Monday, May 12, 2014

A Reluctant Review of The Little Oratory's Introductory Sections

I was so excited to learn about The Little Oratory written by Leila Lawler and David Clayton that I pre-ordered three copies from Amazon within minutes of learning about the book. I am terribly notorious for procrastinating and forgetting, but not this time. I might have been one of the first to get a copy besides family of the authors. Sophia Institute Press emailed me through this blog, asking if I wanted a copy to review. I emailed back, saying that I had ordered three copies, but a fourth would be welcome. I was planning on using it for a book club with homeschooling mothers and wives of the local Catholic university's tutors.
This is not my official review because I haven't gotten through the beginning sections, "About the Images" and "What is this book about?"
I am glad that this is a micro-blog because I am about to write in opposition (well, just about the first two sections; I still have high hopes for the rest of the book) to the educated, well-known critics who laud the book such as Scott Hahn, Stratford Caldecott, Joseph Pearce, Elisabeth Foss, Christopher West and more along with many five-star reviewers on Amazon. 
So, I got the book- well, three copies of it. I eagerly opened one up, not even bothering to sit down. And then I got to the part "Do we write or paint icons?"
Clayton chides those who still insist on saying "write" instead of "paint." He states that the original Greek has no difference between the words. It is a "bit precious" to say we "write" icons, and it is linguistically incorrect. Knowing this, I personally say "make" an icon. But sometimes a linguistic mistake can be a happy accident. saying "write" does set icon-creating apart from other sacred art.
I don't know about Western-style sacred artists, but in the East, there tends to be a very strict system to creating art with icon painters. The entire work of art is a prayer. There is little to no innovation in making an icon which emphasizes the timelessness of truth and also diminishes the artist. It does not matter who made this 'window to heaven.' 
I know an Orthodox priest's wife who is a very accomplished icon painter- she painted an entire cathedral in Romania- who paints the face of Christ only on Fridays and after she has fasted from all foods from midnight. I think she would appreciate being set apart a bit with the incorrect word "write."
In the biography portion, it states that Clayton is both an experienced icon painter and a portrait painter in the style of Western classical naturalism. What I don't understand is- why does he contribute primarily Byzantine-style icons (all except a reproduction of a Gothic Franciscan cross) instead of Western portraits if he has so little regard for the art form? Why did he decide to open each chapter with a icon-style sketch instead of a classical piece of his work? It just seems strange, like he wrote the following words on a bad day and he forgot to delete them from his hobby blog: 

"The iconographic style is not inherently superior to other liturgical forms, and there are no writings of Church Fathers that even suggest it (although you might not believe it to talk to some people today)."

I dropped the book like a hot coal.
I am so tired of our tradition being used by others and then tossed aside when it gets tedious. It is reminiscent of my husband celebrating two Roman-rite Masses for a group dedicated to the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. The third Mass when they discovered he was a married Byzantine-rite priest with bi-ritual faculties, they asked him not to come back. I am not an art philosopher, but it seems to me that the ancient styles of art are superior to the affected modern styles. The images not made by man- Veronica's veil, the Shroud of Turin and the tilma of Our Lady of Guadalupe- seem icon-like to me, simple and stark, not showy or innovative. And I will respectfully disagree with Mr. Clayton that "no writings of Church fathers even suggest" that iconography is more rooted in the divine than other sacred art forms. The early Church fought for the restoration of icons because they are important to our spirituality. They were used in both East and West; the only difference is that the West continued to innovate and create new styles of sacred art. Sometimes these innovations can be a distraction from the truth that art is trying to convey.

