The Most Holy Trinity
2018 – Cycle B
Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40; Psalm 33; Romans 8:14-17; Matthew 28:16-20
Heavenly Bodies is an exhibition of the Metropolitan Museum of Art that recently opened in New York City. Heavenly Bodies is a fluid title. What does it refer to? What is the exhibition exhibiting? God? But God does not have a body. Angels? They too are bodiless, though heavenly. The saints? They have bodies glorified in heaven. But the Met is filled with paintings of saints from various periods of art. So what is this largest exhibition ever presented by the MET about?
The subtitle is revealing: Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination. Fashion? Timothy Cardinal Dolan of New York at the celebrity studded opening gala, the fashion event of the year, posed the questions, “You may be asking what is the Church doing here? You might be asking what’s the Cardinal Archbishop of New York doing here? Some Catholics find the exhibition scandalous but others, like Jesuit, Fr. James Martin, Cardinal Dolan and The Vatican, whose sacristies have contributed to the exhibition, see an underlying dialogue that contemporary society wants to have with Catholicism. The Cardinal’s answer to his own questions as to why the Church is at the gala and a participant in this exhibition was that the Church was about three things: truth, goodness and beauty. The arts are about three things also: truth, goodness and beauty. Catholicism and the arts have much to talk about.
Truth, goodness and beauty are three values that also offer us an experience of God. How often throughout the years have I experienced after Sunday Mass, or a funeral or wedding liturgy, the remark, “Father, that was a beautiful service.” We human beings are drawn to beauty. And where there is beauty there is also truth. And where these is truth there is goodness. Whenever we encounter one of these values we encounter the other two. They are inseparable.
The inspiration for the exhibition is found in the writings on Catholic imagination of priest – sociologist, the late, Fr Andrew Greeley. Greeley writes that we “Catholics live in an enchanted world, a world of statues and holy water, stained glass and votive candles, saints and religious medals, rosary beads and holy pictures.” Consider our renovated church. At floor level with us, we are surrounded by the saints: Kateri, Ephrem, Theresa, Anthony, Stanislaus, Rose, Francis, Lucy, Boniface, Patrick and Joan. Above shining down on us are Adam and Eve, David and Ruth, Mary and Joseph, Martha and Lazarus, Thomas and Peter, Jesus and the angels, and the whole story of our salvation. Shining even more is the depth of colours that moves and dances across this sacred space with the sun.
We have at the heart of our church an altar and ambo crafted and carved by Ralph Morley, one of our parishioners. Windows created by Ukrainian artist, Marco Zubar. Sid Chase built and cares for our pipe organ from which on any particular Sunday the music of Handel and Bach, Couperin and Buxtehude; while the piano sings the music of Debussy, Mozart, Beethoven, and Strauss. The Benedictine monks of Saint Andrew’s Abbey, Valyermo, California created our Stations of the Cross that we moved from the school. We have commissioned James Lewis of Troy, New York to create a contemporary tabernacle of various woods and Marek Czarnecki of Connecticut to paint an icon of Christ.
In this enchanted world, we are sprinkled with water, anointed with oil and touched by spirit.
Why have Christians almost since the beginning, and Catholicism in particular, used the arts to express our faith? Greeley writes that these expressions of our tradition “are mere hints of a deeper and more pervasive religious sensibility that inclines Catholics to see the Holy lurking in creation.” Created things lead, point, entice, cajole, suggest, whisper, imply the vast world of transcendence, of our God that is beyond us and yet fills the universe.
What is most curious is that almost all of the fashion designers represented in the MET exhibition, the likes of Versace, Dolce and Gabbana, Dior, and Chanel, were born Catholic; but almost none of them have continued as active members within the Catholic Christian community. There is a sadness in that while seemingly these designers have disregarded their Catholic roots that inspire them yet within their artistic expression is found the beauty of Catholicism. And where there is beauty there is also truth. And where there is truth there is also goodness. Whenever we encounter one of these values we encounter the other two values for truth, goodness and beauty while distinct are bound together. A trinity of values that reveals the Divine Trinity of Father, Son and Spirit bound together in a oneness that is still distinctive.
If you desire to encounter our God as Trinity seek out beauty. Visit an art gallery and contemplate a piece of art or sculpture. Attend the performance of a play. Roam our church on a quiet day. Read a novel or poetry. View dance or go dancing yourself. Participate fully and actively in the Eucharist. Listen to an orchestral concert. Go to New York City and view the exhibition, Heavenly Bodies and maybe, just maybe, encounter God, Father, Son and Spirit; beauty, truth and goodness.
The exhibition Heavenly Bodies runs thru 8 October 2018 at the MET Fifth Avenue and the MET Cloisters.