Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Envivo De Michoacan II

Every day I forget that my purposes for what I do are only my purposes. God invariably has larger plans. Today I set out to study Spanish, and so I did -- in the morning – more irregular verbs and rules for when to use and when to omit articles. (Those who speak languages are strictly bound to obey the rules; but those who create the rules make up exceptions at will. Where is the justice in that?)

This afternoon, I was supposed to go with the other students on a guided (in Spanish) walking tour of the city. But the tour was cancelled so I walked alone and found myself at the Cathedral – a beautiful old Gothic building. Along with a scattered group of clearly devout people, I spent some time praying in the nave, then went to pray in the Lady Chapel which was crowded with people praying fervently on a Wednesday afternoon. It is a holy thing to be surrounded by so much reverence. As I began to leave, I heard the beginning of mass at the main altar so I stayed for worship. It was an unexpected blessing.

I then walked back to the school for Conversation Club, an informal gathering for casual discourse, the point of which is to practice one’s language. I went to practice Spanish, but found myself at a table of young Mexicans who needed to work on their English. So we spoke English most of the time, as we sat outside on the roof the school, the darkness falling around us.

One of the young men at my table is an artist, a sketch artist who wants to become a “real” artist and his passion is to paint sacred art. He was a bit shy about this since his teachers and fellow students have told him he is in the wrong century for that kind of painting. This issue set me off and I found myself giving a lecture on theology – how religion is a language about the ineffable mystery, it is a set of symbols pointing toward things that cannot be spoken – and art can sometimes suggest the mystery better than words – Caravaggio was the greatest theologian of his day.

Then I rambled on to what we mean by “God” and how for the past few centuries we have identified “God” with dominating power – and if “God” means our highest value and God is defined by such power, then we worship power. The effect on our souls is to make us power mongers and that is the religious root of violence.

But an older view of God as the Supreme Beauty has been reclaimed by contemporary theologians beginning with Hans Urs Von Balthasar. We call to mind the greatest beauty we can imagine. Then we consider that there may be a beauty beyond that, something we cannot touch even with our imaginations, and in that thought we begin to approach God. Such a view of God opens us to pay attention, to apprehend beauty, to be transformed by beauty. The transforming power of spiritual beauty is the meaning of the beatific vision in Dante.

I noticed this group of young people was utterly and completely with me, caught up in my spontaneous sermon on faith and the visual arts. The artist was genuinely inspired. So I said to myself, “And I thought I was just here to study Spanish. Maybe God intended to nurture my soul with the silent reverence of those people praying in the cathedral. And maybe God gave me a message someone needed to hear.” I actually believe God did. Maybe someday someone’s soul will be touched in some blessed way by a painting, and they will be grateful for this work by Rivera (his name, like Diego) but will never know that Rivera’s approach to painting drew in a small way on spiritual guidance he received from a nameless American cleric in Morelia circa 2011 – or that the nameless cleric spoke out of the silence he had just experienced among the nameless faithful gathered to pray on a Wednesday afternoon in the Cathedral, people who prayed for their own purposes, not knowing that God intended their piety to touch a foreigner who would in turn touch a young artist who would someday touch someone not yet born.

8 comments:

The Rev. James Richardson said...

Bishop Dan,
Thanks for sharing this. Wow. Bueno.
--Jim

Bishop Dan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bishop Dan said...

Spelling error in my last attempt -- Muchas gracias, Jim. I hope someday we meet in person. Also I would love to see your church.

DAVID said...

IN THE NEAR TIME FRAME, BISHOP DAN = Does your travel schedule within NV include RENO - SPARKS?

Bishop Dan said...

I will be there, but only for Sunday services at Trinity, on March 13, then back the following week, March 21, 22, 23 to be availale for meetings, then again all of Easter Week and perhaps on into the next week, and then back to Tahoe the next weekend for Galilee Board Retreat.

DAVID said...

When in Reno = Truly: I SHALL LOOK FORWARD TO "officially welcoming you" as a layman - WHO IS soon to join 10:30 a.m. TRINITY Worship Service / St. Cecilia CHOIR! Yet: Am regularly attending the Thursday 12:10 p.m. EUCHARIST @ TRINITY, just a short walk into downtown from my residence there, since relocating from Parowan, UT in early December! DURING INTERIM = Working with needy & homeless [returning] military veterans @ a warehouse in nearby Sparks.

The Rev. James Richardson said...

Hi Dan,
Thanks for your kind words, and I would love to show you my church. I'd love to have you come preach! If you are ever anywhere near here, please let me know.
We met in an elevator in Anaheim at General Convention. Ok, elevator greetings tend to be fleeting. Hope we can meet for real some day.
I am going to be reposting your Spanish lesson posting on my blog probably Tuesday.
Thanks again for your posts. I am also absorbing your more recent post on theism. Thanks for the food for thought.
-- Jim

Bishop Dan said...

Oh yes, of course, James, I remember meeting in the elevator, but my memory is weak and our exchanges on this blog have actually been longer. I get to North Carolina for family visits so maybe one of these days I'll get to your town. Or you might consider a get away to Las Vegas sometime. There are options to sin here. :-)The flights are cheap and we have a spare room.