The book stayed on my dining room hutch, accusing me of being overly sensitive.
A few days later, I tried again and read the "What is this book about?" section. I settled into Leila's comforting tone and calmed down until I got to the last page. I was told to seek guidance from those in authority, that the book is just a guideline to prayer in the home, that "some people belong to the Western rite and some to the Eastern rite." 
Sigh.
The book went back to the hutch.
I didn't think I would need a big 'trigger warning' before reading this lovely, yes lovely, book. First, my Byzantine traditions are belittled with flippant words by an educated Catholic who is an expert in iconography and depends on using it for the beauty of his book. Then, a woman who I respect and who has personal experience in Eastern Christianity (specifically Coptic) reduces the East to one rite. In actuality there are many rites of the East Byzantine, Alexandrian, Syriac, Armenian, Maronite, Chaldean and 21 sui juris churches (for example- Romanian Byzantine, Syrian from Antioch). All are in union with Rome's authority but retaining their traditions and spirituality just as the Roman rite (with its own diversity such as the Novus Ordo, Tridentine and Anglican-use Masses) retains its own traditions and spirituality. 
So, this is me, trying to 'keep it real.' I understand that I am not the audience for this book- Hahn, Pearce, Foss and West are. But may I use another common psycho-babble phrase? 
'Check your privilege.' 
Yes, you are powerful; you are important. The Eastern rites are minuscule and inconsequential to the world. But we are not inconsequential to God. "Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father's will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered..." Matthew 10:29. The world cares about the powerful, not the little, useless sparrow, but God loves us as He loves everyone, powerful or weak.
Yes, it was just a few sentences. Clayton doesn't believe there is anything special about icons even though he uses them throughout the book. It was the absence of just an 's' on the word 'rites.' I just hoped for factual accuracy from educated Catholics; it is hurtful when it isn't a priority. But if it isn't a priority, please ignore us. 
So, tomorrow I am going to pick up the book again and read the first chapter. I am going to try to read it with the eyes of its intended audience- the Roman-rite majority. Any illusions to a rite or spirituality other than the majority rite might not be accurate, but I suppose I should be grateful that Eastern Catholics are noticed at all.  

51 comments:

  1. i find so much beauty in the eastern practice of "writing" icons and tend to wince when people talk about "painting" them. just my two cents as a protestant...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I remember my favorite English prof stating that "language is arbitrary and conventional." Maybe it is a mistake- but it does seem to work....but once again- I'm not an art philosopher. I wish my brother-in-law would chime in (I doubt he is reading here...but maybe if I ask). He might disagree with this disjointed blog post, but he could articulate my thoughts...he's smart that way.

      Delete
    2. Yeah, I'm baffled by this. I always heard (by folks who know what they're talking about) that the proper term was to "write" an icon. Where did he get that from? Why does he think it's pretentious?

      Delete
  2. As a Catholic of the western rite, your pain is mine on the frequent dismissal of Eastern rites and icons. I have always felt a longing in Orthodox churches and when viewing icons. I know that longing is the Holy Spirit speaking to my need to know how to utilitze icons in my prayer life. Never was this so clearly articulated to me than in Jennifer Fulwiler's writings on the topic which of course, were influenced greatly by her cousin a monk and iconographer. And she makes a very special point to say they are written and not painted and why in her NCR piece where she utilitzes an icon of Christ the Teacher to connect to God. I love that piece because she had so many resources there for connection, but it was the icon that grabbed her.

    All that is to say, I believe I will skip this book because although I am most likely the "intended audience" to some extent, the fact that the Holy Spirit has spoken to me in such a way as to make me long for icons (we have only one, of St Clare that my parents got for my daughter in Assisi last year) and I don't think this book will be helpful in that way for me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. wait for my real review- I feel really badly about being so negative about the intro!

      Delete
  3. These things would have bothered me intensely, had I read them. Not because I belong to an Eastern Rite, but because they are so clearly wrong.
    It's actually bothering me enough that I'm not sure I'll order the book now, and that's sad. I was only waiting till I got paid Friday.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Geeklady- don't let me stop you from buying it- this certainly was not my intention for writing a negative review of the Intro (and some readers are probably asking themselves..."who DOES that? Write a negative review of the INTRO? That's not even the book!"...

      Delete
  4. I am sorry that the overly simplistic characterizations of "Eastern and Western" struck you that way, my dear! We should have been more careful. Interestingly, we got some pushback in the other direction, and maybe were trying to refrain from seeming too smitten with the Eastern traditionS. :) But I think when you get to some other parts, like the chant section, you will be mollified somewhat.
    My experience is with the Melkite tradition, by the way. I do have the greatest respect for the liturgy and art of the East. I hope the rest of the book will meet with your approval or at least not cause you to want to throw it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Leila- Thanks for being so gracious...and it is my hope that this micro-blogger can write a positive review when I get into the meat of the book.

