Tuesday, 27 October 2009

The Sacred made Real

Among other things, yesterday I had the joy of visiting the exhibition: “The Sacred made Real” at the National Gallery. After that, I was invited by the John Lewis Partnership - Sabeema Arts and Craft Club - for their art exhibition which was held in the Parish Room of All Saints’ Margaret Street, W1. Those present were given the opportunity to see the newly restored nave of All Saints. It seemed to me that we were used to see the TV in black and white and yesterday, for the first time, we saw it in colour. It was also a great joy to meet and catch up with so many old friends.
I was thinking that most if not all of the pre-reformation churches had elements from both places I visited yesterday. They must have had sacred art in painting and sculpture that sustained people’s devotion. Many, if not most of these sacred images were gleefully destroyed by the cronies of the reformers to the consternation of the people.
Church walls must have also been painted and decorated, even if not as lavishly, or as some think as overdone, as at Margaret Street. But at the reformation, all was whitewashed. Apart from the fact that the lifeline of the spiritual life of Christians was tampered with, some simplification of church décor and interior must surely have been welcome, however the reality is bleak. The reformers, and those who were influential at the time, were not content with simplifying what might have been overcooked. They emptied churches from their treasures and instead filled their stately homes with all the continental artefacts that they could get hold on to. The stately home became more of the focus than the church. This was the first step towards the marginalisation of the Faith. They emptied churches and shrines from their loved sacred images because of idolatry, however they quickly filled their places with effigies and memorials to those who had money, the new saints of post-reformation time, from whose new pedestals they still kept an eye on the village folk to show them who is in charge.
All this was counteracted and balanced by Anglo-Catholicism and places like Margaret Street are a case in point. The Anglo-Catholic Patrimony that I would like to see carefully treasured on our caravan is that of restoring the Faith back to centre stage, of ensuring that our sacred buildings are churches and not community centres (that is why we have halls). To see that our people are under the patronage of the saints, so that through their images, in churches and proper devotion and use of these sacred images, we will see afresh and experience the Sacred made Real.

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