Beauty and Liturgy

Beauty and Liturgy

Catching up on some backlogged blogging while Anthony naps on my mom’ shoulder. These are two pieces I clipped a couple of weeks ago and never got around to posting.

First, a piece about the importance of beauty: Spiritual Sustenance: Feed Us with Your Beauty

Beauty in the Church is essential. I don’t want God brought down from the Heavens and made “relatable” to me. I want to be carried up to Christ so I can meet Him there and be awestruck and changed by his beauty, expressed all around.

People often justify their ugly little parishes by saying they don’t believe in wasting money for garnishments that insult the poor. Little do they realize that their bleak and barren churches are spiritually depriving the poor by starving their very hearts and souls; hard lives ache for beauty. I often wonder why people think the poor need (or deserve) only the basic-and-bare minimums. A dreary life needs more, not less, uplifting beauty. A church should be a refuge from a harsh and ugly world, a place where deprived senses may swim in beauty. To deny us that refuge or to deny the poor a chance to be awestruck seems an injustice to me.

But just as I’m crowing, “Yes!” and welling up full of indignation about the terrible injustice of the drab and ugly that I have to put up with on Sunday mornings, Simcha reminds me of the need for balance. A little ugliness isn’t necessarily all that bad for the soul: Why I love my ugly little liturgy:

It�s good for us, every once in a while, to attend a liturgy that we think isn�t good enough. It�s good for us to have that sensation of being the only one in the room who comprehends the travesty that is happening around us. Why? Because at some point, in the middle of the noise and the irreverence and the foolish, happy-clappy songs, we�re going to have to go up for Communion. We will have to take God into our mouths. And if we have an honest bone in our bodies, we will have to think, �No, it�s not good enough. And neither am I.�

My soul is foolish. I�m cheap and jangly. I�m in poor taste, inadequate, irreverent, wanting and paltry in every way. My heart is made of little beige bricks and burlap. And for some reason, God keeps showing up anyway. He doesn�t sneer and hunker down and wait for it to be over when he comes into the tawdry temple of my soul. He doesn�t get out of there as soon as he can.

A little ugliness is good for us, folks. Taken in the proper doses in the right context, a little bad taste is something we need, because it tells us something about ourselves. Surrounded with nothing but beauty and elegance at all times, we can come to confuse good taste with good souls: We can think that we really are worthy, because here we are, chanting! It�s timeless! It�s ancient! It�s a worthy offering!

It’s an interesting tension, isn’t it? We need beauty. Beauty is a necessary path to God. And yet beauty can also become a stumbling block if we begin to worship the beautiful instead of God. Something to ponder.


And today there is this from Fr Longenecker: Sight and Vision in Worship :

What many people forget about the liturgy is that what we see is more powerful than what we hear. We know that a visual image is more powerful than hearing, but we seem to forget that when we come to church. Because vision is more powerful than hearing it is important to make an effort to make the church—and especially the sanctuary of the church beautiful and inspiring.


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1 comment
  • Thank you for all your thoughts on the Divine Office.  I want very much to make a habit of praying this daily.  I will also check out ‘Coffee and Canticles’ as it, too, sounds very interesting! 

    Blessings to you, Melanie!