      Delete
  5. I have yet to find Roman Catholics who look at their sacred art as we do with our Icons. Byzantines have whole theologies based around Holy Icons. Superior, as he says, maybe not, but without a doubt more developed and integral to the Byzantine tradition. I have seen plenty of Roman churches without traditional sacred art. However, It would be unthinkable fort such a thing in a Byzantine church.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ric- maybe this is the point I was trying to make...I think you are right- also- 'modern' (100, 200 years old) traditional Western art seems to depend on the personality of the artist...icons are timeless- does that make them 'superior' - not really- just important

      Delete
  6. Leila, if I may ask, can you unpack your statement about pushback for being too in love with the East? That is pregnant with meaning and consequences.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks for your post Priest's Wife. I may forward it to our local roman rite parish priest who is really "into" religious art. It might help if you forward your post to the author and his reviewers (Hahn, Pierce, etc.).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I 'follow' Leila and sent a link (you see that she responded graciously)- this is only fair if I am mentioning someone directly (I did the same with my notorious Fr Barron post)
      I will send a link to Clayton as well.
      BUT even though this is a negative review (of just the Intro- which seems foolish and sensitive, but I want to get over it so I can read the actual book without a pit in my stomach! yes- I am an extreme INFP) I realize I am one person and not a researcher. I am delving into things that I feel like I know but it is hard for me to put into words (once again- it is good that this is micro)

      Delete
  8. Dear Matthew, my statement means only this: one writes an entire book to try to explain something very important that one feels no one else has adequately explained or put into one place. Many read meanings into what is written, according to their point of view. The author(s) try to take all that into account. Of course, it's not possible to do so completely. There may be some who feel that the eastern way is to be too proud of doing things "the right and traditional way" or who place so much importance on icons that they end up ignoring other aspects of the faith. There are orthodox communities that treat icons as the most important thing about their religion -- I have experience with this. I had some readers of the MS caution against idealizing the eastern spirituality, and we tried to take that into account.
    I hope that before people start, for example, forwarding a post criticizing the book, they read the book -- isn't that fair? Otherwise, why not just refrain. You may not realize, for instance, that we have a whole chapter on the Jesus Prayer, an eastern tradition in prayer. Please be just in your critique my friends!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Leila,

      if I may make a few comments to something that you seem to critique. You say:

      "There may be some who feel that the eastern way is to be too proud of doing things "the right and traditional way" or who place so much importance on icons that they end up ignoring other aspects of the faith. There are orthodox communities that treat icons as the most important thing about their religion -- I have experience with this. I had some readers of the MS caution against idealizing the eastern spirituality, and we tried to take that into account."

      As one who grew up Orthodox and later married a Melkite, I find this a rather odd criticism. Are icons reverenced in the East? Of course, because expressions of theology and instruments of grace--in other words, they are sacramentals. Think of it like the sacred vessels used during the Eucharist. You treat those vessels with care and reverence, the same goes for the icons.

      I think it is rather hyperbolic to describe Orthodox as viewing the icons as "the most important thing about their religion," and in a sense rather patronizing. Having known many Orthodox who suffered for their faith, the icon is a reminder that we have a small window into heaven and often a great comfort. The icons are incensed in the same way that people are incensed, because they are images of God. Because they are blessed--laid upon the altar during the Divine Liturgy--we treat them with reverence and kiss them. Because they teach us the Gospel, we listen. Because they offer a window into heaven, we stand before them and watch. Because they offer the grace of God to those who do reverence them, we let our "prayer arise like incense before God" as we pray before them.

      We do not have a tradition of Eucharistic adoration in the East. This is, in a sense, our adoration of God. We are before the image of God. They saints have stressed this time and time again, especially Saint John of Damascus and Saint Basil. It is a key aspect to our way of praying.

      (To be continued. . . )

      Delete
    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    3. (. . . continued from above)

      As to the issue of pride, I would be careful how you critique the Orthodox/Eastern Catholics here.

      First of all, are there issues of pride in the ECC and OC? Of course! We are human after all! But there are also equally these same issues within the RCC. I am tired of one church being singled out as being "more prideful". We are all sinners. We should *all* be carful not to pride ourselves on how well we cross off the checklist of "good things a (fill in the blank) Christian does", because it is God who saves us, not our checklist.

