This is great stuff…but how do we make best use of the information?
Here is an excellent series of recorded commentaries on works of art by Fr Michael Morris of the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology. Fr Morris, who is on the full-time faculty of the school, heads their Religion and the Arts program and writes the sacred art meditations for the monthly Magnificat magazine. He has been posting one a week during lent and they call be viewed here. I encourage readers to visit this site watch these videos. At the end of this article is his meditation on the Ecce Homo by the Flemish artist Quentin Massys. The original painting is in the Prado in Madrid.
This does raise the question of what is purpose of such meditations? How do we make use of all the great information they contain? Do they help our participation in the liturgy? If so, how? If we cannot answer these questions satisfactorily then perhaps what we have here is just a bit of pious relaxation, one step up from vegging out in front of a documentary on the television – Catholic PBS!
The first point for each of us to ask ourselves, I suggest, is this: am I doing this as an exercise in understanding the work of art, or treating the work of art as a means for enhancing my knowledge and understanding of the Word. If it is the former then, and I speak for myself here, I am indulging in intellectual pride or a cultural affectation. I might as well be be taking a benign secular art history course which, while acknowledging the Catholic intentions of the artist, is detached from them.
Even if my goal is the latter – enhancing knowledge and understanding of the Word – then unless it is conformity to the ultimate end, it becomes another form of intellectual pride in which I am seeking theological knowledge and understanding, rather than artistic.
The answer has to be that, like all other human activity, it can be ordered to the purpose of deepening my participation the Sacred Liturgy, But how? Here is my approach:
I suggest that it is analogous to the study of scripture, which when done well internalizes what is learnt so that our worship of God is more worthy. This last point raises yet another additional question. If meditation of art is analogous to study (Read More)