Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Fr Gabriel's Oboe
A little clip from "The Mission"; those early Jesuits in South America who used music as a vehicle to evangelise. As someone who rather thrills at the music of renaissance and baroque princes, the idea that the arts should be at the service of God is important.
There is a very important theological principle here, that was grasped by Saints like Ignatius, Neri, Borromeo, Bellarmine that we need beauty, and beauty speaks of God. In Avilla in the Convent of the Incarnation there is along with the log St Theresa used as a pillow a whole collection of instruments, including a rather botched viol, obviously made by carpenter, rather than a professional instrument maker which demonstrate how important, even secular music was to St Theresa.
In South America, under the Jesuits especially, an incredible corpus of Amerindian polyphony grew up. In Europe the arts of the counter-reformation vied with the severities of the Protestant Reformers who stripped not only the churches of beauty but people's lives too.
There is a very serious danger of simplifying or focussing the Christianity to such a degree that beauty and transcendence is destroyed, this happen in Geneva under Calvin and spread to England under the Puritans where even Christmas and mince-pies were banned, in order not to be distracted from the essence of the message. One of my parishioners who is very much involved with 'reaching out to the poor' in this city, to my chagrin, has started to refer to this Papacy as the 'polyester papacy' or someone else said recently 'the ugly papacy'. There is a serious danger, not just on the level of PR but theologically in just taking one aspect of the Gospel, or one strand of the teaching of Jesus, so we can very easily end up like Judas and complain about the women who lavishes ointment on the Lord's feet, his concern was that the poor did not benefit from it. This always leads to heresy.
Jesus not only preached and healed the poor but had one or two dinners with the rich, in fact he seems to have been blind to class, despite Isaiah's prophecy about proclaiming "good news" to the poor, and indeed was happy to spend time just relaxing with the disciples.
There is a serious danger with imposing our own culturally narrow ideology on the richness of the Gospel, or of reducing the Gospel, which is essentially a relationship with the person of Jesus Christ to a few sound bites. And is very easy for those sound bites to begin to become invreasingly narrow, "Don't be ...", "Don't do ...", "Don't ...!" Jesus is much more than that, he is about the vision of a filial relationship with God and a world rendered glorious because of that relationship.
Perhaps one of the problems of modern Jesuit spirituality, there has always been a certain one size fits all mentallity about such a systemised approach, is that it has become bleak and unattractive for both princes or for the poor.
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