Tuesday, August 21, 2012




It is my humble opinion, that no matter how well-meaning it was for the Liturgists in the 1950's to promote Mass facing the people so that the congregation could "see" what the priest does during the Liturgy of the Eucharist, we can now confirm the old adage that the "way to hell is paved with good intentions."

What is there to see? The priest first and foremost and his facial expressions. The congregation begins to think the more holy looking, the more pious and the more seemingly authentic the priest is by his demeanor that somehow this is edifying. What it is,though, is making the priest an "actor" on the "stage" sense and not just the "actor" in the sense of the action of the Liturgy coming from God's initiative to make Holy the people of God and the offerings on the altar as He gives the people of God the means by which they acknowledge their need to worship and be saved.

What else is there to see? Nothing. The action of the Holy Spirit is invisible and hidden through sacramental and sacred signs. The "noble simplicity" of the Ordinary Form as stripped the Eucharistic Prayer of what would have been interesting to see once or twice.

Ultimately, the 1950's mentality about facing the people was a good idea gone bad and one that needs to be reversed! Will common sense prevail and steps be taken to do so? Common sense seems to be lacking in many quarters of the progressive element of the Church.

Time will tell. There is more foment now for ad orientem and coming from the grass roots then there was for facing the people in the 1950's which came primarily from certain liturgists of a certain mentality. The 1950's isn't where we need to be today.


Unknown said...


Exactly right!

"The congregation begins to think the more holy looking, the more pious and the more seemingly authentic the priest is by his demeanor that somehow this is edifying. What it is,though, is making the priest an "actor" on the "stage" sense and not just the "actor" in the sense of the action of the Liturgy coming from God's initiative to make Holy the people of God and the offerings on the altar as He gives the people of God the means by which they acknowledge their need to worship and be saved."

This is exactly what I was trying to get across to Pater Ignotus in the comboxes recently!


Henry Edwards said...

Good intentions??? Or was the motivation of the "liturgists" in the 1950s essentially the same as Luther's in the 1500s? Namely, to vitiate the idea of the Mass as primarily a propitiatory sacrifice? As Solomon (or whoever) said three millennia ago, "There's nothing new under the sun."

Yankee Padre said...

The argument is made as follows: The Holy Father offers Mass versus populum at St. Peter's, therefore this posture should be normative. What is the counter argument? The Holy Father is offering Mass at the tomb of St. Peter on an altar that is designed in the confessio style, making it impossible for him to offer Mass ad orientum unless a platform in front of the altar is constructed. Many altars in Rome at the shrines of the martyrs are built in this fashion. For example the beautiful San Giorgio in Velabro is a medieval basilica containing a high altar upon which the Mass has probably never been offered ad orientum precisely because of the architectural design, a design that is predicated upon the basilica being built as a shrine in honor of a holy martyr.

The return of the priestly ad orientum posture in all but the exceptional cases of confessio altars is the single most important step toward advancing the cause of true liturgical reform. The priest and the people praying in the same direction during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass opens all of us up to a fuller, more conscious, more actual participation in the Sacred Liturgy.

Unknown said...

Two honest questions for the priests...

1. What will it take for you to celebrate the Mass ad orientem, full time?

We know that there is nothing prohibiting it. We know that the rubrics call for it. We know that the theology behind it is sound and valid.

What will it take for you to celebrate the Mass ad orientem?

2. What is prohibiting you from celebrating the Mass ad orientem?

We know it can't be the set up of the sanctuary, a free standing altar will allow for Mass to be said ad orientem. We know it can't be the rubrics, because they actually call for the Mass to be said ad orientem.

What is prohibiting you from celebrating Mass ad orientem?

Pater Ignotus said...

Andy - That is YOUR understanding of "acting," not mine. Christ, The Church, the Priest, and the Congregation all "act" in the mass.

Marc said...

Andy - Since you will likely never have the "joy" of seeing Pater Ignotus's Church, let me assure you that they have constructed the "sanctuary" and placed the "altar" in such a way as to prevent the ad orientem celebration of the Mass.

