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Saturday, December 02, 2006

Don't Icons Belong in a Church?

This morning, Cathy of Alex came up to my corner of the Metro area to attend Mass with me and a talk given by one of our priests. Then we headed out for breakfast, then on to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts for an exhibit, mostly Baroque, that opened at noon. The works displayed were wonderful, but our enjoyment was a bit smushed by a docent who had no knowledge of theology or accurate Church history. So we often had to look at each other and shrug, realizing that listening to the Church being misrepresented yet another time was just going to have to be a form of martyrdom we must suffer. I had to wonder if it was worth any time in Purgatory? One day we'll know.

After this exhibit, we moved on to the free areas, and found a treasure of Sacred Icons in a couple of the galleries on the second floor. We moved through these rooms, looking with wonder and reverence upon the ancient Icons portrayed there. I recognized several of them as their images have been reproduced over and over again, having graced covers of magazines and devotional books, stained glass and pamphlets, and suddenly it struck me that these do not belong in a museum; they belong in a church, in a cathedral, in a basilica. They have all likely been blessed, have all likely come from, not a personal collection, but a church. Perhaps with a votive candle and a prie dieu, a place of meditation upon the truths expressed within them. And this room indeed had a totally different FEEL than the other galleries. Several times I had to fight off the urge to kneel before some of the icons and triptyches and offer various prayers, supplications, thanksgivings. I had to forcefully remind myself where I was, and now that I have had time to reconsider, I wish I had taken time to kneel before those blessed works of art and give God the glory that they bring to him.

I had to realize, however, that as much as I was on the verge of being offended at art which is sacred to us as Catholics, and probably the Orthodox as well, that those images likely convey graces to the unsuspecting visitor. Graces they can't see, hear or feel, and perhaps there are conversions that occur when these unsuspecting souls enter such a gallery, surrounded by blessed objects on all sides.

But I still had to ask....don't those icons belong in a church? In a side chapel? Several of them were designed to grace alters...and the collections have been split up, possibly in wreckovations that took place after the rape of Vatican II...uh...I mean the MISINTERPRETATION of Vatican II. I'm sorry...did I say what I really mean again? I'll happen again and again and I'm not a bit repentant about it.

Moving on...

In another gallery, they featured some Rennaisance religious art, and the placquards next to them were so theologically incorrect it made me crazy. Perhaps I should get my grad degree and then teach a class on the Theology of Art and why the galleries need docents who are well versed in actual Catholic teaching.

I was about to start a class on the spot in reference to Genesis and why Eve was NOT the demon she is always made out to be.

But I restrained myself...just barely.

We went back to my parish to visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament for a holy hour, and then left for the Nativity Story at a nearby theatre. I will post on this seperately. In the meantime, go check out
Cathy's post
on our awesomely Catholic day together!


Anonymous said...

Very edifying Adoro - thanks for sharing!

A Pilgrim said...

You asked a great question, and this is a great post! Oh if only more Catholics understood the use and value of images, and the history.

Icons were anohter one of the things that drew me into the Catholic Church. You might ask why not into Orthodoxy, well, it's not in unity.

Last, I remember reading of an exhibit of icons where the writer commented on the marks of kissing left on the glass covering these treasures which were on display. Devotion takes place, even in a museum.

A Pilgrim said...

BTW, A pilgrim is my handle I chose for my SBC2RCC blog that you identify as "Southern Baptist to Roman Catholic" above.

My name is Monte, and when I started posting, I was uncertain about drawing too much fire. Not to worry, most Baptists just treat me like I died and leave me alone.

Adoro said...

A Pilgrim,

I actually gave your blog title instead of your handle because it is a definition of your journey...with the prayer that others will see and relate to your journey, and come home as well.

As far as drawing too much fire...well, we've done that for 2,000 years...welcome! :-)

Oh, and far as the Icons went...many of them were not behind glass, so we could have actually TOUCHED them, but chose not to out of what, I'm not sure. But had there been glass, I would have touched the glass, I'm sure. Speaking as an artist, I didn't want to touch the Icons directly for fear of damaging them in some way with the oils on my fingers, miniscule as they are. It would seem disrespectful in some way, although admittedly, in my parish, I touch the statues and the icons there without regret.

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Adoro: I don't touch the art because an alarm could go off and we could be thrown out. Or a guard will come by and see us and throw us out.

We did what we could do.

Adoro said...


TOUCH the art? No, never touch the art. The oils from the fingers would be bad for it, although God knows we love to touch our favorite statues in our parishes.

No, the real reason we didn't touch the art was because Cathy was going to create a diversion and I was going to grab the works and head somewhere....or a plant it where it belongs.

We discussed, and weighed the options, and I decided that my app for grad school might be turned down if I was a felon, and for Cathy, as an accomplice, well, she'd lose her job, too.

So we decided to be good Catholics, bless ourselves, and acquiesce to the legitimate authority that held the object d'art in this place of dubious honor.

Seriously, pepole....we joked about it. Had either of us made so much as a move to touch something, we would have been pounced on by a bunch of teenaged security guards.


Cathy_of_Alex said...

ROFL! Yes, how quickly I forgot our brief foray into felonious thoughts.

Folks: Do you now see why we are friends?