Aesthetic Christianity - Roman Catholic Style
The Church has suffered immeasurably from Protestantization and from historical-critical modernism. A rediscovery of a more ancient and less literal piety, informed by sanctoral legend, miracle story, and apocrypha may be the best anecdote to these trends. This does not necessitate a vain credulity that considers them literally, or that assigns them undue authority; the dangers of that can be seen now in the charismatic movement and the dubious cults of apparition. Nor does it discount healthy criticism; certain of the church fathers were themselves critical of apocrypha and the manifestation of legend in the popular piety of their time. But the Christian East has managed to be both strongly legendary and strongly patristic without contradiction. This sort of traditionalism has been lacking in the Christian West for centuries. If anything, its rediscovery will help the Catholic to see beyond the arguments between Catholicism and Protestantism, and to inhabit an older and larger world. It will help him to see the profound allegory and sublime anagogy in the wisdom of our inheritance from the saints, both simple and wise, naturally expressed in pious tradition.
This is from a must read post over at the Lion and the Cardinal blog. This guy is bright, really bright, and has impeccable visual and theological taste.
In spite of what I have posted and will post on this blog, I do not advocate a "bare-bones" mere Christianity of white-washed church interiors and as little ornament as possible. I can accept this if push comes to shove, but my heart is with the "smells and bells", elaborate liturgies, and "fanciful stories" (I am Mexican, after all). At the end of the day, however, I will not say that these things are absolutely necessary. It would be a shame if we did lose them, and our Faith would be impoverished if we did. But I have learned that maybe the more minimal "Reformed" approach can have a beauty in and of itself (I prefer the simpler Prayer Book Service to the Anglo-Catholic Mass). The trick in my book is not to cling to one approach or the other, but to be able to love and appreciate both (a via media?).
It is not Cluny or the Citeaux, it is both. We cannot be doctrinaire or legalistic about it, but must look at both paths leading lovingly to Christ.