It is a dreadfully ugly Church that epitomizes everything that is wrong with so-called modern church architecture, including abstract stained glass windows, those dreadful felt banners on the walls, a drum set and choir box featured prominently at the front and next to the table altar (which is immediately at the top of carpeted stairs leaving no space for ad orientem). I hope that gives you some indication of what Pater Ignotus is working with (although as far as I know, he is not responsible for the design of that church). Oh, and I forgot the glass walled reconciliation room and the off the wall Tabernacle (which is suprisingly at the front of the Church).

I will say that the newly renovated vestibule is quite nice, though. And they have a nice social hall.

Pater is the head of the Diocese of Savannah Ecumenism and Interreligious Relations Office.

Now you have a bit more background to understand his qualifications for your discussions with him. I'm just glad he's choosing to debate with you for the time being. I needed a break! :-)

Carol H. said...

AO makes it clear that Christ's sacrafice is being offered to God for us, VP makes it appear that Christ is being made present to be offered to us. BIG difference.

Yankee Padre said...

Andy, here is my honest answer: I would offer Mass ad orientum on every occasion if two things were true.

First, if I was sure that the faithful had been properly prepared to experience the Mass offered in that manner, so that at a minimum the majority understood that "the priest and the people are facing the same direction," as opposed to "the priest is turning his back on the people."

Second, if my brother priests assigned to the same parish were in solidarity with me on this point, so that offering Mass ad orientum would not be about me and my personal preferences, but about the normative way in which the Holy Mass is offered, at least in this particular parish. Please pray for me on this second point especially.

Oh, to be in a small country parish!

Joseph Johnson said...

Yankee Padre,
If you could get permission to work in (possibly get reincardinated into) the Diocese of Savannah, Georgia (from whence this blog originates) your chances of serving in a small country (or small town) parish with you as the only priest in residence (and where Roman Catholics are very much in the minority) would be very good!

As to your first point regarding proper preparation of the faithful for ad orientem, you, as a priest, are in the best position to instruct the laity on this subject and to direct your PRE teachers, etc. (assuming you are a pastor) to assist you in this instruction. My late father used to tell me, "Son, you can't just sit there and wait for things to happen for you--you've got to make them happen!"

As to your second point regarding solidarity and support from fellow priests, I will pray for you (and for them) that you will advocate effectively among them on this point and that their hearts and minds will be open to the merits of ad orientem celebration of the Mass. This needs to happen throughout the Church but the movement has to start somewhere. Prayer, study, dedication and advocacy will make it happen!

P.S., come visit south Georgia sometime!

rcg said...

Yankee, no way you're going South. You have to help with the Reform of the Reform up here. We can drive to the beach and stop in Macon on the way, nice barbecue.

Yankee Padre said...

Thanks Joseph.

I actually have fond memories of visiting Savannah a few years ago. I remember taking a tour of the city, visiting ante-bellum homes, walking along the harbor, and praying in your beautiful cathedral.

Incardination would be a big step, but please know that I appreciate the southern hospitality and your making this Yankee Padre feel so welcome. Thank you above all for your prayers. I truly rely upon them.

God bless!

Hammer of Fascists said...


You convinced me in the last long thread that your understanding of the term "acting" is valid, but it isn't exclusively so, and nothing prohibits its overlapping with a simultaneous use in Andy's sense in the Mass, and that is unfortunate.

Given the ubiquity of performance art, especially in its televised and cinematic forms today, versus populum is going to strike a responsive chord in the congregation that is not at all desirable. Most of the congregation will have been socialized and conditioned by big and small screens to see versus populum through the filter of modern visual media that are heavily devoted to programming at odds with Catholic doctrine. It's inescapable, except perhaps for the blind, who are a very small segment of the population.

The very fact of turning the priest to face in the same direction of the population, on the other hand, will serve as an immediate visual cue that the Mass is fundamentally different from cinematic and other such experiences.

Pater Ignotus said...

Marc - You should visit your eye care professional - soon.

There are no "abstract" windows in Holy Spirit Church. The windows contain realistic images of traditional Christian symbols: a heart, the yoke, a lily, the broken sword, etc. The "rose" window above the altar contains a realisitic representation of a dove - the Holy Spirit. The presentations are simple, but in no way "abstract."