      Second, taking pride in one's liturgical heritage is not a bad thing. Remember, the Eastern Catholics especially, have gone through a lot to preserve the faith. Just look at the Ukraine or the Middle East. The Melkites surely have the right to stand before God and say, "We are the Church in the shadow of the mosque, but we have preserved the true faith." Amen! And why can we not rejoice in the fact that we sing the hymns of Romanos the Melodist or Ephraim the Syrain (4th century)?! Why can we not look at our saints with pride, much in the same way a younger brother points to his older brother? Are you not proud, as a Roman Catholic, of the beauty of your own liturgical heretage? Do you not take pride in your Hildebrands and Fra Angelicos, as you rightly should?

      Third, be very, very careful about accusing the Eastern Catholics of pride when it comes to their own tradition when there has been persecution on the part of the Roman Church herself. The history here is very delicate, and often times Rome has come off as belittling the beauty and * legitimacy* of the Eastern Catholic Church. I once heard the Eastern Catholic Church described as the unwanted child of a broken marriage (the Roman Catholic Church being one parent and the Orthodox Church being the other).

      In the end, there has to be a way we can recognize the beauty of each tradition without being demeaning to either. There has to be a willingness to come out of ourselves and learn about the "other church" so to speak. Both traditions are equally important to the life of the *CATHOLIC* (universal) Church. After all, we are not two separate bodies joined together with one head like some hideous beast--we are one body in Christ. It is time we started acting like it.

      Peace!

      Katherine

      Delete
    4. As a final thought, I look forward to reading the book, Leila. I hope, ultimately, that the Little Oratory will be fruitful.

      Delete
    5. Leila- ...It may have been foolish to write my thoughts on the introductory sections, but at least I was clear in what I was reviewing and that I hope and expect that the actual text of the book will be positive. I understand that I was being sensitive, but the mistakes that I perceived in the introductory sections were a little bit like landmines. I was expecting a beautiful book from you (which it still is) written from a Roman Catholic standpoint because that is what you and Clayton are. So, if the Byzantine rite or Eastern spirituality wasn't mentioned at all, that would not have been a problem. It is just when something is mentioned or focused on (most of the art in your book is inspired by the East)...it is disappointing when people much smarter than I get things wrong...and again, I look forward to reading the 'meat' of the book

      Delete
  9. I sympathize. It can be hard not to feel irked by such seemingly small (in other's eyes) things when one still has friends (as I do) who act as if they doubt whether our Eastern Catholic parish is truly Catholic. I am sorry your husband was stiffed like that when the group dedicated to OLPH asked him not to return once they found out he was married...it is their loss...& not very charitable, either.

    The Eastern rites may be "minuscule and inconsequential to the world"...but I for one (along with my husband, children & a few siblings) have found an incredible treasure trove in the Eastern traditions that we will be delving into for the rest of our lives. For this, we thank God!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Thanks, for this little review, Proteasa. There's a difference between informing, and pandering, when it comes to addressing an intended audience. The West has had iconography, in the days of yore, also. As much as Eastern Christians get attention, in terms of being a place of reference, Western Christians have to unpeel what also belongs to them.

    ReplyDelete
  11. A while back I found a series of articles on the Orthodox Arts Journal site by various Orthodox writers about the terminology of "write" vs "paint." It seems like even within the community of iconographers, there is debate over the proper translation. I'm linking to them not because I have a strong feeling one way or the other about who is right, but because I hope they might be of interest to other people. Before I read the first piece, I'd always heard that the proper term was "write" an icon and I was fascinated to see the way the various authors challenged the language, explored the issues of translation, theology, art, and culture and pulled out the different issues at stake in the use of the two words.

    First: Is “Write” Wrong?: A Discussion of Iconology Lingo

    a response: A Symptom of Modern Blindness – Further Thoughts on the Phrase “To Write an Icon”

    and then another response: From Logos to Graph: Lost In Translation

    I hope these pieces contribute to a friendly discussion.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I do like the notion that a linguistic mistake can be a happy accident and embracing it. But I also can understand the desire to be a stickler for words, to seek the most correct translation, to search for clarity and to try to avoid confusion. So I guess I can see both points of view: those who know"write" might be wrong but see it as a happy accident and those who prefer to correct the "error." Wow what a minefield language can be!

