Saturday, September 5, 2015

These showy "candle-stub economies"

St. Peter's, London Docks, Wikimedia Commons
"I find these candle-stub economies particularly degrading.  It is the poverty of Judas and not of Christ.  Worship is a thing that belongs both to God and to the whole people of God.  It is a celebration in which everyone from the poorest to the richest is at home in the house of the Father and is called to rejoice in his presence.  Luxury and tawdry showiness are surely out of place, but real and even costly beauty could not find a better place in this world.  We are told that great churches which are also works of art will no longer be built because they are an offense to the indigent.  Are they?  The Anglicans of the last century who well before us made the greatest effort to establish contact with the most deprived urban proletariat, thought quite the contrary that it was honoring the poor to come to them not only with bread and soup tickets or even the most effective social works, but also to give them churches no less beautiful and a more splendid liturgy than those of the upper class neighborhoods.  And to do this they did not hesitate to fleece those more affluent parishioners.  Out of this came churches like St. Peter's, London Dock, which were soon filled with a people of God that was not exactly aristocratic.  These were to be the beginning both of a spread of Anglicanism into areas it had never reached and of a popular liturgical movement next to which our own appears quite paltry.
     "Moreover, the idea that a hodge-podge worship will necessarily cost less than a splendid one is childish.  Even if quality liturgical art is relatively costly (no more and often much less than the tawdriest), what would be stopping the building of churches or altars worthy of the name, or ceasing to make priestly vestments that are not niggardly or hideous, do for the poor?  It would suddenly enrich all those petty tradesmen who already extract only too much money from the clergy by soliciting them to accept their lines of supposedly inexpensive trash, but it would pauperize a lot of craftsmen or workers who most deserve our concern.  And does not the Church need artists as well as scholars to announce the Gospel in the culture of each age?  Yet today her clergy scorn artist and scholar alike. . . ."

     Louis Bouyer, The decomposition of Catholicism, trans. Charles Underhill Quinn (Chicago:  Franciscan Herald Press, 1969 [1968]), 22-23.

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