Sacraments and Art - tuesday 2005-06-14 0451 last modified 2005-06-14 0514
Categories: Daily Grind
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Briefly, art forms help define beauty by allowing creativity to work within recognizable bounds. One can study Shakespeare's sonnets and Browning's sonnets and note both the masters' adherence to form and the incredible feel for language they must have had to convey such inspiration, despair, love, or whatever it may be in such a short space. The form constrains and illuminates. Which leads me to say:

Sacraments are not art.

Moved to ennui by the plethora of weddings I have now attended, I can only conclude that restricting religious sacraments to form is a sure path to making the holy and mysterious into the mundane and commonplace. Please don't think I consider my newlywed friends either of those adjectives or the specific celebration of their unique union to be a trifle; it's the ceremony society has deemed 'marriage' I wish to contend with.

Not just marriage, either; communion and baptism (and if you're of a more liturgical Christian persuasion, four other rites) suffer as well. One church I attended insisted the congregation join in singing "Happy day, happy day / when Jesus washed / my sins away" after each person was immersed. Could there be anything less individually celebratory and less sincere than singing that chorus twelve times in a row? in the span of half an hour?

This form for sacraments, where the ceremony is down to a process and the only thing that changes are the dates and the names assigned to the roles of bride, groom, maid of honor, best man, officiant, etc., is almost blasphemous. When all weddings start to look the same, they hold less and less importance to witnesses and even the people of the hour. What is intended to be the most celebrated day for two people is a long affair of overdressing and overeating for almost everybody else.

For once I'd like to go to a wedding where I have more than two minutes to talk to the bride and groom, where the sentiment of the moment to those involved is not, "You must be so tired." Where what I remember is not what deviated from normal form but how beautiful the joining of two distinct lives into one can be. Selfishly, I would like to enjoy and to be excited about a wedding, regardless of any role I may or may not play in it. I don't intend to complain about an entertainment piece; joy is something the couple and their witnesses enter into together. It's hard to do when all that's expected is a re-run.

A sacrament is a celebration of redemption, of holiness brought out of crudity, a visible grace. Each redemption story is different. Why then do we insist on celebrating in substantively the same way every time?

Don't equate witnesses to sideline spectators. They are participants.

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