    I have a friend who is an Eastern rite Catholic who makes icons. She says her teacher prefers "paint" to "write." She doesn't really care one way or anther about the terminology. She says she just enjoys the process and the finished product.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I'm sorry you were 'burned' by your purchase.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I attended a seminar with David Clayton in Kansas. It was wonderful although I didn't share David's view on everything. I too naturally feel that the sacramental character of icons deserves a distinction from other forms of painting and David did mention that painting was the action being done and therefore an icon is painted... I would have to disagree however that his use of the "painting" for icon writing can be construed to mean that he lowers the value of the icon. I would give David Clayton the benefit of the doubt by calling to mind that the icons of the East form a very recognizeable category that has maintained its liturgical function in a purity that admits very little variance. Icons are windows to heaven-they have been defined perpetually as such and the very "simplistic" style begs the question of the ignorant viewer which promptly gets the reply-"they are windows to heaven". The art of the West has been shall we say a little less "endogamist", for lack of a better word, and has been a little more fluid than many of us would like. The contact with pagan art forms and art as an expression of physical beauty has allowed there to be a vast array of functions within the Western tradition. This is one reason I personally distinguish between sacred art and religious art. Religious art treats of religious events and persons in a more representational or merely narrative way, presenting that which "pertains" to God, while Sacred art signals the art that specifically "belongs" to God and is, like icons, a window into heaven. There are many western pieces of art that are icons, and when they are understood and used as such they are certainly comparable to the Eastern icon, at least as a "liturgical form". However since the distinction is so blurred under the general blanket of "Western Art" I can see why a statement like ---"The iconographic style is not inherently superior to other liturgical forms, and there are no writings of Church Fathers that even suggest it (although you might not believe it to talk to some people today)."
    It is clear from the statement that David is speaking specifically about the "liturgical" forms. I think that your frustration about the lack of precision regarding matters of the East and West is the wrong environment in which to appreciate the book. We bought this book as well and have found it a good fit for the catholic family home. One of the reasons that the East has preserved its liturgical purity is because it did not feel the need to include the sensitivities of the West. Certainly if a person of the Latin rite should fail to address all the Eastern sensitivities in a book that is so practical and down to "Eden"(earth) we eastern rite reader could understand. My advice is that you read it for what it intends to be and write a review which will most assuredly be positive and link to that review in this article.
    I am confident that this book will move into further editions and thus any corrections can be made to address valid concerns that were unintentionally aroused. Take care. The book is an asset to any home especially to those homes that would not have been wise to the potential misunderstandings present in some of the wording.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good points made here, thank you!

      I think that distinction between "sacred" and "religious" art is one of the differences between East and West that both sides fail to recognize. In the East, from my experience as an Orthodox (now in union with Rome, but not always so), we never really had art that wasn't sacred. We didn't have lovely statues and holy cards that were used outside of a liturgical context. We always had icons. And what are icons primarily used for? The worship of God. Even those that we carried with us (I have little triptics that I keep in my purse or my kids' backpacks) are small icons that we use when we need to pray out and about. Music, we would make that distinction.

      In the end, my frustration with such treatments of Eastern spirituality is the lack of awareness sometimes. I understand that people are eager to "breathe with both lungs", but sometimes I get the feeling that the Eastern aspect is often added as a "Oh cool, look at this. . . it is different. . .(poke, poke)." There have been rare occasions where a universal treatment of the Catholic Church has been effective in treating *both* sides well.

      Perhaps what we should learn that sometimes less is more. Stick to Roman aspects of spirituality or stick to Eastern. A kind of KISS philosophy may be better.

      Delete
  15. About the "roman privilege". I hope that you caught the part of the pope's encyclical "Evangelium Gaudi" that addressed the loss of opportunity that necessarily followed the dominance of the West in missionary activity. We have the opportunity to right some wrongs and apologize. If it is any consolation to be "minuscule and inconsequential to the world" is precisely the call of Christ. If the East will be able to walk through the eye of the needle on the great day then we can celebrate...The West...well we have our own pains that should temper too much indignation over our intimidating size and domineering ways. God is quickly becoming "minuscule and inconsequential to the world" be at peace.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Although I have been a 'victim' of this privilege, but in so many ways our daily life is the opposite of this sad reality for many- Fr celebrating with Roman-rite, them allowing us the use of the chapel- this rights the wrong of Bishop John Ireland for us even though the local Roman-rite believers probably have no idea of the history!

