(Illustration by Ariel Agemian. Note: It is only since and through publishing this picture that I discovered the identity of this wonderful artist. For more, please see discussion in comments below.)
I was happy to discover this old image of the Mystery of Ordination on the web. And I am doubly happy to republish it here.
To my mind, such images can play a truly healing role in our troubled society. Why? There are two reasons at least.
The first is to do with the cultural invisibility of the true nature of Catholic Church.
As I have said before here, the true nature of the Catholic Church remained invisible to me for nearly thirty-four years, even if I was both drawn to Spiritual Mystery, as well as reasonably well-educated (by the standards of my generation, at least).
If you had asked me before this time, what a Catholic priest was, I suppose I might have answered in terms of a profession. If I were being charitable, I might have supposed at most, a learned profession similar to that of a doctor or psychotherapist.
Or I might have replied in terms redolent of the nature of a Protestant Minister.
I certainly would not have said that by the understanding of the Church, the Catholic Priest is a man who has been forever transformed in his soul by the power of our Lord, such that he can bring our Lord to the faithful, whether under the species of bread and wine, or through absolution, the bond of marriage, healing unction and so forth.
Or on a lesser level, could furnish us with the sacramentals, such as Holy Water, for example.
It is not that I considered these as ideas to be refuted. It is that I had no idea that such notions even existed!
The Church of Ineffable Mystery was invisible to me.
As I imagine it is, to so many of us moderns, Anglophones in particular. Now this is less so the case I know, in places like Spain or Italy, but it is Anglo-American civilisation that now increasingly dominates our world.
And the true nature of the Catholic Church becomes obscured to so, so many. How many? Tens of millions I should think – at least. More? I imagine yes indeed.
And the post-Vatican II Church often does so little to help. The way it so frequently represents itself in either (very mundane) images or words, only contributes to the cultural invisibility of its true mission, for example by giving rise to the idea that there is little difference between Catholic and Protestant “denominations” or between a minister and a priest.
But an image like the above clearly calls our attention to something very different …
There is then I believe a crying need for the Catholic Church to represent herself differently. And if I can no longer trust many priests and bishops of the Novus Ordo to do that, as a confirmed Catholic layperson, I hope I can justifiably make my own small and humble contribution through this website.
This then, is the first reason, why I am very happy to place this image here. But there is as I say, still a further reason why such images have value I believe.
Human civilisation is awash with imagery as never before. On and in Billboards, newspapers, cinemas, television and computer screens and far, far more. And the vast amount of it is a testimony to materialism. And it is testimony designed to incite materialistic desire, from bottles of Coca Cola, wine and perfume to exposed human bodies …
Awash in materialistic imagery, is it any wonder that our society becomes ever more materialistic? That we are conditioned to orient ourselves ever more deeply to the purely material?
Yes, yes there is a crying need for images, for symbols that point us to the sublime.
Symbols … Now as I was in the very midst of writing this entry, I stumbled upon what I thought to be an unusually perceptive entry in the blogosphere here and I hope the author David Bennett will not mind my quoting him a little:
“As I was worshiping yesterday at a Catholic parish in the Cleveland area, I was noticing how purposefully empty the worship space was of symbols. The walls were white, and the crucifix was tiny and barely there. There was one banner that looked like it was out of the 1970s, that had a symbol that was intentionally made to look obscure (was it a candle flame? a sun? a child’s first finger painting creation?).
In other words, if there was a symbol, it was designed to be unconnected to our experience. I remember thinking that in our natural world we are surrounded by symbols that point us to God, yet many of our modern churches purposely take these symbols away from us, perhaps seeing them either as distracting or out-of-date.
But are symbols out of date? The natural human craving for symbols hasn’t gone away, which is why even those traditionally cool to symbols, evangelicals, are discovering their value. My reading on brain waves suggests that non-verbal symbols stimulate alpha waves in the brain, which serve as a bridge to theta waves.
When measuring the waves of individuals in deep meditation and spiritual experiences, theta waves are dominant. Whether you accept the science of brain waves and spirituality, nonetheless, the evidence suggests that words appeal to only one aspect of our brain’s capabilities, while visual, kinesthetic, olfactory, and auditory symbols touch us at a different level.”
Yes I felt this post was one of the most insightful I have seen recently and again there is more of real value at the link above if you are interested.
From so many, many different perspectives, there is then a crying, urgent need for the Church of today to stop being coy about showing to the world the Saving Mystery she offers to the world.
The pre-Vatican II Church had no such coyness and to that clarity, vision and boldness we must return, for the sake of a world being consumed in mmaterialism.
I pray thus that this little website can make some contribution along these lines and for that reason, dear Reader, you may well be seeing more imagery appearing here soon.
From Amazon USA:
Some of these can also be found in our Amazon UK store here.