Worship without artificiality

I don’t know about you, but I find it so much more engaging to worship God without the artificial enhancements of sound systems and electric lighting, to worship God in more natural ways, under the open sky, with my naked feet in touch with the earth. It may sound strange to worship God this way, in this day and age. Yet if we recall the story of Jesus, this is often how he and his earliest followers engaged with God – praising and praying as they crossed fields, mountains, and lakes. It wasn’t so strange to them.

At the turning of the tides

With the turning of the seasonal tides I find myself reflecting on fresh starts and new possibilities. Jesus once said, “And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.” New beginnings are important. And it is important to begin with the future in the foreground, not the past.

Sacralising Space

The sacralisation of space is an important aspect of ritual within Nature religions. In the New Testament though, we are told that we who are in Christ are the temple of the Holy Spirit; that we are the temple with Jesus as the foundation stone. In other words, we ARE sacred space. We sacralise whatever space we are in, as we serve God. Food for thought.

A Prayer of Thanks for the Four Elements

A Prayer of Thanks for the Four Elements
(written by Talitha Arnold, with ideas from the Children of United Church of Santa Fe.)

A Prayer for Air:
We thank you, God, for the gift of air –
For cool breezes and brisk winds that refresh us,
For blue skies and crystal clear nights,
For the smells of every season—summer and winter, spring and fall. Most of all, we thank you for the air that gives us life.
You offer your Spirit to us with every breath we take. May we protect this gift that gives us life.

A Prayer for Water:
Thanks be for water
That sustains the life of animals, fish, and plants, That cleans our bodies and blesses our souls. For the water of tears that wash away our grief, For the water of slides, lakes, pools, and oceans where we can play and have fun.
Thanks be for water.
Your water gives us new life.
May we treasure that gift and share it with others.

A Prayer for Fire:
Thank you for fire and the many ways we can use it, to cook our food,
to sterilize and purify,
to smelt ore and form metal,
to warm our homes, and
to make the most of the electricity we have.
You light our way and enlighten our minds. May we be open to the fire of your Spirit.

A Prayer for Earth:
Thank you for the ground beneath our feet, Your good earth that gives life to all.
In a mystery we don’t understand,
green plants spring forth from your darkness. Canyons and mountains, plains and deserts show us your infinite imagination.
We thank you for this firm foundation
on which to build our homes and our lives.
May we always love this land as you love it.
May we care for this good earth that gives us such good life.

Lies – No Excuse

It has not escaped my attention that some of the same kinds of Christians who accuse Muslims of lying in the cause of Islam are thoroughly accomodating towards lies and misinformation they see as advancing their own religio-political causes. Let’s not mince words. This is hypocritical and in direct violation of the Ten Commandements and the teachings of Jesus. There is no excuse. I am sure some will say, “But, but, look at them!” seeking to deflect attention and blame to their opponents. Even if true, that others are doing it, there is still no excuse. “But it I didn’t know that photo was doctored before I reposted it!” Still no excuse. Fact check before forwarding. You have an obligation to seek truth. I am especially outraged though when I hear Christians trying to theologically justify lying in the name of Christ. That is too immature for words.

Witnessing through the visual arts

Indian-christian-artist

An interesting article on an Indian Christian artist:

Jesuit Father Roy Mathew Thottam looks every inch an artist, from goatee beard to cream-colored kurta, the long shirt so beloved of poets and artists in India, and the jeans that complete the picture.

Balding and looking older than his 45 years, the priest from Kerala is a small figure in the corner of the big hall of the Kolkata Salesian center. But there is nothing diminutive about his work, or his ambition, as he captures yet another “innerscape” – a reflection of the socio-cultural political reality felt deep within his own heart, as he describes it – this time of Mother Teresa.

It is Father Thottam’s first visit to Kolkata, a guest of a three-day artists’ camp at Calcutta archdiocesan social center. He arrived armed with his favorite dark colors, eager to sample the air which Mother Teresa breathed for more than 60 years.

His eyes sparkle as he shares his convictions about Christian art in India, and his mission to proclaim the Word of God and evangelize through visual arts. “From the beginning, the Christian community has made use of art forms to propagate the faith and give expression to their belief in Christ,” he says.

“Many of the Christian symbols originated from the catacomb paintings. From the beginning, there was a lot of encouragement and dynamic progress in the Christian community as far as the visual arts were concerned.”

Father Thottam holds degrees in fine arts from Christ Church university in Canterbury, in the UK, and folklore from Palayamkottai. He spent a year with veteran Indian Christian artist Jyoti Sahi, learning from and working with him. He has had five solo exhibitions of his paintings and four group exhibitions. Based in the Jesuit Institute for Religion and Culture in Cochin in Kerala state, the priest has been prolific, producing some 600 paintings over the past 20 years.

He speaks passionately about the history of Christian art but points out that the Church in India only ever showed a lukewarm interest in it because the development of indigenous theology was more “verbal” than visual.

As we move from the hall to the lawns of the social center, Father Thottam turns his attention to the Church’s views on visual arts. Excitedly he cites a letter Pope John Paul II wrote to the artists of the world – a great inspiration to the priest – which he says speaks encouragingly about artists and their role.

This encouragement of the arts has continued under Pope Benedict XVI, who asserts that artists can see the inner life of the world and the Gospel, says Father Thottam.

He chooses his words carefully to summarize the theology of Christian art. “Every art work is an incarnation of the Word and the values of the Kingdom and we have a role to bring out these values for society, which can kindle the heart of many for Christ.”

The role of Christian artists in India has changed, he says. “There was a time in the Church when the written Bible was not available to the people. The themes were depicted through paintings, so that common people could understand the Bible and Church teachings.

“In modern times, artists deal not so much with the description of the Bible but are more concerned with the interpretation of the Word. They take the ‘word’, reflect and meditate on it, and explain or interpret according to the socio-cultural reality they live in, according to each one’s experience of God.”

He calls his artistic search a “pilgrimage, journeying through the interior world, lives of the people, and the reality I live in. It is to do with a spiritual quest. In fact, every art is spiritual; it is something like meditation.”

But the Christian community in India “does not have a system of educating our children and community about the arts. We need to educate the people, and teach them to savor the artistic sensibility in them.”

Tribal communities, many of them Christian, on the other hand have a deep and almost instinctive knowledge of the power of rich artistic life.

“Art is alive in communities such as the Madhubani and Warli. As a result visual arts, music and dance are part of their social life and their worship.”

Father Thottam says he hopes the Church in India will soon see the sense in using visual arts in the fields of the catechism, spirituality and liturgy.

There are signs of stirrings of this understanding with some making use of art in retreats and many religious men and women taking up art courses.

“Slowly it is picking up momentum,” he says, but this must be a shared experience as, together, artists can contribute a lot to the movement.

“Artists can create awareness of ecology through visual arts, and challenge communities,” he says, but only if the official Church can learn to remember its rich artistic roots.

Source: UCA News