Sunday, November 17, 2013

beauty will save the world....

It seems hard to believe that almost a month has passed since my blog was visited with a story.I think that perhaps politics has edged out any creative fire that may have burned after the Camino.And now I have a cold.

I usually don't muse about politics on this blog but something has been roiling and I must let it out.There is a breeze blowing in this country, a movement,under the radar, to remove all religion from the public arena.A group in the North is suing to keep school children from trying to help a Christian group gather toys for poor kids at Christmas.There are "secular" churches springing up that have me wondering.A woman who attended a service there explained that she loved the music and the preaching in the Church and wanted the same thing each Sunday but without the God part.
This has me scratching my head and I think of Steve Martin's bluegrass song,"Atheists Don't Have Songs."

Church is about praise and thanksgiving so who do you praise?The words preached are about guidance but if not from God, then who?The first time I heard Handel's "Messiah",I thought my heart with burst with joy.I try to envision a world with no sacred music,no chant and I ponder how those musical expressions inspire. And then there is the Body of Christ.

I have no problem with a secular church but why must the religious presence that we have be pushed out and marginalized?That which has brought so much to so many.Why not, as the bumper sticker says,"coexist."There is something else going on here.

All of this came to mind after a trip to D.C. to see my cousin,a retired priest.Before leaving I saw some pictures on T.V. of housing that was built in the former Soviet Union.Those grey,utilitarian blocks of apartments and government buildings.So drab and uniniviting,with no spirit.We have all seen these and the only color in the secular Soviet country seemed to be the onion shaped domes of the Orthodox churches.

In the villa of the retirement house is a small chapel.It is white with blonde oak pews and a few lush plants by the altar.There are flickering candles and a shiny communion cup near a tattered Bible.The cross above the altar is multi-colored  with small pictures of Mary and St.John to the side.Spare and beautiful.Most of what I know of beauty comes from the sights,scents and sounds of church.Holy Thursday: whitelilies and altar clothes.Canaries in white cages, incense, chant.I once had a nun tell me that singing Gregorian chant was the closest we would get to heaven.I experienced what she said while in choir in grammar school.Stained glass windows created by believers a thousand years ago made my jaw drop in Spain.Beauty.

I try to envision a secular church and how the decorations would look.Perhaps scenes from nature which would surely be beautiful.But when I saw the Grand Canyon ,my first thought was "thank you".I think that one of the saddest things about a secular world would be that instinct, thwarted.I don't think that one need be a believer to be a good person but I do wonder about beauty.

Anyway, I am grateful for the beauty in my life:lilacs,turkeys,babies toes,great art, music, smooth pages in a journal, books.Words like celestial,
symphony,chapels,silence,prayer,giving,tenderness,forgiveness.And I take comfort in the words of the Russian master writer,Dostoyevsky,"Beauty will save the world."

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