Tuesday, July 27, 2010

When Wicked Men Blaspheme Thee

Do you remember this old Marian hymn:

I sing a hymn to Mary
the Mother of my God,
the virgin of all virgins
from David's royal blood?

It's a lovely song, and I sang it in my youth to a world where Mary was, if not celebrated, at least respected. The most negative things said came from the sola scriptura side of the house, that Catholics were worshipping Mary as a God. I often had it said to me and I wondered at the lack of subtlety in such minds. Would that that were the worst said about our Virgin Mother.

We're just back from a short visit to Amsterdam. It's a lovely city, full of lovely, healthy people. They're lively and bright, artistic, fashionable, mad about kooky design and....well, yes, that's the problem - kooky design. Our Lady, intercessor for the human race, is now a design element in these kooky knick knacks. I saw a water bottle, to be used while cycling, I suppose, with the inscription 'Holy Water' and a drawing of Mary feeding the water to Jesus. The caption was something like 'the water that refreshes sinners'. It's ironic, you see. Everything is ironic - cocktail shakers are shaped like cows and sharp knives look like soft bananas because it's 'ironic'. T-shirts slogans order people to look and also not to look at the wearer. Marlyn Monroe seems to be everywhere, laughing her great horse laugh, and poor old Che Guevara, once a symbol of revolution, is done in cross-stitch on comfy cushions - ironic. No harm, you say. But in one shop where I rummaged through bins of edgy stuff I saw a t-shirt with a print of the Virgin and the most, most, most disgusting suggestion underneath. Remember, this was a designer shop, not a sex shop or a joke shop or a head shop; this stuff is for educated people who fancy they have taste. In another shop I saw an altar with a plastic blow up version of Our Lady of Guadaloupe adorned with great plastic roses. Automatically I blessed myself, to the shock of the black clad shop assistants with their lacquered, bored faces. I'd forgotten that everything there was 'ironic'.

I suppose Buddhists have for a long time had to look at the Buddha's head in the form of garden ornaments or candles or guest soaps. Do they find it offensive? I don't know, but I never use the religious symbols of other faiths. It's just common politeness, if nothing else. There seems to be an extra delight, though, in demeaning the Blessed Virgin. Embodiment of purity that she is, there is more than irony, there is true viciousness, in these attacks upon her. The dark cannot bear the light to exist, and must try to cover it.

Hey, I wonder if my misplaced respect for the blow-up altar gives us the way to go? When people set up these ironic 'altars' in their shops, why don't we Catholics turn up and say a few decades of the Rosary? I'm sure the post-modern shop keepers would appreciate the irony. And when we see someone wearing a t-shirt with the Virgin's image, thank him/her for bringing the image to us and ask him/her to join us in a decade.

O teach me Holy Mary
a loving song to frame.
when wicked men blaspheme thee
I love and bless thy name.

The painting at the top is by Domenico Veneziano. Please enjoy its beauty. May God bless all the creators of loving, respectful images that bring us closer to our Mother, closer to God.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Laughing Peasant: Sacred Art

This is an intersting website by the artist Jeff Lefevier. He works to make sacred art, a difficult task in these sad times. The scale of his work is important. See the dimensions of the banners above contrasted with the six foot man viewing them. I also like the clarity - absence of the muddy and the tangential. God is Great. God is Clear.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Such Stuff As Dreams Are Made On

Marion Peck is the artist of this haunting image. Not just in this, but in all her work, there is a sadness, a waste, a tragic unknown that clings to the psyche. It is a re-working of the seventeenth and eighteenth century Dutch school flower pictures, and like all such pictures, it has surprising depth. In the average flower picture the blooms symbolise the transitory nature of beauty, joy, youth and all that delights. The flowers are beauties, but they will soon die, and what now delights will in a short time disgust. Here the poignancy is brought to an acute pitch: the flowers are actually souls, beautiful, vulnerable girls - will they fade and be discarded, like dead flowers?

I find something suggestive of abortion in this image. The artist herself says only that the images come from her dreams. She pins no particular meaning on any of them, which is normal in the surrealist genre - dreams are accepted, not interpreted. But yet, I see the troubled innocence of the faces, the human features on the insects - suggestive of larvae or foetuses - and above all the overall impression of something beautiful (the flowers, or our modern pleasure centred lives) with a sickening core (death/abortion). Copy this picture to your desktop, look at it over and over again. You will find it troubling, as I have.

May God send His grace to stay the hands of the abortionists, and give confidence to the women who fear the births of children.