Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Sound and Light, Sound and Fury

Sound and Light Show at the Vatican
in support of Enviornmentalism

Son et lumière shows with stories and their images being projected on historic buildings have been increasingly popular in Europe over the last forty years.  The Palace of Versailles, the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, the Hôtel de Ville in Brussels, the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, the Parthenon in Athens, the Great Pyramid in Giza have all served as the screen for the sound and light displays.  Last week, on December 8th—the feast of the Immaculate Conception—Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican joined the list as Fiat Lux, Illuminating our Common Home, an hour-long sound and light display highlighting the challenges of Climate Change was projected on Carlo Maderno’s 17th century façade.  Images of seals, clownfish, dolphins, lions, monkeys, coral reefs, exotic birds and countless people from around the world were projected on the Basilica. 
It is no secret that Pope Francis is one of the world’s leading voices calling for environmental reforms to protect our planet from the effects of human-generated threats to the atmosphere, seas, rivers and land.  The Pope wrote his first encyclical, Laudato Si, outlining a Christian response to environmental threats.  The Encyclical set off a vehement reaction from the Katholik Krazies and last week’s son et lumière raised the pitch of hysteria.   It is becoming clear that Pope Francis is proving an irritant to a significant party within the Church that becoming more and more rebellious to his authority.  Even such once reputable sites as Rorate Caeli and Father Z’s What Does the Prayer Really Say?  are advocating open rebellion against the current Vicar of Christ. 
This is not a problem of Francis’ making but rather due to the poor catechesis given Catholics in the years before the Council when so many of our schools and catechisms were given to a monophystism  that rejected the true humanity of Christ, giving us instead a Deity who ruled over creation but never truly entered into it.  This was reflected in our liturgy which, at the time, was totally separated from the realities of everyday life.  I was pondering this point this morning as I watched people gather for Mass and quietly greet one another as they took their places in Church.  We had always been taught that our attention should be directed solely towards the Christ present in the tabernacle.  There was no appreciation of Christ present in his mystical Body, the Church.  Everything was over-spiritualized and other-worldly.  This world did not matter at all.  The implications of the Incarnation on our daily lives were totally overlooked.
Those who oppose Pope Francis on issues of climate change do so not for theological reasons but for political-economic ones.  They uncritically buy into the economic systems that are irresponsibly exploiting our natural resources and destroying the environment in favor of short-term gain over long-term human good.  But they justify this by their gnostic separation of the material and spiritual worlds.  The Incarnation teaches us that this created world has been sanctified by God becoming part of it in Christ Jesus.  The orthodox Christian knows that we cannot divide the sacred from the profane—that creation is now shot-through with the God who is its origin and its destiny.  Perhaps Gerard Manley Hopkins put it best  

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Why do men then now not reck his rod?

Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; Bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell:
the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;

And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs — 

Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

oh, but I forgot, Hopkins was a Jesuit.  We can hardly look to him for orthodox Catholicism!


  1. I am glad to see you "back in the saddle"! I always appreciate your commenting, historical perspective and wit.

  2. Thanks for the post. I'm still catching my breath, though, at your reference to Rorate and Father Z as reputable websites. There may be an occasional point made that's worth two cents but most of it is an embarrassment and, contrary to your own site, represents one of the narrowest views of Catholicism that one might find.

    1. Kevin, I didn't say they were reputable--the term used was "once reputable." Though I have never liked either site each has, or rather had in its day, made some valuable insights and comments or had worthwhile information but the quality of both have sunk dramatically over the last four years or so