Friday, July 14, 2017

Great Commission

From Daniel Mitsui:
The treasures of Christian art and architecture are today endangered: by indifference and neglect, by misguided renovation, by war and revolution. They may be preserved for a time for the sake of national identity or lofty but indifferentist notions of cultural worth. But the Lindisfarne Gospels and Chartres Cathedral are things of this world, and will not last forever: Rust and moth consume, thieves break in and steal. More tragic than to lose such treasures is to lose the ability to make them; more tragic yet is to lose the desire to make them. That desire can only be provided by religious faith. It is religious faith that animates the traditions, that makes them live rather than linger.

It is the natural province of the Catholic Church to safeguard art and culture, even art and culture made by the foes of Ecclesia. The Catholic Church can welcome the genius of every nation and attune it to harmony. The need to do this should be felt in the present day, even more than at the time of Cassiodorus. Destructive forces are ascendant in all nations; all culture is at risk.

That includes, perhaps most especially, the historic art and architecture of Islamdom. Many Christians ignore differences within Islamdom and regard all of its culture as that of a common enemy. But many great works of Ottoman art were influenced by Sufi mysticism. The Safavids, under whom the stunning mosques of Isfahan were built and decorated, and under whom miniature painting flourished, were Shia. The Mughals built grand funerary monuments. Aspects of these cultures and their art are condemned as heretical and idolatrous by growing fundamentalist movements within Islamdom, and marked for destruction as readily as churches. In Saudi Arabia, for example, historic buildings and cemeteries are being razed and replaced with bare and empty constructions that express a different theological outlook. (Read more.)

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