      Delete
  16. Me again...I just thought of a word that could work...praynting an Icon. I can praynt Sacred art of West and East. As long as it is praynted God will own it and that IS sacred art. 'writing' actually doesn't do much justice to the icon either since writing is primarily the conveying of ideas...the icon is about conveying persons from heaven to those on earth and thus forming the link. this is not writing and the icon is not reading. The icon is a meeting between two people whose foreheads press against the wall that separates them--how does paint or write convey the creation of this circumstance. one might just as well use, building an icon. perhaps the best word is simply I create an icon. I'll try to coin "praynting" and see where it goes. You saw it here first :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm going to post this comment around...let's see if it gains traction! (I like the word 'praynt')

      Delete
  17. Manuel Dauvin - superb analysis, notably the distinction between "religious art" and "sacred art," and also about the West's lack of endogamy.

    This latter always comes to mind when I hear folks talk about the continuity of the Roman tradition. Of course this can be a good thing; as Fr. Aidan Nichols has written, a society's religious reawakening often requires "indigenous and exogenous elements" to mix.

    But it seems to me that prices are paid for these renewals. In this case, some loss of spiritual meaning and aesthetic intelligibility through the restless eras of Western Church history. A complicated topic, for sure.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Prices to pay indeed for these renewals beginning with the price paid by the jews in welcoming the gentile. I have heard this first renewal described as a crucifixion of the messianic jew of the time. Just to include the gentiles meant a death blow to a huge part of their identity as the chosen. In the end, once the insincere liberals and the obstinate conservatives retreat to the corners to lick their wounds, the Church is left is a stronger
      family.

      Delete
    2. whoa- this is heavy! and so true

      Delete
  18. Manuel- Thanks for taking the time to add to my muddled, uneducated-in-art thoughts

    ReplyDelete
  19. So many comments, so little time...I think you are right to be sensitive to the undermining of the Icon as just art. I don’t know how to say this in few words, or in the best words. I will do my best. I feel in my birth to life with Icons I have only scratched the surface of their depth.

    However, I have one important fact that I have held with me since I learned it. The icon is more than art or holy object because it is actually the thing we venerate. As in, an image of Christ is not simply the image of Christ, but Christ Himself. The honor we give to Him in our physical world is the honor we “actually” give to Him in heaven. It is all wrapped up in essential element of Eastern theology. God is everywhere present and He IS IN our Sacred Images. That is why there are special rules to even handling Icons.

    Further, the artistic perspective of an Icon is not the viewer looking into heaven. It is the perspective of God looking into the viewer (into the viewer’s soul). That is why buildings and furniture in icons are drawn with many perspectives in a single image. This perspective is also the reason that God is the writer and not the artist. God writes the image He wishes us to see.

    Yes, an Icon can, in a sense, be only an object if that is how it is treated in this world. However, by tradition (and let NO tradition be diminished), an Icon is not an object but a Sacred Image that not only represents the thing we venerate, but actually holds the essence of the thing itself. In the end of Iconoclasm it was decided by church fathers to give back the tradition of Icons with the caveat that Icons are not just images but they are the actual presence of that which is portrayed. This is something that is at the heart of our great faith anyway. The Eucharist is not simply a representation, or remembrance, but the real presence of Christ. THAT is the difference between Icon and other religious art.

    Does this make them superior? Yes. Any sacred art, which is treated in this manner, is superior to other art. Any art or icon that is treated as an object is an object. But there are always people in this world to elevate the Holy things to their rightful place.

