Universalis, your very own breviary in pixels...

Saturday, 26 March 2016

"Catholicism is a Very Hands-on Religion"

From the Chrism Mass homily of Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher, OP, who has undergone quite a personal, physical trial.
Michelangelo's Creation of Adam [has been] recently restored, reproduced endlessly and ...the subject of many cheeky internet memes. Painted in 1511 or 1512 as part of his Genesis cycle for the Sistine Chapel ceiling, it has a bearded God, the Ancient of Days, surrounded by His spiritual creation, and a youthful man, brand new humanity, surrounded by material creation. Adam looks languorous, as if a lover just waking from sleep, as he gazes confidently at his Creator.
Instead of the images of God shaping the man out of clay or giving him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to bring life into him that previous painters had used to represent the moment of humanity's birth, Michelangelo chose to focus on the hands of God and man. As God stretches out his hand the man responds as if in a mirror image, declaring with the Book of Genesis that man and woman are made in God's image. Only a sliver of daylight separates God's hand from Adam's, showing both how close God is to us and yet transcendent.
Hands of course have great significance: friends shake hands, lovers hold hands, parents touch and tickle and wash children with their hands, we write, paint, play sport, make music, do manual labour, operate, nurse, drive, and so much else with our hands.
Catholicism is a very hands-on religion. We express our faith with hands together in prayer and with hands open in service. We put our hands to work in making a more just and compassionate world. And all our sacraments involve hands: pouring water, anointing with oil, absolving and blessing with the sign of the cross, holding hands as we make vows and exchange rings, calling down the Holy Spirit at baptism, confirmation and ordination with hands laid upon head and heart, calling that same Spirit down upon the elements in the epiclesis, holding the Eucharistic species at the consecration and again at their reception. Catholic hands are holy hands because they are for directing all creation to God; priestly hands are anointed with Chrism so they will bless and sacramentalize creation as if the hand of God were once more held out to touch us.
The Incarnation, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection.... it's all God loving our bodies, not just our souls.
This has never been an "airy fairy" faith, it's never been about ideas absent an equal focus on real, living, breathing, bleeding, dying people.

But Catholicism is also not NOT about ideas.
This doctrinal/pastoral, belief/practice, faith/works, dogma/mercy binary some try to set up? this mistaken dichotomy that keeps bubbling over, every decade, century, millenium; setting one good against the other -- so misguided.

Rules? laws? rubrics? commandments? naming of and calling out of sin?

They're not to keep you in line, or keep you down, or keep you from being happy-- they're to KEEP  YOU  FROM  HURTING  YOURSELF.

We should thank God for them.


Mr. C said...

There is a sentiment concerning this panel of the ceiling that posits that Buonoratti purposefully situated the aura of angelic hosts around God the Father so as to insinuate the gift of intelligence; that aura having the form of a human brain. That true or not, it is a compelling notion.

Scelata said...

"So as to insinuate the gift of intelligence; that aura having the form of a human brain."
Hmmm.. mayhap the heavenly host are BEGGING, "Please, Father-God, make them smarter than that!!!!!"

"That true or not, it is a compelling notion."
Se non è vero, è ben travato.

(Save the Liturgy, Save the World)