Our Lady and Sheen

Sundays with Sheen – Man and Architecture

The topic for this blog can be found here.

Why do men treat men like men?  And, more importantly why do men treat men like dogs?  And, what does that have to do with the expression of our Holy Faith?

Our Lord had a divine sense of humor, because He revealed that the universe was sacramental.

So begins the thesis of the good archbishop’s topic.  But what does this mean?  Well, in the most down to earth terms, he explains, that the earth is full of the visible and the invisible, both of which were created by God.  He points out that those who see only the world do not see beauty, because nothing in and of itself is beautiful.  But for those who can see beyond the nature of things, we see the beauty of God in everything.  Not to be confused with the pagan worship of old in which everything was god, but to truly see God in everything.  This “second” nature of an object is what Archbishop Sheen would tell us is the sacramental nature of nature.  Much as though the Glorified Body of our Lord is hidden behind the accidents of simple bread and wine, so to is the beauty of God hidden behind a sunset as Sheen points out, or as I’m sure one of my Louisianan friends would point out, a bass fighting and jumping on the end of the line.

A handshake is a kind of sacrament, because there is something seen and felt, namely, the clasping of hands; but there is something mysterious and unseen, namely, the communication of friendship. … Man without a soul is a thing; something to be used, not something to be reverenced. He becomes “functional” like a building, or a monkey wrench, or a wheel. The courtesies, the amenities, the urbanities, the gentility that one mortal ought to have for another are neglected once man is no longer seen as bearing within himself the Divine Image.

How often today, as in years past, do we see that we treat our fellow brothers and sisters with respect only to the degree in which we can gain from them?  I know that I catch myself often wanting to buddy up to someone because they are popular, or because they have x, y, or z.  The disease that Sheen speaks of is much deeper than meer human desire to advance, however, the disease to which he refers to is, in the words of a priest friend of mine, sub-human.  It is an animalistic desire that is purely survivalistic.  But, why?!  The Lord our God came into the poor flesh of humanity so that we could have Life… and have it to the fullest!  Do we so quickly forget that the promise of God is worth more than the promise of a banker, or a teacher, or a car dealer?  Do we think that God’s word is to be trifled with as a piece of paper on the street?  No, of course, none of us would say that!  But, I ask you this, if we are treating our fellow man in such a way as to treat him without the divine breath, aren’t we saying that we also do not have this divine spark, and that we are only in it for what we can get in this world?

What does this have to do with the expression of our Faith?

When civilization was permeated with a happier philosophy, when things were seen as signs of outward expression of the unseen, architecture was enhanced with a thousand decorations: a pelican feeding her young from her own veins symbolized the sacrifice of Christ; the gargoyle peering from behind a pillar in a cathedral reminded us that temptations are to be found even in the most holy places.

How often do we walk into church buildings that have been stripped of everything, including even stain glass imagery and replaced by just “coloring?”  How often do we here that the church should not be too decorated because Christ was a simple carpenter, and we should not be spending money on the finery of the faith?  And how often are churches built without pointing upwards to heaven?  When we lose the sacramental nature of nature, we lose the importance of seeing things to remind us of the deeper thing.  That sounds very philosophical and all, but hear me out.  I know my mother, I’ve known her for my entire life, from conception until now, and I will know her until I die, and beyond.  But, I still want to have a picture of my mother.  The picture is not important, hopefully, what is important is my mother who is in the picture.  In the same way, we do not need to neglect the poor, but we do not need to neglect the second viewing of nature by the soul.  Without the understanding that buildings mean something more than just space, especially when they are dedicated to God, the creator of everything, then we say that things should be only functional.  But without beauty, the soul become dulled, and no longer receptive to the beauty of the beatific vision that we all hope to reach.

I would encourage you all, if you do not have at least some religious iconography or a crucifix, get something.  Something that as you pass it will remind you that this world is passing, and you have nothing if you gain the world and lose your soul.


July 18, 2010 - Posted by | Sundays with Sheen | , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Indeed, a church needs to remind our souls of their eternal source with God.

    Comment by Christine Pennacchio | July 18, 2010 | Reply

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