    Are Icons written? It might be a quaint way to say paint. However, considering the subject of the images, and the process it takes to produce the images, it is indeed writing. When I describe writing icons to Romans, I do explain the word “written” but I don’t use the word written throughout my descriptions, because linguistically I see them getting lost. I am shocked though, that someone whom has actually written an icon, would want to diminish both the word “write” and the product itself. Perhaps his heart was not ready to receive the full glory of the message.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Renee- Thanks for your thoughts- ...about treating icons well- this is probably one reason why we tend to group our icons in our icon corners- not just sprinkled throughout the house as decorations- so that we are reminded of their true purpose and use them as they are intended- widows to heaven

      Delete
  20. Interesting posts. For those of you who didn't know the meaning of "endogamy" (like me), here's a definition I Iooked up:

    Definition of ENDOGAMY
    : marriage within a specific group as required by custom or law

    ReplyDelete
  21. We sprinkle religious objects throughout our house (and outside), but we do not consider them "decorations". Love your blog, by the way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. we do, too- except almost every room has a designated 'concentration' of religious items to inspire prayer (well- hopefully!)

      Delete
  22. I do not think anyone is better than another, when you find God through Icons, that is so beautiful, but I feel it is not superior to inspired works which are not icons. I am sorry the person said "rite" incorrectly...perhaps they would respond to kind explanation, being Coptic does not mean incapable of a mistake. God bless you

    ReplyDelete
  23. I'm glad you voiced your opinion and I'm curious to hear what you think about the rest of the book. I've not started it yet.

    Although I'm an Orthodox Christian, I am glad that the authors weren't too romantic about icons. I'm very tired of the "I love icons!" crowd who, IMHO, are simply enamored by the exotic. I'm not opposed to Roman Catholics having icons but am saddened by Roman Catholics choosing icons instead of something from their own tradition.

    Your point about using our traditions when it's convenient (or exotic, in the case of some RCs flirting with the East) is a good one. Whenever I read about Roman Catholic iconographers, I can't help but think it's a kind of spiritual tourism, at least for some of them. I feel the same about many of the westerners who claim to be "drawn to the East." When they elaborate on what "drew" them to the East, it is often cliched, e.g. the west is legalistic, the east is mystical, etc. The East can be very legalistic (look at our Fast!) an the West can be mystical. I think many of these people should be advised to explore their own tradition and then they would find exactly what they need.

    I was very excited about Auntie Leila writing a book because I love her blog. When I learned that she was writing it with an iconographer, I was a little annoyed. I think I was disappointed that she wasn't writing an unabashedly pro-Western Roman Catholic book about the glories of the Western Roman Catholic tradition and how those spiritual traditions can be used in everyday life.

    I'm with Clayton on the "write" thing. I really hate that affectation almost as much as I hate "spiritual father."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hmm ... the reasons westerners give for looking east may be cliched to you, but they probably aren't for them.

      Also, people often do not know precisely how to express what they perceive, and especially what they intuit but do not yet consciously understand. One seeker who says that the east is "more mystical" may mean "more liturgically sensual," while another may mean "less rationalist," and a third may mean "how it makes me feel during liturgy."

      Can you elaborate on why you do not like the term "spiritual father?" I am honestly curious. Thank you!

      Delete
    2. I don't like the term "spiritual father" when used for a parish priest. Not to disparage parish priests but they are rarely monks. A true "Spiritual Father" is someone who is providing spiritual direction in a more focused manner than a regular confessor. Why not just use the term "confessor?" I know it's not as fancy and sounds western but it's a more realistic term for the relationship.

      And yes I would argue that although westerners looking to the East think their reasons are not cliched, they are in fact usually are cliched. Your examples demonstrate this, IMHO. They are about "feelings."

      There is nothing in the East that cannot be found in the West except for a traditional liturgy in the vernacular, which, I grant you, is significant (although remember that many Orthodox do not attend vernacular liturgies). If someone goes in search of something in the East, it's usually because they haven't looked hard for it at home in their own tradition. They are entranced by the exotic, the foreign, which in many ways is completely foreign to the Eastern aesthetic tradition by itself.

      This might offend you because you might be one of those Roman Catholics who *feels* more drawn to the Eastern liturgies. I've known many people like that over the years. Our liturgies are beautiful, especially contrasted to the typical modern Roman Catholic liturgy. But through the years, I don't think I've ever met one of these seekers who made any attempt to appreciate and understand their own tradition. They jump head first into a foreign tradition. Immerse themselves into a foreign worldview. Read book after book trying to intellectualize something that really cannot be intellectualized. Why not devote the same energy to reading the Western Fathers and great Western saints? Or learning about the western liturgical tradition, just as venerable as the Eastern tradition?

