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Rifle Wielding Angels

posted May 1, 1:11 pm (58 days ago), 0 comments, permalink

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Art influences and is influenced by the culture that produces it. Take a look at these 17th century paintings from Peru that feature angels carrying a particular type of matchlock rifle known as an arquebus.

Daniel Esparza has the details over at Aleteia.

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Pontifex University is an online university offering a Master’s Degree in Sacred Arts. For more information visit the website at www.pontifex.university

Lawrence Klimecki is a deacon for the diocese of Sacramento as well as a working artist, he writes on art and faith at www.DeaconLawrence.org 

The Lost Art of Sacred Art

posted May 1, 8:47 am (58 days ago), 0 comments, permalink

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Sean Fitzpatrick, over at Catholic Exchange, has a nice overview “sacred art,” and why it is so vital for our spiritual health.

“the renewal of sacred art faces an uphill battle. The battle must, nevertheless, be faced and fought because when the supernatural is reduced to the saccharine and the simplistic, the supernatural is lost…What remains is meaningless.”

Read the article here.

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Pontifex University is an online university offering a Master’s Degree in Sacred Arts. For more information visit the website at www.pontifex.university

Lawrence Klimecki is a deacon for the diocese of Sacramento as well as a working artist, he writes on art and faith at www.DeaconLawrence.org 

Fr. Pontifex, Christina Music for the Modern Age?

posted May 1, 8:46 am (58 days ago), 0 comments, permalink

Thanks to Pontifex University student Kathryn for bringing this to my notice.  Following on from my article about Frank La Rocca, she brought the work of composer who is an ordained priest and whose stage name is ‘Fr Pontifex’ (this is pure coincidence I promise).

She wrote a comment with a link saying: ‘This is not Schubert but where do you think it sits in relation to the liturgy?’

Well. This is definitely not my genre and so, at risk of sounding like an old fuddy-duddy failing to understand what the youth of today are up to (‘but it’s nice to see the young people enjoying themselves’) here is my response..

It is some form of rap in its singing style, or at least that’s what an article in The Blaze in 2013 referred to it (see, New Rap Album From a Surprising Performer Warns About the Dangers of Removing God From American Society). I admit that thought that the style of singing that seems to be called rap had its peak with Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s White Lines Don’t Do It

in 1983 and have been predicting its demise ever since…which shows how much I know.

My response to the music of Fr Pontifex is that as long as we don’t see it anywhere near the liturgy, I don’t see why it can’t be doing good. The test for me is not if it appeals to Christians, although that is not without value, but rather if it has the power to supplant its non-Christian equivalent because it has merit in the eyes of those who listen to this music for music, and not for the message. Christian music has to good enought to compete with secular in its own terms, I suggest.

Furthermore, it would be interesting to see the effect it has on those who like it. Does it open in them a desire for the source of the beauty that is appealing to them in this music. If so, then it really does have merit. That, I suggest, rests as in the musical forms used as the text. Aside from the rapped lyrics, the music does sound to me to be sophisticated and melodic and may well do so. Anyway, you make your mind up. In the 1970s it was the music of pre 1975 Genesis that did just that for me and created a desire for more that was consummated with my hearing Palestrina in Mass several years later (see my article Can Popular Music Create a Desire for God?). If we get the evangelization of the culture right, then in theory someone could be engaged by this, be lead into the music of Frank La Rocca and then come home to plainchant in the Mass..or that’s the theory.

Fr Pontifex has website, here, and it can be streamed for free if you have Prime on Amazon, here.

 

Easter, icons, historicism and liturgical time

posted May 1, 8:41 am (58 days ago), 0 comments, permalink

I have just passed through the great Triduum, from Maundy Thursday to Easter Day, in Emmaus, the place where the risen Christ made himself known in the ‘breaking of bread’, completing the revelation of the new Christian Liturgy of the Eucharist.

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It is easy to slip into a sense of historical reflection, to think of the disciples ending up on this very spot after hours spent in the company of Jesus yet only at the last moment realising just who he was. Using the common techniques of spiritual reflection on Biblical texts, through using my imagination I could have transported myself back in a sort of time machine to when these events happened. But to do so would have been a serious temptation to break away from the Liturgical reality that Christ established here all those centuries ago.

Why do I say that? This short essay is an attempt to answer that question.

Christ IS risen. Not WAS risen. We don’t celebrate a memory of a past event, something come and gone. We celebrate the contemporary reality we live in. It’s a subtle use of a tense but quite deliberate. Christ as God is beyond time and everything he does is beyond the limits of time, it’s an eternal ‘now’.