There are no "felt banners" in Holy Spirit Church. There are, behind the altar, woven synthetic banners, changed to match the liturgical color of the day. Each banner is decorated with traditional Chrisian symbols: a crown of thorns, wheat and grapes, the nails used to affix Jesus to the cross, etc.

But then, maybe your erroneous perception isn't a matter for the optometrist. Rather, it is the same "perception" problem that led you to "see" in Quo Primum an absolute and unchangeable prohobition against alterations to the liturgy.

And that's a spiritual problem.

Marc said...

Oh, Pater, you never fail me! You are as predictable as the sun rising in the east and setting in the west.

I determined that we hadn't been at each other's throats for a while, so I was being deliberately provacative and then BAM! there you are with that Quo Primum thing again. You're like a well-machined wristwatch, Pater!

I like your distinction between felt banners and "woven synthetic banners." Reminds me of your erroneously believing you celebrate the Traditional Mass.

And your windows are stained glass and do contain Christian imagery. But, that doesn't stop them from being abstract. They have a certain je ne sais quoi about them, but just aren't my taste. Although, I do quite like the use of color and they are 1,000 times better than the windows at Sacred Heart in Warner Robins (if I'm not mistaken, they actually have a stained glass of Paul VI - someone correct me if I'm wrong - and they certainly have one of John Paul II).

Incidentally, I really do need to go back and have my glasses reworked, but I can see architectural banality even with my current prescription. As always, I appreciate your internet diagnoses of both my physical and spiritual illnesses.

Anyway, do you care to address ad orientem there at Holy Spirit since that is the topic at hand? I guess you are of such a temperament that you don't want to face your accompanying band during your Masses there at Holy Spirit. That makes sense - I've never been to a concert where the lead singer faced the rest of his band. You'd rather face your audience. That's understandable. After all, the band is merely part of your performance for the audience in the pews, isn't it?

Hammer of Fascists said...

The debate between pater and Marc reminds me of an interesting commentary on the Spirit of VII:

Protestant: "You Catholics worship statues!!!"

Catholic: "We do NOT worship statues. We worship tacky banners instead."


Pater Ignotus said...

Marc - Felt is not woven synthetic. If you think it is, you err. This is not the meaningless distinction you want it to be.

The images in the stained glass windows here are not abstract - in any way. You want them to be, because you don't care for that form and because you want to find a reason to carp in my general direction. But they are, in fact, not abstract.

I bring up your erroneous understand of Quo Primum because it sheds light on your erroneous understanding of other magisterial documents such as Mortalium Animos
and The Syllabus of Errors.

You "see" them as clearly as you "see" felt banners in Holy Spirit Church...

Unknown said...

Yankee Padre;

You say, "... if I was sure that the faithful had been properly prepared to experience the Mass offered in that manner, so that at a minimum the majority understood that "the priest and the people are facing the same direction," as opposed to "the priest is turning his back on the people.""

Can you not and should you not be catechizing the faithful in the matter? It seems that it would be a very easy thing to do. I don't know of anyone, save the liberal blue hairs who would be upset about it. If you're reasonable in your catechizing, then they will most likely be reasonable in accepting it.

Secondly, you say, "...if my brother priests assigned to the same parish were in solidarity with me on this point, so that offering Mass ad orientum would not be about me and my personal preferences, but about the normative way in which the Holy Mass is offered, at least in this particular parish. Please pray for me on this second point especially."

I will pray for you. You've asked and I will oblige. I offer the glorious mysteries for the sanctification of priests who have asked, therefore your intention has been added.

It seems Father, that you've succumbed to a bit of peer pressure. Might I offer a bit of support for you. If you celebrate Holy Mass according to the rubrics, the way they were written, you will find support. I know of a few on this site who would immediately follow your lead. I know of many in my diocese who quietly would support your endeavor. I know there are several priestly fraternities who would support you and then there are those who have catechized you.

I don't know if you're pastor or not. I'm still pretty new around here, but if you have the authority to start the ball rolling. If not, you have the opportunity to set your goals and formulate your catechetical plan and garner your tools for implementation at the parishes you will eventually pastor. Sadly, I don't live in Georgia. I kinda wish I did. If I did, I would be standing either behind you with my hand on your shoulder in support or directly in front, blocking bullets. Solid priests need support from the faithful. If your goal is to properly celebrate the Mass (which is the most important part of being Catholic), then I will do all I can to support you. This is no lie. You've seen what I've written so far. I can assure you that my zeal is just as fervent in real life.