      Delete
  24. Priest's wife,

    I can offer a limited defense of Mr. David Clayton. Having read Mr. Clayton's work over at the New Liturgical Movement for many years (7+ I believe), he is an acknowledge and accomplished artist who has written many articles on icons. With that academic background in mind, we also need to realize that Mr. Clayton's work is not from our present day Byzantine/Orthodox view of/approach to Icons, but, because of his academic background, he takes into account the early icon styles, Coptic icon styles, as well as early western icons - If I am correct that Gothic Franciscan Cross (I assume is the San Damiano Cross) is of this type - as well as the approach that was taken to making them (not what it is today). I can assure you that he acts in good faith and there is not a bone of ill will in him towards the East.

    I am, truthfully am more upset at the event you related about your husbands being asked not to come back when the congregation found he was married? At times my wife has to go to a Roman Church and for some time they had the Anglican Ordinariate priest, Father John Cornelius (Father Corney as he calls himself), who is married. In my experience, outside of trads, most Romans I know are open to a married priesthood nowadays. Heck, Bishop Malone of Buffalo loves our married Byzantine Catholic priest (who, also, has bi-ritual faculties).

    As for Eastern "rite" instead of Eastern "rites," this is an error of ignorance and not one of malice. To me is is analogous to saying "the Ukraine" instead of "Ukraine."

    No, I will not be buying this book. I am looking to buy by Roman Father Christiaan Kappes: The Immaculate Conception: Why Thomas Aquinas Denied, While John Duns Scotus, Gregory Palamas, and Mark Eugenicus Professed the Absolute Immaculate Existence of Mary (Academy of the Immaculate Press, 2014), xx+252pp. St. Mark of Ephesus defending the Immaculate Conception? HMM - something to make Ric think! -- Another throught provoking, sterotype shattering book (like Marcus Plestad's Orthodox Readings of Aquinas and SVS Press's book Orthodox Readings of Augustine).

    ReplyDelete
  25. There's much I'd like to say here but will confine my comments to these few points: Please don't apologize for your review if it's what you honestly think. Frankly, after also reading the introductory chapters and quickly scanning through the rest of the book, I'm not all that impressed and can't quite understand what all the fuss is about. So far, I don't see anything new here. It seems pretty clear that what is really needed by these young parents and their children is proper catechesis in the faith. It cannot be repeated often enough....first and foremost know *What* you believe and *Why* you believe it. Too many do not. A word of advice, don't put too much store in reviews by other Catholic authors/lecturers. I plan on reading the book in full and am sure many will find it helpful, but as I said, so far, well, there's nothing new about having a home oratory or praying the Divine Office. (And, yes, there is innovation being suggested here and while it's meant to be helpful for those with very young children, it should be noted that it then becomes private devotion as opposed to liturgical prayer. That's fine, but people should know the difference.) Sorry, guess I feel more strongly about all this than I thought. At any rate, you should be able to give your honest opinion and not be chided for doing so. I remember reading the reviews for a book by a pretty well known Catholic author and she became very testy with someone who gave a negative review. I was very surprised and now regard her in a different light than I did prior to that. Not everyone is going to gush over our efforts; surely that shouldn't come as a surprise! You shouldn't be made to feel as if you've done something wrong...because you haven't.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Disappointing post on a lovely book. You seem more intent on a critique than a review. In fact the comment section was even more of a disappointment. Nuance is everything, and graciousness (which Leila displayed amongst the dogpiling of dogma and grammar police) is clearly missing from this 'review' and comments. Maybe the title should be reiterated: The LITTLE Oratory A BEGINNER'S Guide to Praying in the Home. Surely a clue that it is not intended to be textbook material on the complexities of iconography, Western or Eastern rite(s). To me y'all got so caught up in your own words you miss the point that this book is about focusing on the Word in the home.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. karen- perhaps it was a mistake to review just the introductory sections- I have finished the book now, but I want to wait and finish the podcasts on 'In the Heart of my Home' before I write anything more- I know that my words were negative, but they still stand...of course, I am in the vast minority and I still want to use the book in a book club

      Delete

I love comments! Contribute to the conversation so I am not talking to the ether! (posts older than 2 weeks will be moderated & posted ASAP)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...