The resurrection established a new paradigm in human reality, a fusion of time with eternity, that is of time with what we might call ‘beyond time’, something without beginning or end embracing that which is finite, thus opening us to the experience of an eternal now. Death was a definition of time where reality passes from existence into non existence. It was the ultimate end point, which Jesus abolished through catching up our created and mortal humanity into his Divinity. By Jesus walking out of the tomb he transformed our existence totally. The challenge was, and is, for us to embrace this transformed horizon and to live with our sights set on the eternal rather than the transient. The challenge is to grasp that this transformation has taken place and is actually true, and to allow that to impact on our conscious way of living,

The resurrection was thus not simply a moment in time, but an eternal moment, the moment that transformed the human experience of being alive from one of passing through to one of life that is eternal, as though time is being stopped as that moment remains accessible from every moment of time to come and indeed that has passed.

Living in the context of a physicality that remains to be finally transformed is a complex and demanding challenge. We await the creation of a new heaven and new earth, one where the spiritual dominates the physical and not the other way round as is the case today. We await the fulfilment of all things, that is the final working out of this moment of transformation we know as the resurrection into the very fibre of the whole cosmos, physical and spiritual, the world of men and the world of angels.

The Christian Liturgy preempts this experience through the employment of potent symbols, ones which not simply point to other things but in themselves give us a taste of them. From ancient times Christian teachers have spoken of the Liturgy as the wedding of heaven and earth, of the physical space around the altar being, to use a contemporary term, a ‘thin place’, made so by the transubstantiation of the Bread and Wine of the Eucharist into Christ’s risen Body and Blood. The Liturgy celebrated on earth is an echo of and a participation in the constant act of praise that ascends to God the Father from the heart of Christ and all that is United with him, angels, saints, cherubim and seraphim, and the people on Earth that gather in him through baptism.

The Saints have long had visions that pierce this reality, and miracles continue to attest to this. Christ continues to be present as on that Easter morning in every celebration of this great and wonderful Liturgy. As Christians enact his command to do this and rehearse the culmination of this transformation of fallen humanity in obedience to his command, so the Lord is right there, in their midst, just as he was on that first Easter morning. Every Sunday celebrates this, is an Easter Day, as is every Eucharist in and of itself. The Eucharist more than anything else defines the Christian life, is it’s Centre and it’s fountain.

The call to communion, to receive this transfigured and transfiguring Bread and Wine is thus a call to a deeper communion with the Risen Lord, to allow our experience, our vision, our desire to be shaped by this. It is the foretaste of eternity, and propels us into that reality where time has ceased and eternity has begun, a dawn time, a moment where greater realities than we can imagine have begun to be formed in us and which will culminate in the transformation of all things at the end of time. Hence why receiving the Body and Blood of Christ unworthily, without being disposed to this transformation can result in an interior dislocation and even as St Paul warns us, death.

Within Protestant traditions this whole focus has been abandoned and it has been reduced to a historical reflection, a travesty of the resurrection, a denial of the very nature of the Resurrection and its impact on time and on humanity here and now. It has reduced everything to the most banal symbols, locating Christ in our imagining, in our thoughts and emotions and denied the means for him to transform our actual being in a holistic and material way, both physically and in terms of our experience of time. Faith has been emptied to be a blind longing for a halcyon time consigned to our imagining, not a desire built on a real and actual foretaste of things to come.

Yet even in western Catholicism this historicism has woven itself into popular devotions and many of the experiments with the Liturgy since the Second Vatican Council have erred in a similar manner. Popularly this has been experienced as a purgation of various devotions, such as kneeling for communion, the abolition of the extended fast, the eradication of real beauty in music and so forth but at its heart has been the reduction of Liturgy to words, to ideas thought about, read, and spoken. This focus on the texts has been at the expense of the sense of the imminence of the holy, a certain encouragement of banality and a focus on making people feel comfortable in their ordinariness. Not all of this is necessarily bad or harmful, but because it masks a collective move away from a sense of the Eucharist as the actual transforming moment of Resurrection its cumulative impact is devastating at many different levels.

Nor is its impact restricted to the Liturgy per se, but upon all those aspects of Christian life which originate with its sense of transcending time. For example, religious life, with its focus of living with the reference to the eternal life that is to come, or the sense of preparing for a happy death through the use of such tools as regular confession. Without the sense of the transformation of time into eternity as a lived foretaste open to the Christian in this present life embodied in the Liturgy all these things loose their force and dwindle away, as has been devastatingly demonstrated in Catholicism in various western countries.

My own perception of this is of art in the Liturgy, or should I better say the abandonment of the art of the Liturgy. Yes, there is an art form which is shaped by and for the Liturgy, distinctive and authoritative. It’s common name is iconography, and it is most commonly experienced in the Liturgical context of the eastern churches. Its demise in the west helps I think to trace the origins of the more general demise of the resurrection perspective on time, life and Liturgy.