Unknown said...

Pater Ignotus;

You state, "That is YOUR understanding of "acting," not mine. Christ, The Church, the Priest, and the Congregation all "act" in the mass."

I disagree, again. My understanding is supported by hundreds of documents, hundreds of writings, hundreds of homilies and even a few Oecumenical Councils.

I am now going to ask you for source material to validate your position. If you can provide source material for the position I will investigate, and if it is logically sound and valid, I will accept. If not, I will continue to take exception to your view.

I am not one for playing games, Father. If you can give sound and valid argumentation to your point, as opposed to pure conjecture and opinion, I will listen. If you cannot, I will assume that you concede the point and that you withdraw.

No more games, Pater Ignotus. Show sourcing to support your position. I can give you all the sourcing you want for my position, but it really isn't needed.

dominic1955 said...

Many innovations were introduced on trumped up claims of antiquity or pastoral advantage. They said facing the people was the "ancient" way it was done, witness the basilica style of certain ancient Roman churches. When it was pointed out that the Holy Father actually is celebrating towards the East anyway and that in a huge basilica "facing the people" is still a misnomer as it is not like it matters anyway as they cannot "see" anyway on account of the construction of those basilican altars they fudged it towards "pastoral advantage".

You can see videos taken from "back in the day" of the old Mass celebrated towards the camera (people) as a sort of "teaching tool" so that people could finally "see" all that was going on. Save for a time or two and some archived videos, that's about the extent of its "pastoral advantage". I know exactly what is going on at the TLM, I do not have to see it every time.

Of course, neither one of these reasons is valid and I'd dare say they were foisted upon the Western Church to usher in the theological novelties of the nouveaux theologie. The traditional position, the traditional understanding, the traditional ceremonial all stands in stark opposition to the "new" sacramental and theological ideologies that were (and still are in some quarters) in vogue. Lex orandi, lex credendi and all, the old ways cannot co-exist with the new thought. This is why the changes were so destructive-you cannot just get rid of the old ways and truly be just as Catholic. It was also argued that things such as the prayers at the foot of the altar and such were "just" disciplinary and could (and should) be updated or changed. What these people either were too blind to see or were all to happy to destroy because of the truth that these things acted as bulwarks to the traditional faith. They might not be strictly necessary, but to cut them out or change them is destructive of a proper liturgical orthopraxis. The windows in my car are not absolutely necessary either, but its foolish to take them out on account of their lack of absolute necessity.

To restore the traditional features of the Roman Rite would put the lie to the innovator's Brave New World and would cause the Holy See to loose serious face. Yet, it is not without precedent. Does anyone have any familiarity with what happened with the Malabarese Qurbono after Vatican II? The Oriental Congregation, when headed up by legitimate Easterners as opposed to Latinizers, condemned the '68 NOish "mini-Mass" and ordered basically the restoration of the pre-Vatican II restored from Latinization Malabarese Syriac liturgy. If one reads the instruction from the Congregation, its a stinging condemnation of the NO, which the '68 "Mini-Mass" was based on as a mere "created" liturgy.

Marc said...


Are you seriously going to argue that it matters whether your silly banners are felt or woven synthetic? "This is the not the meaningless distinction you want it to be." Okay, whatever. Apparently this distinction in fabrics is quite important to you. Weird.

Your windows in your Church are abstract art. Just because you say they are not does not make it true. Much like your saying you celebrate the Traditional Mass does not make it true.

Please enlighten me about what you perceive to be my erroneous understanding of Mortalium Animos and the Syllabus of Errors. Again, you are the diocesan director of ecumenical affairs, so this should be easy for you to explain in a clear, concise manner.

Pater Ignotus said...

Andy - There is no document, writing, homily or Oecumenical Council that can tell me what I mean when I say "Christ, the Church, the Priest, and the Congregation act in mass."

This is not a matter of doctrine or dogma. So, I take it, you have already conceded.

Marc - I am arguing nothing. I am simply stating that you were in error when you said we have 1) felt banners or 2) abstract stained glass images in the windows of our church.

