicanism here in a much more "High Church Protestant" setting than where I am now. Having now read this quote, now I realize what I might have experienced there. Those "Protestants" did not just read the Word of God; they "preached" it, brought it to life, and made it move about and sing. I like the Anglo-Catholicism of my church now; obviously with my background, it is much more familiar. Many times, however, I miss my Protestant congregation in Hollister.

Christianity is like music. Some days I really want to listen to Chopin, Dvorak, Debussy, or even Bruckner; this would be the equivalent of wanting to attend a Pontifical High Mass or an All-Night Vigil at a Russian Cathedral. Some days, however, a piano etude by Philip Glass, a tango by Gardel, or even a simple corrido is more to my taste; this would be the "straight '28", no frills, no lace, no incense. The latter, of course, is the bare-bones of what is acceptable (at least in my mind), but it is so simple is can surpass even the most elaborate and colorful ceremony.

Maybe I understand a little more now than I did before.


At 12:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

your the most protestant catholic i know, or vice versa?

At 3:55 PM, Blogger Arturo Vasquez said...

Mmmm, good question. I guess I will have to keep you all guessing.


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