In the 13th century there was a move in Western Christian life to engage the emotions and senses through engaging the imagination, in order to facilitate a deeper engagement especially among ordinary, uneducated folk with the Person of Christ. Perhaps the best earliest example is the devotion to the poor Christ in the Christmas crib as popularised, or perhaps invented, by St Francis of Assisi. Here the crib was to evoke in those who saw it not so much the majesty of Christ now so much as the Christ of history, of the moment in time when he was poor, helpless and born in the humiliating straw and stench of the stable in Bethlehem.

Great effort was put into enabling the believer to grasp the humanity of the Christ Child, the humility, the tenderness. The Virgin Mother was shown increasingly as a younger girl, herself of poor means, rather than as the royal Queen of heaven, draped in imperial purple and lain out on a beautiful mattress of the finest red and golds. The Christ Child was no longer given the face of the ancient of days, but shown as an oridanary baby just as he would have looked all those years ago. This I called devotional rather than Liturgical art. This all took place within the art of the church building, at first as an occasional innovation, but in time it came to first dominate and then replace the iconographic art of the liturgical space, especially I suspect after the Black Death and the popularity of the devotion to Christ’s sufferings on the Cross and the growing popular devotion to the Wounds of Christ and the Way of the Cross.

After a millennium there was a need I would accept to reconnect with the historical moments of Christ’s life and death, and to renew the rather heavily imperialised iconography of both the eastern and western churches as they had become more and more entertwined with the life of the states and especially the ideas and exercise of monarchy, serfdom and chivalry. It was a revolutionary movement to liberate Christian art from the subliminal messages of endorsement of the imperial ideal by God himself, and the opening up of a Christendom for a more humanistic vision of the human person and society. However, these developments which focused on the realities of the present gradually weakened the sense of the immenance of the eternal.

Perhaps the greatest blow came at the Reformation, where the sense of the transfiguration of time was blown away almost completely. The whole order of the world and society around this transfiguration of time and space was dismissed as superstition, the physical was derided as fallen and sinful, and the dominance of words and ideas replaced a sense of the engagement with the spiritual with more than the interior life. Religion became something reduced to the interior and invisible, of thoughts and ideas, of emotions and psychology. Works, that is deeds, were deemed irrelevant and faith alone mattered. This shattered the sense of Liturgical time and all the churches East and West have, I believe, suffered enormously because of it.

The renewal of Christianity will come, I believe, when we regain a sense of this Resurrected time, of the displacement of death, the end point of things, with eternity. When we re-focus on the space of the Liturgy as an encounter such as I described at the outset of this piece, then we can regain credibility with those seeking the Truth that we find in the words and the Person of Christ. In English we have a phrase, out of sight, out of mind, and it is no mistake that the Christian faith has been irradicated in those countries where Christian imagery of any kind was abandoned, and where eventually even Catholic art came to be reduced to the level of the devotional and the merely symbolic. The reconversion of Europe must take place at the level of the restoration of the Resurrection as the defining reality affecting all our life, but first and foremost how we celebrate the Liturgy, because here we have the experience of Christ Risen and time transfigured at least as a foretaste. To do this eastern iconography offers us an invaluable insight and tool with which to shape the Eucharistic space visually in terms of a language shaped by the transformation of time and which has developed over a millennia and a half, as well as being mandated in the seventh ecumenical council. We have the tools, but do we have the wisdom and courage to do it?

 

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

Depicting the Resurrected Christ in Art

posted May 1, 8:39 am (58 days ago), 0 comments, permalink

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The state of the arts during the Protestant Reformation was, much like today, a mixed bag.

“The Church, seeing the increasingly audacious Catholic variants on Christ’s Resurrection, feared artists were taking the same kind of interpretive liberties as the Protestants. Ultimately, the question arose whether Catholics should sponsor art that seemed to be more a part of the problem than the solution.”

It took The Council of Trent to provide some much needed guidance to artists.

Elizabeth Lev continues her wonderful series exploring the art of the Catholic Counter-reformation.

“So, at the very moment the Protestant reformers were promising a more immediate, personal experience of Christ through Scripture, the Catholic church was drawing on that very Scripture to produce artwork that emphasized the intimate, transformative encounter of the faithful with the Risen Lord.”

Read the article at Aleteia here. (and along the way discover one the most successful female artists of the period.)