Marc said...

Pater, you cannot tell me what I mean when I say the words "abstract art." Therefore, according to my perception and my meaning of those words, Holy Spirit does have abstract art in its stained glass.

Now, can you address Mortalium Animos and the Syllabus of Errors, please?

Pater Ignotus said...

Marc - "Abstract art can be a painting or sculpture (or stained glass) that does not depict a person, place or thing in the natural world - even in an extremely distorted or exaggerated way."

The nine stained glass windows in Holy Spirit depict the Holy Spirit, a broken sword, the keys of heaven with an unbalanced scale, a yoke, lilies, a spider web, an olive branch, a ringing bell, and a heart.

And they are depicted very clearly and realistically, with the exception of the lily, in my opinion.

Now, in my natural world all of these exist. Do they in yours?

Marc said...

Pater - My definition of abstract art is different than yours. The depictions of those things you list in your stained glass windows is abstract according to my definition of abstract art.

Are you dodging the discussion of Mortalium Animos and the Syllabus, Father?

Unknown said...

Pater Ignotus;

I have not conceded anything. I will stand behind my view with all the fervor that I can muster.

Basic and simple logic tells me that I am not mistaken about my view. I can look to both theology and to basic linguistic syntax and understand that the way that you are applying "actor" is incorrect. While the word does define what one can do, it does not define what one actually does.

Let me see if I can be more clear. If I were to approach the altar and offer a "dry Mass," I would be acting as an actor. However, when you approach the altar and offer the Holy Sacrifice, you are not acting, you are being.

That is the difference. While we both act, I would be functioning as an actor, in the sense that the word, actor is understood, whereas you would be doing that which you are ordained to do, by virtue of the indelible mark placed upon your soul at the moment of your ordination.

I realize there is a nuance and it is not lost on me, but your application of actor is not the application as it is used in common language today. Because that is the case, it goes back to my original point that you are misleading the faithful in their understanding of the Mass and how the Church, the priest, the faithful and Christ function. Those four are not actors. They are actually fulfilling an action.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me on reading the initial exchange about "acting" that one arguer means "perform an action, DO something"and the other means "perform a role in theater."

Pater Ignotus said...

Marc - In the real world, you don't get to define terms. I'll go with the standard, accepted definition. If you choose to go another way, have at it!

Andy - You, also, don't get to define terms in the real world. And actor acts. Kenneth Brannagh "acts" on stage and screen. Your stomach "acts" up when you eat something greasy. A nation "acts" when it sends troops into a neighboring country to quell a rebellion. Christ, the Church, the Priest, and the Congregation "act" when they fulfill their roles at mass.

Yankee Padre said...


Thank you for your kind words and assurance of prayer and support. Your generosity is truly appreciated.

In fact I am not the pastor where I am currently assigned. I am in specialized ministry and tend to be assigned to reside in the parish with the most acute need at the time. Over the past 7 years I have lived in 5 different rectories and have filled in for a number of priests on medical leave. Most of these assignments have been to large parishes served by multiple priests. Given the wide range of age and theological formation of the priests with whom I have been assigned, and given the dynamics of being a priest either in residence or filling in for a short time I have simply not found it prudent to push the issue.

I do find the laity of all ages and backgrounds to be very receptive when I teach about the Mass being offered ad orientum, for example when I have occasion to teach in the RCIA or adult catechesis, and when I have had the opportunity to offer Mass in that manner at parish-based retreats and on other occasions.

One does what one can given the particular circumstances in which one is placed. I very much look forward to a day when the normative posture for the priest at the altar is ad orientum, and I hope to do my part, however small, in helping to bring that about.

Thanks again, Andy for your words of encouragement and your prayer.

Marc said...

Pater said, "There is no[thing] that can tell me what I mean when I say 'Christ, the Church, the Priest, and the Congregation act in mass.'" (emphasis added).

Marc said, "[Y]ou cannot tell me what I mean when I say the words 'abstract art.'" (emphasis added).

Then Pater said, "In the real world, you don't get to define terms."

Unknown said...

