June 2015

Sr. Eliseea Papacioc. St. Paul.

Fanaticism in matters of sacred art is an attitude that can lead to a decadence more sterile than the one we are now endeavoring to overcome. Maurice Lavanoux, “The Authentic Tradition and Art,,” Liturgical Arts (1954)
This past Saturday I caught a late afternoon train into the city for the last night of One Faith, East and West, a collection of contemporary sacred art at NYU’s Catholic Center. This was the final stop after exhibition in Beijing and Moscow. The show closed with a talk by painter Clement Fuchs, “Hermeneutics of Continuity in Sacred Art.” It was an inauspicious title. Continue Reading
Tofim Lysenko, Soviet agronomist (c. 1930s). Photo: HIP

Every First Things reader should spend a few minutes with Matt Ridley’s “The Climate Wars’ Damage to Science,” in the current issue of Quadrant, Australia’s leading monthly. Neither the pope nor the encyclical are mentioned. Nevertheless, Ridley’s article is supremely relevant to a full grasp of what Laudato Si signifies.  His article is entirely concerned with the corruption of science by political agendas and the funding dependent on them. It is a clear-eyed examination of the intellectual bankruptcy of the species of ideologues who have the pope’s ear, and on whose voice the moral credibility of the Church has been gambled. Continue Reading
Comet of 1680. From a pamphlet by Simon Bornmeister (1681). Nurenberg.

Snared by the hot button issues of the day, we serve ourselves best by standing back a bit and reading, or rereading, previous texts that anchor the mind in the longue durée. Or at least release us from the pressures of the moment. Philip Larkin’s quip that sex began in 1963 applies to a great many things, including those myths and inclinations driving the ecclesial culture that produced Laudato Si. Herewith, a small bouquet for remembrance. Comet of 1680. From a pamphlet by Simon Bornmeister (1681). Continue Reading
Sacra Liturgia

I came away from last week’s Sacra Liturgia conference in New York on something of a high. It was exhilarating to see a large audience drawn to Mass in the Extraordinary Form. I had half expected the majority to be older, primarily the generation born into the traditional Latin Mass. But no. Here was an auditorium filled with seminarians and younger priests, joined by musicians, scholars, and lay catechists, united in belief that the beauty of the ancient liturgy—the splendid otherness of it—plays its own role in evangelization. Continue Reading
Polyclitus. Amazon in Combat (5th C. BC). Photo: Brooklyn Museum

Decadence was brought about by .  .  .  the surfeit of fine art and the love of the bizarre.                                                      Voltaire (1748)
Chris Burden died last month, close to Caitlyn Jenner’s birth on Wikipedia. Timing is everything. Burden gained world fame as a performance artist in the genre’s heyday. Self-wounding was integral to the act. Two years before Bruce Jenner won an Olympic Gold Medal, Burden starred in his own crucifixion. In 1976, he had himself nailed, Christ-like, to the back of a Volkswagon in a performance piece called Trans-Fixed. Continue Reading