A few years ago, I was lucky to spend four months’ sabbatical study in Chicago. It’s a dangerous city with many shootings but also a beautiful city graced with a multitude of museums and galleries. One of my favourites was the Museum of Fine Arts, and among its collections I especially loved the Impressionists — the swirling colours and opulent textures of Monet, Renoir and many others.
Sometimes I’d wander into the wing devoted to contemporary artists. Their chaotic diversity stunned me, but their attempts to capture something of the torrent of change during the last two centuries, helped me.
They aided me to understand this verse of St Paul’s letter to the community at Ephesus: We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus for the good works which God has already designated to make up our way of life. (Eph. 2.10, New Jerusalem Bible).
The richness of diversity
I’m no art critic but walking through Chicago’s Museum of Fine Arts I was struck by how each age has tried to capture common moments of life: romance, dining, beauty — and death. Yet each era has chosen different frames: from the dark mysterious shadows of the Old Masters to the riotous vivacity of the Impressionists and the disturbing perspectives of the Cubists.
Likewise, within each community and family, there may dwell Rembrandts, Manets, Van Goghs and Picassos — all so different in shape, form and colour yet each presenting a striking impression of the richness and diversity of life.
The questions I often put to myself are, What is God saying through this unique piece of art? And, Is there anyone who respects and honours it for its irreplaceable vision of life?
Life in pre-Christian times
Learning Latin was hard work. Later when I began reading authors like Tacitus and Suetonius I was fascinated by the amazing but brutal Roman civilisation. I recall vividly the 15,000 Roman soldiers drowned and slaughtered at the battle of Lake Trasimene and the emperor Nero’s numerous attempts to poison, suffocate and drown his mother Agrippina. Forgiveness was evidently not a mark of pre-Christian societies.
Catholic DiscoveryReflection , Art , Diversity