Pater Ignotus;

You say, " You, also, don't get to define terms in the real world. And actor acts. Kenneth Brannagh "acts" on stage and screen. Your stomach "acts" up when you eat something greasy. A nation "acts" when it sends troops into a neighboring country to quell a rebellion. Christ, the Church, the Priest, and the Congregation "act" when they fulfill their roles at mass."

You're right of course, but that doesn't mean that all of those instances are actors. Yes, Kenneth Brannagh (good choice, btw) is an actor, but my stomach would not be an actor, nor would a nation, nor do your "big four."

I'm not trying to redefine anything. To the contrary, I am trying to apply a proper definition as objectively defined. It seems that you are the one who trying to redefine the terms.

Again, standing on sound tradition, sound English syntax, and sound logic, I find that your reasoning for calling your "big 4" actors is to show that they are acting as if on a stage or in the cinema, among other things. They simply are not.

Anonymous 2 said...

Not to muddy the waters, but is this debate about the proper understanding of the words “act” and “actor” analogous to the debate about the proper understanding of the word “Acts” in the New Testament “Acts of the Apostles”? Does that debate shed any light on the present one? Just wondering.

Perhaps this has been addressed in an earlier thread that I did not follow.

Pater Ignotus said...

Marc - If you can show me a magisterial document that tells me what I mean when I say "Christ, the Church, the Priest, and the Congregation act in the mass" I will immediately begin celebrating the EF. I weight with baited breath.

And no, you cannot define terms, changing the meaning to fit the arguments you make regarding the windows in Holy Spirit Church.

No, in the real world, we don't get to define the words we use. I can't say "Marc eats worms" and then suggest that what it MEANS is "Marc is grasping at straws" now can I?

Marc said...

Pater - If you can show me a document that tells me what I mean when I say "abstract art," I will immediately agree with you. I await with baited breathe.

Anonymous 2 said...

Without wishing to take sides in the terminological dispute over “abstraction,” it seems that abstraction, like beauty, may exist in the eye of the beholder. So perhaps Marc and Pater Ignotus are both right.

The Wikipedia entry for “Abstract Art” offers the following account:

“Abstract art uses a visual language of form, color and line to create a composition which may exist with a degree of independence from visual references in the world. . . .

Abstract art, nonfigurative art, nonobjective art, and nonrepresentational art are loosely related terms. They are similar, although perhaps not of identical meaning.
Abstraction indicates a departure from reality in depiction of imagery in art. This departure from accurate representation can be only slight, or it can be partial, or it can be complete. Abstraction exists along a continuum. Even art that aims for verisimilitude of the highest degree can be said to be abstract, at least theoretically, since perfect representation is likely to be exceedingly elusive. Artwork which takes liberties, altering for instance color and form in ways that are conspicuous, can be said to be partially abstract. Total abstraction bears no trace of any reference to anything recognizable. In geometric abstraction, for instance, one is unlikely to find references to naturalistic entities. Figurative art and total abstraction are almost mutually exclusive. But figurative and representational (or realistic) art often contains partial abstraction.”

Until I read this account, I would have been inclined to consider “abstract art” as being what the article refers to as “total abstraction.” It seems, however, that some use the term to include the slightest departure from complete natural representation.

But then the Wikipedia article for “figurative art” seems to suggest a possible contrast with “abstract art” and to define abstract art, therefore, more narrowly than in the above extract:

"'Figurative art' is often defined in contrast to abstract art:

‘Since the arrival of abstract art the term figurative has been used to refer to any form of modern art that retains strong references to the real world.’

Painting and sculpture can therefore be divided into the categories of figurative, representational and abstract, although, strictly speaking, abstract art is derived (or abstracted) from a figurative or other natural source. However, 'abstract' is sometimes used as a synonym for non-representational art and non-objective art, i.e. art which has no derivation from figures or objects.

Figurative art is not synonymous with ‘art that represents the human figure,’ although human and animal figures are frequent subjects.”

The articles have much more for those who want it and I imagine ther are better accounts than Wikipedia. I have now learned more than I want to about the topic. According to my teachers, I was never very good at art in school, abstract or otherwise. Personally, I think I was an underappreciated artistic genius who was, like so many, not understood by his times. =)

Pater Ignotus said...

Marc - I do not claim that such a document exists.

Marc said...

Pater - There you have it, then. You cannot prove that I am incorrect when I refer to your windows as "abstract art."

