Saturday, April 02, 2011

Illustrating Liturgical Chaos

The illustrations in the New Missal look handsome. I hope similar illustrations will grace the versions for the use of the laity. I was given a Sunday Missal when I was confirmed in 1976. The illustrations are shown. They explain much. When a book carries the Imprimatur of ++John Carmel Heenan, it seems to an impressionable and pious young boy to validate all that is in the Missal. Is it any wonder, then, that my generation of anglophone Catholics thought the Mass was some sort of meal and not a sacrifice because we are shown like a bunch of demented diners around the kitchen table with the elements of Mass (and no identifiable priest)? Is it any wonder that liturgical chaos ensued when the incorrectly vested priest was shown in his multi-striped Magic Stole (TM)? Or that the non-Christian menorah is given equal prominence to the Paschal Candle (bizarrely held by a squatting punter)? Or that the strummers won favour over traditional chant (whether in Latin or the vernacular) when they are shown so prominently, a-croonin' over their guitars? These images have wormed their way into the consciousness of a generation of Catholics. It will take a heck of an effort to win back our Catholic culture when it was felt acceptable to fill Missals with images that look like T-shirt designs for Woodstock cooked up by Hans Kung on acid.


Blogger Patricius said...

I don't think it entirely fair to associate the "Imprimatur" of Cardinal Heenan with the illustrations although I accept the point about the effect upon impressionable souls. The clergy are not necessarily the best judges of visual art - as was only too evident quite recently in the "Fit for Mission" series produced by Bishop O' Donoghue with its excellent text, fine covers but apallingly dreadful illustrations.

9:57 AM  
Blogger Anagnostis said...

If we believe the Incarnation we must accept that visual art is every bit as effective a vehicle for mediating good or bad theology as the literary sort; and this is true also of "high" art (as contrasted with tawdry lit-prop cartoons). It has to be said that there is also theologically dubious or "psychical" art in churches that has become untouchable on account of being the work of some genius or other.

(BTW - I understand your point about the menora from a Latin point of view; however the seven-branched candlestick still sits on Eastern-rite altars, and is therefore as Christian as the OT Scriptures themselves).

10:41 AM  
Blogger Paulinus said...

Patricius, good point. Cardinal Heena gave the foreword and was keen to establish the use of the new Missal in the way Catholics had used their Missals before the advent of the NO. I suspect he would have been horridied by the illustrations.

Anagnostis I have no objections to menorah at all. I hold an orthodox Catholic view of the Jewish people as expounded by the Church and hold those Jews I know in great regard.

The illustration is making some kind of point about Mass which is inchoate but disturbing in my view.

There are seven branched candelabra, I think, decorating the London Oratory.

4:08 PM  

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