Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Teaching Through Images

May 4th, 2011, Promulgated by Bernie

A major negative result of the Second Vatican Council was an unauthorized iconoclasm inflicted on the American Church by a terribly misled and intellectually questionable crop of liturgists and some clergy, including some bishops. Images were taken down and if not destroyed on site, were sold or stored in out of the way places. The sanctuaries were denuded of images in the prevailing minimalist approach of contemporary art and architecture.

How strange that in an era of our history when images were saturating our culture, the Church was discarding them. Of course, the American Church was also busy snuffing out the incense at the same time stores were experiencing high sales of incense to the public. Chant was suppressed and eventually eliminated as thousands upon thousands of young people experimented with Buddhism and its characteristic chanting. As well as images, the American Church got the whole smells and bells thing wrong as far as the young were concerned.

Anyway, our churches used to be filled with images. The use of imagery as part of our liturgical tradition was a basic doctrinal given -still is, really.

In the 4th through 6th centuries the Church employed images in her churches as a way of teaching the faith to converts to the faith who flooded-in after the legalization and subsequent popularity of Christianity. Images also became popular in the middle ages when literacy was low among the lower levels of society -in some cases that included clergy!

Recent surveys of Catholics seem to suggest that Catholics today are sadly ignorant of their faith. Shouldn’t we be seriously looking at how to employ images in our churches, again, to educate the faithful?

Here is a 12th century sculpted column capital from the former choir of the abbey church in Mozac, France. A dozen such carvings graced the tops of the columns in this church ever reminding the gathered worshipers of the stories and truths of the faith. In this image we have the story of the Holy Myrrhbearers.

"The Holy Women at the Tomb", Abbatiale, Mozac, France, 12th c.

The tomb (center), angel (left) and soldier (right) of "The Holy Women at the Tomb"


Picture source

Both images: Marie-Lan Nguyen (User:Jastrow)



One Response to “Teaching Through Images”

  1. Bruce says:

    Whatever the Church drops, society picks up and does not know what to do with it. This is a very well-written piece and echos what Archbishop Sheen said back in the 1970s.

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