Online Edition: August 2009
Vol. XV, No. 5
Cardinal Pell Keynotes Liturgy Conference in Ireland
Cardinal George Pell, of Sydney, Australia, was keynote speaker at a conference on the liturgy held July 12-13 on Fota Island, Cork, Ireland. “Benedict XVI on Church Art and Architecture” was the topic of the conference. The event was the second liturgy conference sponsored by St. Colman’s Society for Catholic Liturgy, and featured speakers from Australia, the United States, Great Britain, Canada and Ireland. Cardinal Pell was also principal celebrant at the conference Mass (extraordinary form) at St. Colman’s Cathedral in Cobh.
In his introduction to the conference, Father Vincent Twomey, SVD, of Maynooth, Ireland, decried the iconoclasm that affected so many church buildings following the Second Vatican Council, and suggested a number of theological causes. He pointed to the difference between treating beauty as peripheral, as a matter of taste or mere decoration, and seeing beauty as being as integral to liturgy as are truth and goodness. Father Twomey pointed out the theological implications of the reordering of the liturgical space in the wake of the post-conciliar liturgical reforms, such as moving the tabernacle from its central position in the sanctuary to a side-altar.
Cardinal Pell, in his paper entitled “Benedict XVI on Beauty: Issues in the Tradition of Christian Aesthetics”, said that, for the former Cardinal Ratzinger, the truth of love can transform the ugliness of the world — manifested in its extreme on the Cross — into the beauty of the Resurrection. According to Plato, beauty is profoundly realistic: it wounds man and makes him desire the Transcendent. Thus beauty causes a painful longing in the human heart for God. But falsehood suggests that reality is ugly, thus it promotes either a cult of the ugly or a craving for transient pleasure to escape from ugliness.
Addressing the question of the interaction of the Gospel and culture, Cardinal Ratzinger argues that the Logos [Word of God/Christ] purifies and heals all cultures, which enables them to achieve their full potential. Though the Hebrew and Greek cultures — the linguistic vehicles of Salvation History — retain their unique significance for the faith, the Gospel itself transcends all cultures.
Cardinal Pell also commented on Cardinal Ratzinger’s theology of music; and he stressed that simple, orthodox faith remains the single most important factor in the celebration of the liturgy.
What has reason to do with beauty? Father Daniel Gallagher, an American who works in the English section of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, explored this in his paper “The Liturgical Consequences of Thomistic Aesthetics: exploring some philosophical aspects of Joseph Ratzinger’s Aesthetics”. He contrasted Thomistic aesthetics with the thought of Immanuel Kant. For Thomas Aquinas, beauty, though it originates in subjective experience, is a form of objective knowledge; while Kant sought objective criteria to determine the validity of the subjective experience of beauty. Father Gallagher observed that if beauty is related to the good, then the beauty of the liturgy is directly connected with moral life — and thus concerned with culture as the context for the promotion of virtue.
In her paper “Eastern Iconoclasm and the Defense of Divine Beauty”, Dr. Janet Rutherford, of Westmeath, Ireland, a specialist in Byzantine studies, outlined the historical and theological background of the iconoclastic controversy that culminated in the Second Council of Nicaea (AD 787). At stake was the unity of Christ’s divine-human nature, defended by Saint Maximus the Confessor. For Maximus, the icon was not merely a sign of absent realities; the realities themselves were made present to the beholder of the icon. For the believer, icons are windows to eternity.
“The Nuptial Meaning of Classic Church Architecture” was the title of the presentation by art historian Dr. Helen Ratner Dietz, of Chicago. She described how, after Constantine, the Roman basilica was transformed by the inheritance of Judaism, and was understood in terms of the bridal covenant between God and Israel. The High Priest represented not only the Bridegroom, but also, when he entered the Holy of Holies, the Bride, Israel. The Temple Veil represented the whole of creation, symbolized by the colors of the elements, which have bridal significance, and were also the colors of the vestments of the High Priest, who represented Israel’s God, the Creator of heaven and earth.
Dr. Dietz observed that like the Temple, the Church faced east, but now with a new meaning: the rising sun represented the return of the Bridegroom in glory at the end of time, anticipated each time the Sacrifice of the Mass is celebrated on the altar.
Oratorian Father Uwe Michael Lang showed in his paper, “Louis Bouyer and Church Architecture: Resourcing Benedict XVI’s Introduction to the Spirit of the Liturgy”, how Cardinal Ratzinger developed Father Bouyer’s insight about the significance of the call, “Conversi ad orientem” — “Turn towards the Lord”, after the Liturgy of the Word. Facing East underlines the cosmic dimension of Christian worship; and the rising sun symbolizes the final return of the risen Lord, anticipated in the Sacrifice of the Mass. Father Lang is the author of Turning Towards the Lord: Orientation in Liturgical Prayer.
Two church architects from the US gave illustrated lectures — Ethan Anthony of Boston, who heads an architecture firm first begun by Ralph Adams Cram, and Dr. Duncan Stroik, of Notre Dame University’s School of Architecture.
Mr. Anthony’s lecture, “The Third Revival: New Gothic and Romanesque Catholic Architecture in North America”, gave an overview of the history of these “revivals” in church architecture. The “third revival” followed the modernist movement, and began with restoration of old churches, which led to a desire for churches built in a more sacred style.
Dr. Stroik’s address, “All the great works of art are a manifestation of God: Pope Benedict XVI and the Architecture of Beauty”, was illustrated with magnificent baroque churches of Bavaria.
Monsignor Joseph Murphy, a native of Cork, an official in the Vatican Secretariat of State, and author of Christ our Joy: The Theological Vision of Pope Benedict XVI, presented an address titled “The Fairest and the Formless: The Face of Christ as Criterion for Christian Beauty according to Joseph Ratzinger”. After outlining the patristic debate about how Jesus Christ could be said to be beautiful, Monsignor Murphy described the way beauty awakens man to his higher destiny.
Dr. Alcuin Reid, an Australian who lives in London and is author of The Organic Development of the Liturgy, gave a paper titled “Noble Simplicity Revisited”, in which he traced the development of the concept of simplicity in the liturgy, and how this was misunderstood after the Second Vatican Council.
“The Galilee Chapel: A Medieval Notion Comes of Age” was presented by Father Neil Roy, of Peterborough, Canada, who teaches at Notre Dame University. Father Roy described the development in Cluniac monasteries of the Galilee Chapel where liturgical processions were begun, symbolizing the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus in Galilee, then moving to “Jerusalem”, the sanctuary area. Father Roy suggested restoring this processional use of a Galilee Chapel, and locating it (along with the baptistery) at the front of the church.