30 September 2010

'Increase our faith' - Some thoughts for Sunday

I will be travelling in the south of Ireland over the next few days visiting friends and may not have time to use the internet. I'll be returning to the Philippines two weeks from today.

Here are some thought for Sunday, which is the 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C.

Gospel (Luke 17:5-10, RSV, Catholic Edition)

The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!"

And the Lord said, "If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this sycamine tree, `Be rooted up, and be planted in the sea,' and it would obey you.

"Will any one of you, who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep, say to him when he has come in from the field, `Come at once and sit down at table'?

Will he not rather say to him, `Prepare supper for me, and gird yourself and serve me, till I eat and drink; and afterward you shall eat and drink'?

Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded?

So you also, when you have done all that is commanded you, say, `We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.'"

Altarpiece, El Greco, 1597-99

Antoni Plàcid Guillem Gaudí i Cornet's yet unfinished basilica of the Holy Family, Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família, under construction since 1882 and not yet finished, will be consecrated and proclaiimed a basilica by Pope Benedict on 7 November. It is an expression of the faith of the great architect Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926) who designed a beautiful work that he would never see finished. It may be completed by 2026, the centennial of Gaudí's death. This in itself is an expression of the faith that Jesus speaks about in the parable, a faith that trusts in God to bring about growth, the kind of faith that God often demands of missionaries such as the Columbans who may never see the fruit of what the plant in God's name.

El Greco's altarpiece is also an expression of faith, drawing us to heaven at the place where the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is offered. Maybe we have lost a sense of the awesomeness of the celebration of Mass. El Greco, 'The Greek', is how Doménikos Theotokópoulos (1541-1614), born in Crete, signed his paintings. He moved to Toledo, Spain, in 1577 and stayed there till his death.

Both Gaudí and El Greco found a lack of acceptance, and even disdain, during their lifetimes but both, through the beauty of their creations, can speak to our hearts and help bring about the growth in faith that God wills all of us to have.

Portrait of An Old Man (presumed self-portrait of El Greco), circa 1595–1600, oil on canvas, 52.7 × 46.7 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, United States

The cause for the beatification of Gaudí began some years ago. You can read an article by Austen Ivereigh about this here. The opening paragraph gives us some idea of the kind of person he was:

When in 1926 God's architect was run over by a No. 30 tram on his way to evening prayer, he was mistaken for a beggar and taken to Barcelona's pauper hospital. His friends found him there the next day. But Antoni Gaudí refused to leave. "Here is where I belong", he told them. He had always wanted to leave this world poor and did, two days later, aged 74, honoured by a city which universally acknowledged him to be both an artistic genius and a saint.

Japanese sculptor Etsuro Sotoo found his Catholic faith through working on La Sagrada Familia, as you can read here. The article ends with these words:

According to the Japanese artist, the imposing character of the church is not meant to be the display of the proud power of an artist, but a work dedicated and maintained by God, of whom Gaudí regarded himself a collaborator, to the point that he did not want to put his personal name to the project.

Sotoo, who requested baptism in 1989, said that since his conversion, his way of working has not changed, but it "is easier and more secure" and fills him with "pleasure and freedom."

"Gaudí's architecture indicates, it does not oblige, it is something human," Sotoo said. "This is also Jesus' way. He does not oblige us to do anything, but guides us. And this way we can be much happier and secure."

Etsuro Sotoo ended his address at the Rimini meeting stating that "the artist, as Gaudí said, collaborates with his work in God's creation; in this way, freedom and happiness are possible. This is the only way man must follow."

Pope Benedict has shown in many ways the importance of beauty in bringing us closer to God:

The encounter with the beautiful can become the wound of the arrow that strikes the heart and in this way opens our eyes, so that later, from this experience, we take the criteria for judgment and can correctly evaluate the arguments. For me an unforgettable experience was the Bach concert that Leonard Bernstein conducted in Munich after the sudden death of Karl Richter. I was sitting next to the Lutheran Bishop Hanselmann. When the last note of one of the great Thomas-Kantor-Cantatas triumphantly faded away, we looked at each other spontaneously and right then we said: "Anyone who has heard this, knows that the faith is true."

The music had such an extraordinary force of reality that we realized, no longer by deduction, but by the impact on our hearts, that it could not have originated from nothingness, but could only have come to be through the power of the Truth that became real in the composer's inspiration. Isn't the same thing evident when we allow ourselves to be moved by the icon of the Trinity of Rublëv? In the art of the icons, as in the great Western paintings of the Romanesque and Gothic period, the experience described by Cabasilas, starting with interiority, is visibly portrayed and can be shared. (Message of the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in 2002).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was in that cathedral. It's absolutely gorgeous. When will it be finished? I was under the impression it would take about another century.