Now, let's move on to Mortalium Animos and the Syllabus. I am awaiting your response.

Anonymous 2 said...

I offered the extracts from Wikipedia to suggest that Marc and Pater Ignotus could both claim to be correct in their assertions about the stained glass art at Holy Spirit (which I have not seen for a few years, Pater, a lapse that I hope to remedy soon). According to the first account, Marc is correct in claiming that the widows are abstract art. According to the second account, Pater is correct in denying that they are abstract art. Pater and Marc are using different definitions and therefore they are speaking from within different frames of reference. And those definitions and frames of reference appear to be mutually exclusive, so that if one is correct the other one must be incorrect – either abstract art includes figurative art or it doesn’t. From within their respective frames of reference each one sees himself as correct and the other as wrong.

But if both definitions and frames of reference are admitted as legitimate choices, so that it is not a question of either/or but both/and, an external observer can see that each one can be right in seeing himself as correct and the other as wrong. And if each of them themselves accepts the legitimacy of such definitional pluralism, their disagreement over the “proper” definition and frame of reference dissolves; Pater can accept that Marc is correct in asserting the windows at Holy Spirit are abstract art and Marc can accept that Pater is equally correct in denying that they are. Is this relativism? Well, yes, I suppose it is, but sometimes relativism is a good thing. Would we really want a world in which we all had the same standards of beauty and all applied them in the same way, for example?

Are the stakes higher when it comes to questions such as the meaning of “act” and “actor” in the Mass, or the meaning of the word “traditional” as in “the traditional form of the Mass”? Well, again, yes, I suppose they are. But again, to the extent we can legitimately accept pluralism and, yes, relativism, in such matters, perhaps it is a good thing to do so.

But yet again, what do we mean by “legitimately”? What is it that makes acceptance of a particular choice legitimate or illegitimate? Do we have common standards for that? Do we apply them the same way? Clearly we do not. Some will not accept folk masses. Others will not accept the OF at all. Yet others do not accept the EF.
And so we continue to squabble and bicker. And perhaps we should. Or perhaps we should not.

But then I ask: What are the deepest values informing our disparate standards and/or disparate applications? What is REALLY at stake here? Can we agree on that perhaps? Or at least identify more precisely where we disagree, if we disagree, at this deepest level? Might this point a way forward?

Pater Ignotus said...

Marc - You can choose to redefine any term you like. If, to you, "cat" means "milkshake" and "plastic" means "rattle" and "cash" means "gasoline" then have at it and be happy. However, it means that you have stepped away from any meaningful conversation with those who do not redefine as you do.

A conversation with you about Mortalium Animos or the Syllabus is, since you decide what words mean, impossible.

Marc said...

Anon2, you have contributed greatly to this thread. My sole purpose was to point out that Pater is denying my relativistic viewpoint on something as unimportant as "abstract art" while simultaneously himself arguing from a point of relativism with Andy as regards "act" and "actor."

While I personally happen to agree with Pater in the "act" and "actor" discussion, I was trying to illustrate that it is in fact him who is seeking to simultaneously force someone to accept an objective definition while forcing someone else to allow Pater's subjective definition.

What is the consequence of all of that? I don't really know. What I do know is that I enjoy my discussions with Pater and with all of you on this blog. I wish we all (myself chiefly) could be a bit less heavy-handed in our condemnations of others (again, I am the chief among sinners in this regard, so I say this for myself).

I've said it before, but since there are new people here, I will say it again: I have met Pater in person. I find him quite an enjoyable person with whom to speak. I would enjoy these discussions with him much more face to face where the anonymity of the internet did not tempt me to be uncharitable. That said, I disagree with him greatly on many things and am suspicious of the motivations he has for saying some of the things he says. I likewise think he is wrong about a great many things - just as he thinks I am wrong about a great many things! I include him regularly in my Rosaries, and I hope he includes me in his prayers, as well.

Marc said...

Pater - Your latest comment was posted as I was tying my last comment. Despite the tone of your latest comment, I stand by what I have written.

I agree that words have a plain meaning (a colloquial meaning, if you will, that we have all generally accepted so that we can live in community, which I suppose is the whole point of language). To step aside from those generally accepted definitions is a problem, particularly as it regards theology.

