Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Roving Recluse

I have been reading Peter Anson's spiritual autobiography entitled "A Roving Recluse: More Memories". For those who do not know who he was, he was an Anglican convert to Rome, and a prominent author on numerous subjects, especially those related to art and liturgy. For a time he was monk in the Caldey community, and later, with the whole community, made submission to Rome.

We seem to have much in common: a "roving and reclusive" spirit, a background and strong fascination with liturgical art and design, disdain for mathematics or anything else that does not interest us, love of the Church and religious orders, and more. One of the main traits we share is an interest in beauty and solemnity in worship.

He tells of his experience visiting the great Anglo-Catholic shrine parishes and communities, and also Roman parishes and religious communities in England and on the continent, and being overcome with the beauty and mystery of the services replete with chant, incense, lights, etc. That such accouterments were not standard in the CofE was one of the things which lead him to doubt its Catholicity.

I wonder what he would make of churches today, particularly his beloved Roman Church? Sadly the vast majority of American Roman Catholic parishes have a liturgy and building that is banal and iconoclastic. Like most contemporary churches (save the Orthodox perhaps), the Roman church has largely succumbed to "pragmatism" in worship, where the summum bonum is how "accessible" and "fast" the liturgy is. As an artist I protest this tendency. Even though many churches are doing the right thing in proclaiming moral and doctrinal truth, the Church by and large is weak and moribund because those very truths are packaged and sold in postmodern and pragmatic bubble wrap.

Truth does not go by itself, but rather must have a visible expression in beauty and goodness. In short, the Church does not do nough if she simply proclaims the truth. That truth must overflow into beauty and good works and goodness.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Beauty, Truth, and Goodness

Sorry it has been so long since I've posted something. I am just very, very busy with parish work. Thanks be to God that I have an assistant now, as that will lighten the work load a bit. Anyone who wants to come and do an intern should call or e-mail me at the church. We can't promise much (or any) money at this point, but we could sure use the help. 

The life of a parish life is exhilarating and exhausting, encouraging and discouraging, and rewarding and unrewarding all at once. One of the things that has made my time here at St. Francis so tiring thus far has been living at the church. While it has been a blessing in most ways (for example I have become intimately familiar with the physical plant and its needs), it has been difficult because I am always "at work". Soon we'll be moving, and we'll be able to relax a bit. Plus, the church will get back much needed space to use for coffee hour, class rooms, etc.

God sends many graces to help us through difficult and trying times. Some of these for me have been my art and music. Years ago I began to paint and study the classical guitar. Since then I have put many, many hours of study and work into these activities, and it has been worth every minute. In a world that grows seemingly increasingly uglier one simply cannot put a price on devoting his life to that which is true, beautiful, and good. After a stressful day I can relax with my wife, and then in the evening lose myself in the Renaissance lute music of Dowland, Holbourne, and others; or the music of Spanish guitar composers like Francesco Tarrega or Fernando Sor.  Likewise, I can paint all sorts of interesting things, and work on art projects from icons to landscape watercolors. I really do not know what I would do without those activities. They bring so much beauty and wonder to the world, and to my world. I think the quest for beauty, truth, and goodness is one of the reasons why I became an Anglican years ago. The simple, elegant beauty of the classical Prayer Book and the Authorized Version of the Scriptures is unparalleled.

A life devoted to truth, beauty, and goodness is never boring or wasted. In fact it is the pearl of great price and the very gateway to heaven, the divine, and salvation.