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Pontifex University is an online university offering a Master’s Degree in Sacred Arts. For more information visit the website at www.pontifex.university

Lawrence Klimecki is a deacon for the diocese of Sacramento as well as a working artist, he writes on art and faith at www.DeaconLawrence.org 

New Chicago art exhibit seeks to capture Catholic life in Middle Ages Europe

posted May 1, 8:39 am (58 days ago), 0 comments, permalink

exh_saints_feature_1_360The Art Institute of Chicago has a new exhibit showcasing art from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

“The first rooms are devoted to art for the Catholic Church, where objects worked together with space to make heavenly glory tangible.”

Read the story by Michael O’Loughlin at America Magazine. 

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Pontifex University is an online university offering a Master’s Degree in Sacred Arts. For more information visit the website at www.pontifex.university

Lawrence Klimecki is a deacon for the diocese of Sacramento as well as a working artist, he writes on art and faith at www.DeaconLawrence.org 

Bethlehem Icon Centre, a Pontifex University Partner, Featured in Times of Israel, Daily Mail, Ya...

posted Apr 26, 8:40 am (63 days ago), 0 comments, permalink

Here is a great article in the Times of Israel about iconographer and teacher Ian Knowles and the school he founded in Bethlehem, the Bethlehem Icon Centre. In fact this seems to have gone viral. On the same day earlier this month it appeared also in the UK’s Daily Mail, and Yahoo News in the US, which in turn was picked up by Drudge Report, of all sites. So amongst the headlines about Trump, Clinton, Syrian bombing, McConnel et al was the link ‘Ancient sacred art resurrected in city of Jesus’s birth’,

Beauty will save the world!

The Icon Centre offers a two-year diploma and a series of shorter workshops during the year. Pontifex University has partnered with the Bethlehem Icon Centre and students of the MSA program can take its courses as part of the studio requirement. Anyone who is interested in pursuing iconography as a career should consider doing their courses and especially their diploma. The combined cost of fees and accomodation work out, after currency conversion from the US dollar, GB pound or the Euro, at a fraction of the cost of any residential art course that I know of.

The two-year program is done in three eight-week terms. In accordance with the traditional cycle of year and parallels the Oxbridge term times (readers of the Way of Beauty will understand the theological significance of this!)

Read the article in the Times of Isreal here.

Conference on Restoring Affordable Catholic Healthcare in San Francisco

posted Apr 26, 8:39 am (63 days ago), 0 comments, permalink

Saturday April 29th.

Presented by Pontifex University Professor, Dr Michel Accad in Partnership with the Archdiocese of San Francisco

Bringing Catholic social teaching into the provision of medicine.

Dr Accad will teach philosophy of nature and philosophical anthropology for Pontifex University this coming Fall as part of the Master in Sacred Arts program. This shows how grasping the beauty of man is necessary for us to love him. Love is our Christian vocation and should be the governing principle in all our human relations. This is true whether painting mankind or treating him or simply offering a cheery hello to the bus driver!

Fr Sebastian Carnazzo Talk on Philippians – Free Live Webinars, April 25 and May 2

posted Apr 24, 2:15 pm (65 days ago), 0 comments, permalink

Pontifex University Professor, Fr Sebastian Carnazzo is giving two webinars for the Institute of Catholic Culture. You can join him live on consecutive Tuesdays – April 25th and May 2nd at 5pm PST, 8pm EST and register via the Institute of Catholic Culture site. They will be recorded, but it is a great experience to be there with him live as he speaks.

This is a great chance to hear Fr Carnazzo who is an inspiring speaker.

Of course, every Wednesday evening you get a chance to join the parish of St Elias Melkite Catholic Church, where Fr Carnazzo is pastor, for his weekly free webinar which is part of his parish education program. All that Fr Carnazzo is in accord, incidentally with his Bishop’s ‘rule’ for parish life – a program for a thriving and evangelizing parish which was presented by Bishop Nicholas in his recent address to the St Elias men.

For those of you who are not aware of the Institute of Catholic Culture. This is  wonderful organization which is devoted to the evangelization of the culture and there are many hours of free material available in their library. All you have to do is register on their site and you get access to wealth of material…including some recordings of talks by yours truly!

Concerts of Newly Composed Work by Frank La Rocca in Galway, London and San Francisco

posted Apr 24, 7:14 am (65 days ago), 0 comments, permalink

As mentioned in passing in a piece I wrote a couple of days ago, a new composition by American composer Frank La Rocca will be premiered later this week. So for the benefit of those who might wish to attend, but didn’t make it to last paragraph of my article… Ne irscaris Domine will be performed in Galway in Ireland and Oakland California on April 29th. This means that because of the times zones Ireland has the privilege of offering us the world premiere!. And then in different locations in London and California on May 7th, 13th and 14th. For details go to his website www.franklarocca.com/concerts.

You can hear examples of his music on his website here, www.franklarocca.com/cd-recordings.

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