I think I understand your point here that "abstract art" has a particular definition, just as "act" has a particular definition. But, I am confused by your saying that no document can tell YOU what YOU mean when YOU say "act." How is that different than me saying that no document can tell ME what I mean when I say "abstract art?"

I am not being deliberately obtuse here, either. I firmly believe that your windows fall under my definition of abstract art. This is not because they represent things not found in reality, but because they are symbolic of higher ideas in an abstract way (if that makes sense). Take your lily window, for example. It is arguably clear that it is a lily (as I have heard you yourself concede). So, it is abstract in that sense initially. Further, it is unclear what the lily window means in the context of a Church. So, there is a further abstract element from the image itself, to what it is, to its symbology, to its meaning. I contend that makes it abstract.

While I certainly understand your definition that the abstract only depicts things not found in reality, as you can see my definition is somewhat different. I think both definitions are valid (and I am certainly no art expert - I'm a lawyer, so I'm somewhat of a definitions expert).

Do you at least understand where I'm coming from here? For what it's worth, I understand where you're coming from...

Pater Ignotus said...

Marc - Andy is trying to say that when I say "actor" I am referring ONLY to ONE meaning of the word "actor." Neither he nor any document from the Church can tell me what definition of "actor" I am using.

Although I have repeatedly explained to him that I am NOT using the word in the sense of a stage or screen actor, he obstinately refuses to understand.

Abstract art, according to ALL the definitions I have read, does not include clear images of things in the natural world. For example, "It does not borrow objects from the real world; it creates its own objects .... The abstract reveals the will of the artist; it becomes expression. ..."

Now the nine stained glass windows in Holy Spirit Church all contain clear representations (not so much the lily) of objects in the real world. While you may not care for the style, calling them "abstract" is simply an error.

The windows at St. Joseph are beautiful works of art. But they, too, "are symbolic of higher ideas." All Christian symbols work that way, whether it is a Ringing Bell in a Holy Spirit window or the "AMDG" monogram in the rose window above the organ pipes in ST. Joe's.

If, to you, "it is unclear what the lily window means in the context of a Church" I would suggest you need to do a little more reading in the area of Catholic iconography. You will discover: "The Lily, symbol of virginity and purity. There is also a white day lily which only blooms during the time of the Assumption in mid-August and is known as the Assumption Lily among horticulturalists. The species here is very similar to the Assumption flower."

And: "The lily is a symbol of purity, and has become the flower of the Virgin. Originally, in Christian symbolism, the lily was used as the attribute of the Virgin Saints. The lily among thorns has become a symbol of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin because of the purity
she preserved amid the sins of the world. The Annunciation, is very much associated with lilies. In many of the scenes of the Annunciation executed during the Renaissance, the Archangel Gabriel holds a lily, or a lily is in a vase between the Virgin and him. Thus, the lily is also an attribute of the Saint Gabriel."

And: "In one of the niches in the font's stem you will see, not a simple Marian lily as in the other three, but a lily crucifix..."

Marc said...

Pater - Did you fail to read Anon2's definition of "abstract art" that supported my view? If you've read that, then not every definition you've read says what you claim.

Still, neither you nor any document can tell me what definition of "abstract art" I am using.

Again, I agree with you on the actor debate. You are being irrationally obstinate on this abstract art debate, though.

Thank you for the resources on the symbology of the lily.

Pater Ignotus said...

Marc - I read Anon 2's definition. The windows at HS do not use "a visual language of form, color and line to create a composition which may exist with a degree of independence from visual references in the world." The objects pictured in the windows are very realistic.

The windows at HS do not depart from reality in depiction of imagery. They are "accurate representations" of the bells, yoke, broken sword, etc.

They are not "abstract" images. You erred in calling them abstract, as you erred is saying we have "felt banners" and now you are grasping at straws to cover up your error.

If you would refrain from offering caricatures of that which does not suit your personal tastes, you'd not fall into these factual errors.

Marc said...

Pater - Are you ready to tell us about Mortalium Animos and the Syllabus now?

Pater Ignotus said...

Marc - It makes no sense to enter into a discussion of substance with someone who thinks he can define terms at his whim.