ASSIONTIDE is a busy time for church music types. Nevertheless, I am daring to propose two worthwhile (and brief) articles to read. They have different authors and subjects, but both are timely and insightful.
The first is an op-ed published two days ago by Bishop Conley of the Diocese of Lincoln. Entitled “Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi,” the short article introduces a number of themese central to the act of divine worship. After summarizing the purpose and significance of the Church’s liturgy, Bishop Conley turns to the subject of Liturgiam authenticam, which celebrates its 16th anniversary this week. Recent news stories, of course, have suggested that the document, which concerns (among other things) liturgical translations, may undergo review, so this piece is well timed. Praising Liturgiam authenticam for the priority it places on fidelity to the deposit of faith, Bishop Conley writes:
Liturgical worship does much more than simply deliver information about God. It forms our hearts and our minds and our imaginations, to give us a keen sense of the supernatural in our midst. Liturgical worship, in a very real way, transcends time and space; it takes us from this world, and puts us in contact with the divine.
Read the full piece on the diocesan website.
My second reading recommendation is a piece that Catholic News Service first ran on St. Patrick’s Day. Entitled “The Empty Chaos of Today’s Art Might Be Telling Us Something,” the article hails from the pen of Dr. John Garvey, President of The Catholic University of America. In my time thus far at CUA, I have been impressed by the genuine faith of the students, the Catholic identity of the place (CUA is the largest school listed on the Newman Guide), and the good example of faith and reason set by President Garvey. His reflections on the void in much contemporary art is not simply critical, but also perceptive. Reflecting on the distinction between ordered and formless art, the author observes:
Traditional artistic forms impose an order on the world, and offer us a way to understand it and appreciate its beauty. The point of postmodern art is to dispense with these structures and bring us face to face with brute reality.
Garvey notes that he has considered forming a Fine Arts Council at CUA, the purpose of which body would be to “rebel against” the worldview that sees reality as fundamentally chaotic, shapeless, and undeveloped. I will be interested to see if this council comes to pass. In the meantime, I highly suggest reading the full piece.
For a longer read on a similar subject, permit me a third recommendation: Art in Crisis: The Lost Center, by Hans Sedlmayr. In this full-length book, Sedlmayr (a respected art historian of the twentieth century) chronicles the decline of the arts up to the modern period. The “lost center” he openly laments is the divine, which has grown more and more divorced from artistic expression.
If the coming two weeks are too busy for this kind of reading, then save these articles in a browser tab and read them in the Easter season. They promise to be worth your while!